Friday, May 8, 2015

Destination Antique: Labor Day Weekend Adventure

Antique was the only province in Panay island that I hadn't set my foot in; well, not until last weekend. For my bff/sistah/colleague's birthday, we decided to take advantage of the long Labor Day weekend and packed our bags to Antique, home of the highest peak in the island. 

Located in the western side of the island, it borders all the three other provinces and Sulu Sea on the West. It's where the picturesque mountains meet the crystal clear sea; the very things I loved to take refuge in with the summer heat in the city. We also thought this is going to be a good practice for the long ride we'll take for our Sagada trip later this year. 

We had two places to visit: Malumpati Cold Spring in Pandan, and Malalison Island in Culasi. Here's where we went to: The lines in red was the route for the first destination,and blue for the second. As you can see, it would require travelling the whole stretch of the province, giving you a good view of the sea to your left and the mountains to your right. The view is magnificent, but the bus ride will heat up your butt a lot. 

Getting there

Starting point: Iloilo City 

You can choose to take the bus or van to Antique from San Pedro Bus Terminal in Molo. In our case, we opted for the Ceres bus as it is comfortable, safer, leaves on time, and has limited stops. We started out from Molo terminal at 8:30 AM, going to the southern part of the province of Iloilo. The last town bordering Antique is San Joaquin. The San Joaquin- Hamtic road will make you dizzy though as it is zigzagging along the mountains and their cliffs. It would take around an hour of circling and moving from left to right so if you are prone to motion sickness, be prepared. And oh, be sure you give the handrails a tight grip; you'll surely find yourself losing balance along the way. You'll spend about 70 pesos for Molo-San Jose fare. 
The first welcome as seen from Iloilo. 
Travelling the whole stretch of Antique took us about 7 hours to reach our first destination: Malumpati Cold Spring in Pandan. It's the last town on the northernmost part the province, even closer to Aklan and Kalibo than to its capital,San Jose de Buenavista.  There are occasional stops by the bus terminal to cater to personal needs.  You know, you can't just spill it on the bus. :D 

The mountains of Antique as seen from the bus.
Though the prices of food is cheaper, we decided to stopped by San Jose de Buenavista for brunch and food shopping at the local market. I believe they have the cleanest, well-organized wet market I've ever been to, so far. After buying fresh fruits and other food for our boodle fight dinner, we headed to the terminal to catch the bus going to Pandan. Getting off after another 3 hours, we've finally reached the area where tricycles to the cold spring wait for the passengers. One tricycle can carry the maximum of 4 people as the route going up near the base of the magnificent Mt. Madia-as is challenging.  Drivers charge 300 pesos for the 20-minute ride along the dusty and rough terrain. 

The rough road going up to the base of the mountain in Pandan, Antique. Those are our friends on the first trike. 

And finally..... after 7 hours... here comes Malumpati Cold Spring!!! 

Crystal clear water of Malumpati cold spring. Photo grabbed from my friend @missmarieangelie. 
They charge 10 pesos for the entrance fee, and the open cottages can be rented for as low as 25 pesos. 

The floor of the cold spring can be seen ,as clear as this, from the bridge. 

Bamboo rafts can also be rented. Photo grabbed from my friend, @missmarieangelie

There were so many people when we arrived, so we decided to let the dust settle first and had a nap in our rented house. The concrete house has 3 rooms with a veranda and a living room available for 2000 pesos for 24 hours. 

Fave sistahs and I prepping for a dip. Grabbed from @vitzkylicious13. 
And so after all the rest are gone, we took a dip till dusk and did the same thing early the next morning. The water is so refreshing, and that's a great cure for the day-long travel. We swam for hours, until about dinner time. 

Doesn't know how to swim? Not a problem! Grabbed from @missmarieangelie 

Some parts of the spring are actually deep. Photo by: @vitzkylicious13

Yep. There's a life saver. :D Photo by @vitzkylicious13

That's a bff bonding, cold spring version. Photo by

There are very few people who stay there overnight, so it provided us a good party place. The area by the spring is also unlit, so our candles just shined as bright as expected. The area was silent too. 

Tea candles in paper bags and polaroid pictures hanging. These were unexpected by the birthday girl. :)  

This is how it actually looked like. Ain't that lovely? 

Yep. That's a candlelight boodle fight dinner by the spring.

Here's with our very nice hosts.... 
The accommodation is on the second floor. They go home at the end of the day, so we were left on our own.

By 10 AM the next day,we left Malumpati and traveled back to the heart of Antique. We bound for the town of Culasi where our second destination was. We had our tricycle drivers picked us up to the main road and took the bus for three hours. 

Then, Culasi.... here we come! 

