Author’s Note: This article uses Apple’s QuickTime technology in providing an immersive experience by means of virtual reality panoramas. QuickTime is required to view the 360-degree VRs. Average VR size is 1.7Mb each.
Located at the southern tip of Iloilo City is the island province of Guimaras. Known for its sweetest mangoes the world over; the pristine island also boast of numerous fine sand beach resorts, tranquil churches and monastery, friendly people, and tragically, the site affected by one of the worse oil spills in the country.
My trip to Guimaras started on a fine summer day from Iloilo City. We took a 20-minute banca ride from one of the several ports in the city. The fare, a mere 12 pesos per person for a 1-way trip, the cheapest by far in all my travels!
Upon arrival at Jordan, the capital of Guimaras, we proceeded to the local tourism office and had our names registered. Here, friendly staffs will assist you in your visit. If you already have a list of sites to see, they will help you to maximize your travel routes, if not, readily suggested attractions will be provided. The staffs will also aid you in negotiating a reasonable fare with the many transportations available nearby.
Going around the island can either be through tricycles, small boats, or via converted mini-vans called “multi-cabs”, available in either air-conditioned or non-air conditioned type that can comfortably carry 5 to 8 persons. The selection will depend on what sites you plan to visit, how long you plan to stay, and how much you’re willing to pay. We chose the non-aircon multi-cab at 1,500.00 pesos, for a full day’s tour (8 hours, driver cum guide included).
First stop was the Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery, the only one in the country run by the Trappist monks, who go thru their daily lives guided by the Rule of St. Benedict. Located just a few minutes ride from the capital, the monastery is an idyllic place for self-reflection and meditation. The monks make a living by selling fruit preserves, jams, and other delicacies sourced from trees and other plants within the monastery grounds.
VR: Interior of Trappist Monastery
Being a large island, Guimaras sports several “light houses”. In the northern and southern parts of the island, old and newly built light towers not only serve as guides to the fishermen, but also add to its charms. The most notable being the one in Guisi, Dolores; completed by the Spaniards in 1894, the Punta Luzaran lighthouse ruins still stands today. From the top of the old light tower (be very careful if going up), one can get a panoramic view towards the Panay Gulf and an adjacent beach.
VR: View from the top of old light tower
In terms of heritage and history, Guimaras proudly feature an old Spanish church in the town of Navalas and the McArthur Wharf in Buenavista. Built in 1880, the Navalas church is the oldest existing Roman Catholic Church in the province. Providing shelter during past times of pirate invasions, its look-out tower stands prominently in front, serving early warnings of impending attacks. The McArthur Wharf on the other hand was built by Lt. Douglas McArthur in 1903; fresh out of West Point at a young age of 23, he was posted in Iloilo as head of the company of US Army Corps of Engineers. Yes, he was the same Gen. Douglas McArthur who liberated the Philippines in World War II and uttered the now famous line “…I shall return.”
VR: Façade of Navalas Church
VR: Interior of Navalas Church
VR: McArthur Wharf
Guimaras of course is famous for its mangoes. Tourists just cannot leave the island without savoring its sweetness, and buying more to take with them. You can buy your mangoes from the numerous stalls near the ports, or in the markets and shops. But if you are serious about the maturity period of the mangoes, then go direct to the plantations. Plantations such as Oro Verde count the maturity of their mangoes from the time the tree flowered, to the day when they turned the ripest. So depending on how many days you desire, the people at the plantation will be able to sell you mangoes that will more or less just right for consumption when you reach home. A kilo of mangoes goes for about 50 pesos.
On August 11, 2006, an oil tanker, the M/T Solar 1 sank off the vicinity of Guimaras island amidst stormy seas, spilling more that 2 million liters of bunker fuel it was carrying to Zamboanga. The oil spill was one of the worse in the country; it affected 26 barangays comprising over 5,000 families, contaminated the coral reefs, killed-off mangrove trees, and damage the coastal environments. After a massive clean-up spearheaded by the concerned parties, various environmental organizations, local government units, and other volunteers; the crisis was kept under control. Although damages were done, they were placed at a minimum.
VR: Beach in Tando
VR: Shores of La Paz
VR: Dead Mangroves of La Paz
Today, about 10 months after the incident, the island of Guimaras is nearly back on its feet. The beaches are clean and clear once more. Many tourists are back on the resorts. Mangrove sprouts have started to grow. Local livelihoods and fishing are flourishing once again. And for the towns of Tando and La Paz, two of the places most affected, conditions are more or less back to normal.
VR: Raymen Beach
As the day draws to an end…we realized we hardly even seen half of what Guimaras has to offer. Scattered along its coast are numerous small fine-sand islets that are just great for swimming and snorkeling, easily accessible by a small banca. For the more adventurous, several caves and coves are also available for exploration and resorts often offer island hopping tours. One can also go hiking and mountain biking. In terms of diving, Guimaras too has numerous diving spots. It also has falls and springs, a marine turtle conservation center, and grand festivals. All these we hope to explore and experience in our next trip to the exotic island province of Guimaras.
Thanks to Mr. Augusto Villalon for allowing the use of this article’s title; a slight variation to his original titled article “A Guimaras Day.” All panoramas taken on May 2007. This writer can be reached at: