Last November, we decided to go to Iloilo and nearby Guimaras for some beach time.
Guimaras is an island province in the Western Visayas region. It used to be a sub-province of Iloilo until it was made independent province. It’s most popular produce are mangoes – reputed to be the sweetest mangoes in the world. Yes, not just the Philippines, but the world.
I’ve been to Guimaras a couple of years back (2009, I think), and it was really very nice. Powdery white beaches, delicious food, and clear waters. So, it kinda came as a surprise that this trip is a bit different from what I experienced before.
We went via plane to Iloilo City. For me, Iloilo usually means good food. So, before heading off to Guimaras, we first had lunch at Ponsyon at Plazuela. Ponsyon is a branch of the popular Breakthrough restaurant and serves seafood as well as popular Ilonggo food.
After that very heavy and delicious lunch, we took a cab to Parola wharf where we caught a ferry to the wharf of Buenavista, Guimaras. From there, we took a tricycle to El Retiro Beach Park, where we will be staying. The tricycle driver is very nice, by the way. Before heading off to the resort, we passed by the market for some mangoes and went to some of the historical structures along the way at no extra charge.
El Retiro Beach Park is found in San Miguel, Buenavista and claims to be the largest private resort in the island. Judging from what I’ve seen in the previous visit, I think they really are telling the truth about being the largest, size-wise.
We were the only guests of the whole resort in the three days that we were there. And I mean that literally. I asked Elmy, the lady who greeted us when we arrived, how many guests there are and she said we were the only ones. Apparently, late November-early December is a slow period for them.
We settled in our airconditioned cottage and spent the whole day just lounging out of the cottage. Yes, drinking.
Day two and we decided to go island hopping. In our case, we wanted to just pick an island and stay there the whole day. It rained early in the morning, so the boat we hired picked us up around 9:30am. We piled in the very thin boat with our drinks and the lunch that Elmy packed for us.
We headed off to the largest islet of the Sieta Pecados. The Siete Pecados (Seven Sins) is a chain of seven islets between Buenavista, Guimaras and Dumangas, Iloilo. The legend behind the islets is that there were seven ill-mannered sisters who drowned when their boat capsized. A couple of years after their disappearance, the islets appeared and the townspeople thought the sisters were cursed by encantos because of their bad behavior (or sins). As with most parts of the Philippines, the people is these kinds of areas believe in encantos or fairies and other supernatural beings. Which is probably why before we left, Elmy cautioned us from being too loud so as not to disturb whatever may be disturbed there.
Anyway, we got to the largest islet, the one with the abandoned light tower. It was initially creepy but actually kinda charming. Though, to our great disappointment, no beach. Just a couple of feet of slippery, jagged rock before we reach the steps that lead up to the tower.
We made the most of it, though. Hanging out at the top of the light tower then eating our lunch on the steps shaded by trees and sunbathing on this flat platform on top of the islet where there’s absolutely no shade.
At around 2pm, the boatman returned for us because we have to go back before the water gets to rough. Let’s just say it was a pretty eventful boat ride back and an equally eventful walk back to the resort.
Decided to continue sunbathing at the resort and just lounge around on the hammocks tied between coconut trees.
Day Three and since we were leaving around noon, we decided to drop by Roca Encantada. Roca Encantada is the summer house of the Lopez clan that is now declared a heritage house. It was built in 1910. I think the Lopezes had the best idea building that house. It’s atop a hill on the edge of the island. It has wide balconies that overlook the strait and stairs leading down to the water. We weren’t able to go inside, of course, but we were able to hang around the balcony and enjoy the great view.
Around noon, the tricycle picked us up to bring us to the ferry back to Iloilo.
In Iloilo, we checked in at Smallville 21. We basically slept the whole afternoon, enjoying the wonderful beds of Smallville 21, then went out at night for two-hour massages at Skinetics, dinner at this great place I forgot the name of, wine at the hotel al fresco dining area, and some great music at Flow Superclub. In that order.
The following day, my cousin picked us up for lunch at Tatoy’s. Tatoy’s is one of my absolute favorites in Iloilo. It’s a seafood restaurant popular for it’s chicken inasal. No pictures, sorry, as we were too busy eating.
After, lunch, we went around and visited the Parish of St. Anne (Molo church). It’s considered a “feminist” church because all the statues inside are female saints. Kinda like a girl band of saints. In the plaza in front of it, there’s a structure that features, oddly enough, female goddesses of the Greek mythology. Err. Anyway, we just bought sticky bibingka and ate them in the park.
And that’s basically the whole trip. While we didn’t get the beach fix we wanted, all in all, it was fun. It helps that I had amazingly fun people with me.
Some things to note:
1. El Retiro Beach Park is perfect if all you want to do is lounge around in a peaceful place and you don’t require a beach. Unlike the beaches on the Jordan side, which has these very fine, powdery white sand, the beach in El Retiro is mostly mud.
2. El Retiro Beach Park is actually one of the least expensive places we stayed at. To give you an idea, for all four of us, we spent around P5,000 for two nights in an airconditioned cottage and 5 meals of our choice from what’s available.
3. You can get tricycle from the wharf. There’s a tourism officer there that logs your name, where you’re staying, and the name of the tricycle driver.
4. The boat cost us P700.00 and the entrance to Roca Encantada cost us P50.00 each.
5. Drinks we brought with us. No corkage fee, which is great.
6. Skinetics is found in Smallville. It is also a hotel and you can get massages there as well invasive treatments and procedures.
7. Smallville 21 is in the middle of Smallville. It cost us around P1,700.00 per room with a double bed and it was P1,700.00 so well spent.
8. From Iloilo airport, you can either get a cab to anywhere in the city but it’s going to be expensive. What we did was we took the shuttle van to SM City Iloilo and took cabs from there. Going back to the airport, there’s a shuttle van terminal at SM City too.
9. If you don’t want to DIY a trip to Iloilo or Guimaras, you can contact Meego Travel Services at email@example.com
10. As with anywhere else, follow rules, don’t litter, respect people and culture, and minimize human footprint.