28 May, 2015

Guimaras Island, Philippines | Travel Diary

Alubihod Beach, Guimaras

It's been a while since I last blogged, and I've missed it a little. I started this site to keep some memories from my student exchange stint in Europe...and now I realise there's more stuff to remember now that I'm home. My beloved country, the Philippines, is just as beautiful as any European nation! Now that's established, let's get on with it!

In April, Jarne, my man, visited me here for the third time (we're in a verrrrry loooooong distance relationship). We see each other only three times a year *tear,* so each reunion has to be spectacular. We ended his visit with a trip to Guimaras Island, which is just an hour away from Manila by plane (well...plus a 40 minute van ride, a 20 minute drive on a taxi, and a 15 minute boat ride).

My travel buddy

The way to the island was on a big boat and was smooth & short--how all boat rides should be. It's the cheapest and easiest way to the island (₱14 one way), so it's not uncommon to see a few men with their motorcycles in tow and some chickens and a refrigerator.

Before we even disembarked, several tricycle drivers were already competing to get our attention and give us a tour of the island--we felt like celebrities! I guess we looked very much like tourists. We went with the tricycle driver nearest us, Kuya Michael. He led us to the Tourism Office, where I told the welcoming ladies the places we wanted to see and where we needed to be dropped off at the end of the tour. They established the price, which was perfect because I hate being ripped off! For the record, you can also rent a van to get to your resort, but that option was way too expensive for us.

Kuya Michael went to get his tricycle, which was tiny. Jarne had to crane his neck the whole time, while I had to sit at the back and cling on for dear life while Kuya Michael drove at 100km/hr.

Trying to look amused at the back of the tricycle

The first stop of our tour was what used to be the world's smallest plaza. I wonder which country made the effort to break that record. There wasn't much to see, so we just took one quick photo with Jarne's disposable analog camera (he's hipster that way).

Say hi to our little tricycle on the right!

A 15 minute ride from the Smallest Plaza is The Pitstop Restaurant, home to the (in?)famous mango pizza. Guimaras is known to have the sweetest mangoes in the world, and we were so excited to taste this fact--we ordered the mango pizza, mango spaghetti, and mango shakes. This quickly turned out to be a bad idea. I had too much mangoes in my tastebuds, I could barely taste anything at all! Next time, I'll order just the pizza, which had generous slices of mangoes. The bell pepper slices on top were a nice touch. Oh, and I would avoid the mango spaghetti, because it's just plain bad.

Jarne attacking the mango pizza--don't give the mango spaghetti any mind.

After our mango feast, we headed to the Mango Research Center. It would have been nice if someone from the place gave us a tour, but it was high noon and everyone seemed to be out for lunch. There weren't a lot of mangoes in the Mango Research Center...which was weird...so we just looked at some scientific facts on mangoes posted on the side of the main building.

Our next stop was the Trappist Abbey, which is run by monks of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. Jarne thought there were only Trappist monks in Belgium, who are famous for making some of the best beers in the world. Our Filipino Trappist monks, on the other hand, make delicious jam out of the world's best mangoes! The jams were sold out in the Abbey's little gift shop, but I was able to buy a few at the port before we left Guimaras.

Chilling with the Abbey cow

Our last stop was Guisi beach, which was about 40 minutes from the Abbey. It was a rough ride. But it was pretty worth it.

When the tricycle finally stopped and I saw this view, my butt forgave me

Near Guisi beach stands a very old and rusty lighthouse. It was built to guide sailors and fishermen along the Guimaras strait. Now it's just a photoshoot site.

We didn't even try to lay one foot in that lighthouse. It looked like it was ready to crumble down any minute. The beach, on the other hand, looked so inviting. Too bad we weren't in our bathing suites.

Guisi Beach

After taking the best photos we could take, it was time to go to our hotel. We stayed at Jannah Glycel Beach House in Nueva Valencia, where most of the touristy things are done. We were pretty knocked out from the bumpy tricycle tour, so we called it a day.

Going to any Philippine province is incomplete without island hopping--we do have 7,107 islands to enjoy. Our resort arranged everything for us (₱950 for 3 hours, not bad), so the next morning, we were good to go! 

In those three hours we lept from "cliffs" (aka very big and sharp rock formations), went in a creepy cave, and swam with fishies (and a sea snake, eek!!).

Standing on an island, in front of Seven Islands. Lamurawan Beach

The three hours passed by so fast, but we still hadn't gone to the marine station, where we were told giant fish lived. We decided to go on for one more hour, and it was a great decision. The Igang Marine Station was the highlight of the trip!

Welcome to IMS!

The marine station is dedicated to protecting marine life in Guimaras. They also make sure that the fishermen have enough catch by releasing fish they've bred when needed. However, as I've mentioned before, the station is most famous for having giant fishes.

