In the Isle of the Giants

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I had the chance to revisit this wonderful piece of heaven in Carles, Iloilo. The last time I was here was about two months after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the place, and much have already changed! Bancal port is now bustling with passenger boats ferrying people to and from Isla Gigantes. The “tangke” is cleaner and safer and the climb to the “view deck” in Cabugao Gamay is a lot more safer with the ladders and railings. Scallops and wasay-wasay are still in abundance and the crabs get yummier and yummier!

IMPORTANT: Tourists, especially those arriving via tour boats from Estancia, are now required to register at the Carles Tourism Office, where they will be given “access pass” to the Tangke hidden lagoon after payment of P70 per pax environmental fee.

How to get there:

There are several entry points to Isla de Gigantes, but I would rather you take the route that will lead you to Bancal Port in the town of Carles; Isla Gigantes being a part of Carles.

From Iloilo City airport
  • Make use of the airport shuttles/vans/FX stationed just outside the departure area to take you to SM City Iloilo. From there, take a cab to the Ceres Grand Terminal (Ceres buses now have their own terminal), if you prefer taking the bus or to Tagbak Central Terminal, if you’re taking the van. Just make sure you are on the Carles-bound trip, which will take you directly to Bancal Port. [I’m not sure about the schedule of vans in Tagbak, but Ceres buses leave as early as 3AM]. Alternatively, you can just ask the locals what passenger jeep will take you to the Ceres Grand Terminal or Tagbak Central Terminal (Leganes-bound and Jaro-CPU jeeps are some options).
  • Once in Bancal Port, make sure you register at the Tourism Office before you board any of the passenger boats that will take you to Isla Gigantes.

Where to stay:

Several accommodation options are available. We stayed at Dela Vega Cottages (see photos for their contact details) for P350/pax/night in an A/C room for 6. The resort also offers meal packages (starts at P200 per pax) that will surely satisfy your cravings for seafood.

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Enduring Symbols of Batanes

Chavayan Village, Sabtang, Batanes

Chavayan Village, Sabtang, Batanes

A piece of paradise IN paradise

An undisturbed piece of paradise, away from the maddening crowd.

An undisturbed piece of paradise, away from the maddening crowd.

Aliwagwag Falls: Inspiring Awe

Aliwagwag Falls

2012. When I first saw a photo of Aliwagwag Falls from an airline’s in-flight magazine, the ONLY word that I was able to summon was: AWESOME.

“Awesome” is a word I stay away from as much as possible. I generally file it in my “for-lack-of-a-better-term” folder, and only pull it out in “emergency cases”, where I ran out of adjectives: Last night’s party was “awesome.” Your new Fujifilm X100T is “awesome.” The extensive coverage given by the tri-media to the presidential bid announcements of Binay, Roxas and Poe, while ignoring the masses’ call for a Duterte presidency, is simply “awesome.”

My reluctance on the use of “awesome” stems from a purely semantic point of view. Isn’t it strange, if not weird, that we describe such profound beauty that it inspires awe as “awesome”? Shouldn’t it be full of awe; therefore, awful? So, last night’s party was in fact awful, as was the camera and the media coverage.

But in the case of Aliwagwag Falls, I make an exception.

This beauteous stairway-to-heaven-like cascade is definitely awesome! I was mesmerized. Scanning the pages of the magazine, I excitedly searched its location, mouthing an inaudible “Whoopie!” when I found where it’s at: Cateel, Davao Oriental.

2013. Typhoon Pablo happened… and Cateel was among the badly hit municipalities in the region: and. Aliwagwag Falls was severely damaged. My hopes of seeing her was dashed.

#TeamBAMid 2014. I got a call from a friend who works at the Davao City Tourism Office that they’ve just recently visited Cateel, and that efforts to “restore”  Aliwagwag Falls is “well underway”. The news got me excited–and sad at the same time, because I wouldn’t be seeing the falls in all her natural splendor. Nevertheless, that didn’t dampen my desire to visit Aliwagwag a single bit.

Fast-forward to 2015, I was finally able to make the trip with these awesome people…

Aliwagwag Falls
Cateel, Davao Oriental

Aliwagwag Falls is a series of 84 falls, mimicking a stairway with various heights in between steps, ranging from 2m to 33.5m (7ft to 110 ft). The highest cascades are about 22m (72 ft) and 20m (66 ft). Overall, Aliwagwag Falls is 340m (1,120 ft) high and 20m (66 ft) wide. If upright, it is undoubtedly the highest waterfalls in the country!

The Philippines is such a beautiful country; and the fact that I can enjoy its beauty is wonderful. Life, indeed, is full of beauty and wonder.

P.S.

To Cateel by Grab Taxi-DavaoThere are two routes leading to Aliwagwag Falls: through Compostela Valley (which we took) and via Mati, Davao Oriental. The latter is the more practical option, as there are many trips going to Mati (via Bachelor Bus Lines), compared with only one trip (via Mallen Express) if going by way of Compostela Valley. Travel time varies from 6hrs to 8hrs.

Since we were pressed for time, we opted to hire an AUV for two (2) days: Davao-ComVal-Cateel-Mati-Davao route.

 

This bull’s for fighting

The Racuh a Payaman, popularly known among visitors as Marlboro Hills, is one of many communal pasturelands in Batanes.

The Racuh a Payaman, popularly known among visitors as Marlboro Hills, is one of many communal pasture lands in Batanes.

Livestock raising is one of Batanes’ major industries, apart from farming and fishing. Cattle, goats and carabaos, sometimes horses, freely roam the countryside–by the hundreds in some areas. That’s one reason why communal pasture lands, the most popular being the Racuh a Payaman or vast (racuh in Ivatan) graze lands (payaman) dot the Batanes landscape.

As in Masbate and Bukidnon, Batanes also boasts a rich ‘cowboy’ tradition; and in Brgy. Sanakan in Sabtang, instead of having a rodeo, bullfighting is one of the highlights of the local fiesta.

Each time they butt heads, a loud 'THUD' can be heard throughout the 'arena'.

Each time they butt heads, a loud ‘THUD’ can be heard throughout the ‘arena’.

I know, I know…. I also thought the ‘bullfighting’ the locals were talking about involves a matador. I was mistaken. Instead, their version of a ‘bullfight’ features two, well, raging bulls egged to fight each other until one quits or runs away.

The bull-fight ‘arena’ is set against a backdrop of the raging waves of the Sabtang-Batan Channel, away from more populated ‘centro’ (Oh, by the way, the term ‘populated’ is a misnomer in Sabtang, as the island municipality has only about 1,500 residents–men, women and children–as of the last Census of Population).

 

The calm before the storm…

If not for the name Batanes painted on these row boats, I’d say this photo was taken somewhere off the Mediterranean coast…

Boat shelter in Mahatao town

Mesmerized

My year will never be complete without seeing the spell-binding Boracay sunset

My year will never be complete without seeing the spell-binding Boracay sunset

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