We booked two rooms at Anna Sophie Hostel which has the magnificent view of Mt. Madia-as, the highest peak in Panay, and according to myth, the home of the Visayan deities. I had read about this story when I was in college, and not quite surprising, the locals believe the peak is enchanting.  

We were told that it will take at least 3 days for an expert mountaineer to reached the upper part of the mountain, though making it to the summit was made impossible by the crevasses that's prone to flooding even with very little rain. Friends and I were looking at each other, and it was like saying, "yeah... it will take us a month".  

Here's that magnificent beauty as I saw from the hostel's window. Ladies and gents.... Mt. Madia-as.
The view that greets the hostel guests. I can't help but took a snap of her. Hey there,Mt. Madia-as..we've met.

Here's another pic my friend Ronie took

Mt. Madia-as as seen from Anna Sophie Hostel. Photo by Ronie M. 
After the mandatory rest period... and the rain... we went out. Across the street, about two blocks away, we excitedly snapped photos of destination number 2: Malalison Island (translated as prodigal). 

What a great beauty she is! 

Malalison Island by sunset as seen from Culasi port. 
We took a night's stroll in downtown Culasi and was excited for the island trip the next morning. We were scheduled to leave the hotel at 6AM. (The boats were also arranged by them, you just have to find a guide to tour the island which is not very difficult). 

It would take 15 minutes to reach the beautiful Malalison Island. The smallboat we took can carry 4 passengers and the water was so clear you can see the corals as you cross. Malalison Island is a marine sanctuary, and it is one of the most beautiful places I've been to. 

Little boat ride to the island. 
The island is even more beautiful up close. It was still early when we arrived.

Touchdown Malalison. That's Mt. Madia-as in the background. Photo by Ronie M.

But here's what she looks in midday!

Malalison island at noon. Crystal clear water and beautiful day. Heaven! Photo grabbed from @missmarieangelie

When we arrived, we were surprised by the number or campers and tents that greeted us by the shoreline. Upon arrival, you will also have to pay an environmental fee of 10 pesos. The locals are very friendly and obviously used to seeing visitors. There are smiles and greetings everywhere. 

Majority of the areas here have no shade, a grassy land it is, so be sure to have your sunblock handy.  Here are my friends as we start our way up. 

Surrounded by greens. The trail up is cool and still a bit shady. 
Along the way, you'll get to see some things like this: 

Flowers in Malalison Island. Photo by Erl

Beauty among the grasses of Malalison Island. 

As a reward for catching your breath along the trails, expect to see something like these: 

Yes, you'll be walking by the cliff in Malalison. 

One of the very few trees that can withstand the environment in Malalison. 

Snapped a photo as we walked to the other side, descending to the cave. 

The port of Malalison as seen from above. 

My friend, Ronie, in his "this is my land" gesture.:) 

That's downtown Culasi as seen from the top of Malalison Island. 

The rocky slopes are so beautiful, you'll forget you are walking along the cliff. Photo by Erl.

Here's where we went to with the help of our guide, Manong Loreto. 

Friends and I on our way to the peak.

The trekking in Malalison offers a very beautiful view. 

A little try on modelling? Photo by Erl

Other than the grasses, the only plant that can grow here are pine trees. 

And my friend Erl tried paddling. It's Anne, Ronie and I in the background.

All you need to do is bravely cross the chest-level water to get to the adjacent island. The current though was quite strong.

On the other side of the island, there are two caves..

On the opposite side of the island are the caves... and here are the cavemen haha

Ascending to the highest point in Malalison island,Culasi,Antique
It would take about 2 hours to finish the trek, but we decided to take it slow and kept snapping photos of the very beautiful view around.  

Halfway to go.... difficult trail down but the view in Malalison is worth it all. 

Of course, a little fun will be essential
 Here's our guide, looking at how beautiful the island he resides in is... 

Our guide as he contemplates, looking down the sandbar. We've reached the top of Malalison Island. 

Trekking in Malalison Island was so great, we wanted to do it again. The sad thing was, we just hope that other tourists who come to see the beauty of this island will help the locals not just by giving them livelihood through tourism, but with taking care of the environment. On the top of the island, we've seen plastic bottles left by those who came their ahead of us. Please, do not leave anything there. The locals can't sweep the trash after you at all times. 

For those who travel... I hope you'll put this in mind: "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures." We have been blessed with very beautiful places, so let's help taking care of it. 

For an enjoyable trip to Antique, 3 days and 2 nights can be good to take a refreshing weekend from the City of Love. 

Kruhay, Antique! See you again soon. 

Thanks to Alex for the "checking for interesting posts" comment, I was inspired to write this travelogue tonight.