We first met the giant milkfish, or bangus to us Filipinos. It's my dad's favorite. A milkfish usually fits in a normal sized plate, but the ones in the marine station were as big as...I dunno...ukeleles?? Apparently milkfish have no teeth, so the guide told us to dip our feet in the cage with around 15 of these giant fish and have our feet sucked--fish spa! It was really ticklish and I had to give up when one tried to suck my whole big toe off!

Eek!! Probably right after I almost lost my big toe.

After the traumatising fish spa, our guide showed us their main attraction--a 125 kilo grouper fish (lapu-lapu fish to us Filipinos). Apparently grouper fish are always born as females, then mature as males. The giant 16 year old grouper was obviously a male. Look at it! It's the size of a punching bag! (I am horrible with comparisons).

Giant grouper fish

Jarne and I were glad we decided to extend our island hopping to see the marine station. It's always so exciting to see giant fish. The view wasn't too shabby either.

Igang Marine Station (IMS), managed by the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department

After our marine station tour, we snorkelled for a bit somewhere nearby. Our boatmen kept teasing us to watch out for giant grouper fish. And then, our time was up. We asked to be dropped off at Alubihod Beach, which was just a five minute walk from our resort.

Alubihod beach was amazing, with white sand and clear water. I liked how the water was surrounded by nets. They always make me feel safe--I hate jellyfish! For those who don't like nets, I think they'll be fine with the set up at Alubihod, because the netted area is big enough for doing laps.

Alubihod Beach

There are three resorts on Alubihod beach, and the most popular one is Raymen. We didn't stay there because their rooms looked so shabby, but we ate at their restaurant (more like canteen) for late lunch, and the food was surprisingly pretty good. Their mango shakes were magnificent.

When we got back to our resort, we had mango pizza delivered for dinner. It was expensive! Minimum order for delivery was ₱500, plus ₱100 delivery charge. The caretakers of the resort were pretty excited about the pizza delivery--it was the first time someone ordered pizza. Jarne and I had to get a big one to meet the minimum order, so we gave almost half the pizza to the caretakers. Everybody happy!


Waking up on our last day in Guimaras--beachfront of Jannah Glycel Resort

On our last day, we vowed to wake up early so we could enjoy Alubihod beach one last time. Our resort Jannah Glycel had a rocky beach front, so it was not good for wading in the water.

We had breakfast at Raymen--ripe mangoes on toast (learned to do this from the weirdo, Jarne). The mangoes were so. effin. good.

We spent the rest of the morning on Alubihod beach. It was so beautiful. The temperature of the water was perfect. Below is an analog shot of the beach.

Just can't get enough

Along the beach was a lone henna tattoo stall. Jarne and I looked at each other and said, "Why the hell not?!" We decided to go with the popular theme at that time: Pacquiao! It was the week before his big (and disappointing) fight against Mayweather. The tattoo artist was a pro. We simply had to do a photoshoot at our resort's rocky beach front.


Kuya Michael our tricycle driver was a little too early, so we had to hurry and pack up. We were pretty excited to go. We had a lunch feast awaiting us at Ricky's place.

Who is Ricky? He's the happiest vegetarian! Jarne discovered him while googling about Guimaras. He has a restaurant called Mayricks and he makes tasty vegetarian Filipino food. Sadly, we didn't get to meet him in person, but we were still able to enjoy the feast he prepared for us!

Mayricks is a breezy place near the port of Guimaras. When you step inside, you'll feel like you're in Jamaica--Bob Marley singin' from the speakers, everything is just chill, and of course, several Bob Marley banners hanging from the ceilings. You have to let Ricky know beforehand if you want to dine at his place, contact details can be found on his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MayricksVegeResto.

[L-R]: Pumpkin in coconut milk, mung beans, unidentifiable dish (sorry!), lumpia, and of course, rice!

We couldn't finish everything, we were so full after two heaping plates! We didn't really know how much everything was going to cost, but the price was reasonable--₱400 for the two of us.

And so, our last task was to get to the port. But we couldn't just leave Guimaras without hoarding mangoes! We bought some ripe ones for immediate consumption, and a box of green mangoes for pasalubong (it's a Filipino thing: a homecoming gift for loved ones after a trip). Jarne and I were hoping he could bring the box home to Belgium, but apparently you can't bring big amounts of fruit on an international flight. We still sneaked in about a dozen in his luggage and no one ever found out! Hihi.

Kuya Michael and his tricycle at the mango shop

And so, we did everything we wanted to do in Guimaras: eat and buy lots of sweet mangoes and swim a lot in beautiful waters. One last thing was to get on that butt-killing tricycle.

Bye, Guimaras!

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