One, if not the most underrated province of Panay Island is Antique. It is situated in the western section of Panay Island, borders Aklan in the northeast, and Capiz and Iloilo in the southeast. Unlike its neighboring provinces known for their popular tourist destinations (e.g., Boracay in Aklan, Gigantes Islands in Iloilo), Antique is often seen as a side-trip than a prime destination.
What most people are not aware of is that this elongated stretch of land occupies the entire western side of Panay island, bounded by the rugged central mountains and has long stretches of white sand. Its natural beauty still a little untouched by modernity has hidden gems waiting to be explored.
I’ve been living in Western Visayas for a few months now and I’ve always considered choosing to move to this region of the Philippines as a good choice. I love being surrounded by nature and I have been fortunate that I now live somewhere that offers just that. The move has given me an opportunity to explore other parts of Western Visayas, one of them is Antique.
Just 3 to 4 hours from the city of Iloilo, I went to Antique in the small town of Culasi. Getting there was easy; from Iloilo City, I headed to Molo Bus and Van Terminal and got in a van service (200php) that is bound to Culasi. If you are not in hurry, I recommend riding a bus, it may be slower but at least you have more leg room.
There is nothing much to do in the town proper of Culasi. The moment you arrive, go straight to the port and get on a boat that will take you to Mararison island. The travel time is only 20 minutes from the mainland. The fare is 150php per person if you are joining other tourists. In our case, we rented a small boat for 750php, roundtrip. You also need to pay 30php for environmental fee.
Finding a place to sleep is easy as there are many guesthouses and private resorts available. Overnight rate ranges from 500php to 2500php. We got ours for 1,500php per night good for 4 persons. It’s a spacious nipa hut with a fan. All is good save for the fact that we had to order water for shower. I didn’t complain because I have already managed my expectations considering we were visiting a secluded island.
Here are the things that you have to remember before visiting Mararison are the following;
- No electricity after 10 p.m. unless you pay extra to use their generator that will run until 5:00 a.m. Power resumes at 3:00 p.m.
- Bring mosquito repellant.
- No restaurant or cafe on the island. There are small eateries but your host will offer to cook food for you, the meal is based on whatever is their catch of the day.
- It’s a very laid back island where the network signal is too weak.
- No card payments, everything is on a cash basis.
- If you fancy a massage, you may ask for help from your host to get a massage therapist for you. The rate is 300php per hour.
Others may not consider staying overnight in Mararison, but I encourage that you do. It’s nice to see and experience a basic way of living, away from too much commercialism. Also, it’s a good way to help the locals who rely on tourism to make a living.
There are not many activities to do on the island but it’s a good place to relax and enjoy. To have a better view of Mararison, hire a guide for 250php for a group of 4. There is a short hike on the island that takes about 30 minutes where you will be taken to a spot that offers the best view of the island.
We left Mararison island after having breakfast back to Culasi. From there, we took a habal-habal (motorcycle) to Tibiao; travel time is less than 45 minutes and the fare is 150php.
There are many mountain resorts to choose from when you arrive in Tibiao, but I highly recommend Caluwag Mountain Resort. They offer a package that is a perfect mix of nature and adventure to get your adrenaline pumping. We tried the fish spa, boodle fight lunch, kawa bath experience, and river tube rafting.
Here are their updated rates;
Entrance fee – PHP 25.00/person
Lumpiga – PHP 299.00/table
Picnic Table – PHP 399.00/table
Native Gazebo – PHP 499.00/gazebo
Flavors of Kawa
Kawa Salt Bath – PHP 299.00/person
Kawa Coffee Bath – PHP 399.00/person
Kawa Turmeric Bath -PHP 399.00/person
Kawa Milk Bath – PHP 399.00/person
Kawa Wine Bath – PHP 599.00/person
Extreme Water Tubing – PHP 499.00/person
Tibiao Fish Spa – PHP 119.00/30-min.
Fish spa Half-body Massage – PHP 199.00/30-min.
Foot Massage – PHP 199.00/30-min.
Full-body Massage – PHP 349.00/hour
Coffee Body Scrub – PHP 349.00/person
Boodle Fight – PHP 299.00/person
This a great place to spend time with your family and friends. I recommend having a boodle fight lunch at the river while soaking your feet. Take a few minutes rest and enjoy fish foot spa too.
The most exciting part for me was the river tubing. It’s not as extreme as the one that I tried in Cagayan De Oro but I still enjoyed it, well except the part when I fell on the rocky part of the river. Take extra caution when you do this because the water level may be low but the current is strong.
After an hour of floating on the river, Kawa bath experience is the best way to end your Tibiao experience. Soaking your body on the warm water while drinking beer and enjoying the view of the mountain, the river, and the sky, it was glorious.
There is no signal in the area, which I love since I can totally reconnect with nature. Going back to the main highway you can rent a habal-habal and wait for the bus that will bring you back to Iloilo.
I can’t wait to revisit Antique as there many hidden places I have yet to discover, a province that has untouched rainforest, beautiful beaches, remote islands, unspoiled waterfalls & springs, and laidback countryside views. Antique is truly a nature lover’s paradise!