Iloilo Day 2 (continued)
We were guided by a Concepcion local to the bus stop. From there, we rode a mini-bus bound to Sara because there are no direct buses from there to Northern Iloilo. We have to go back to the Iloilo East Coast highway to catch buses bound to Estancia. It is where the jump-off port to Islas de Gigantes is located. Sara is just a 30-40 minute ride Concepcion. We paid PHP 20-25 for the fare. I can't recall how much exactly.
|dirty ice cream! :)|
A few minutes later, we found ourselves again riding in another ordinary bus. Fare from Sara to Estancia was PHP 100. Estancia is 135 km from Iloilo City. To have an idea on how far our destination was, you may check the guide map I made below. Oh yes, we were heading to the farthest island in the northeast of Iloilo. Islas de Gigantes really belongs the municipality of Carles but boat transportation are only accessible through Estancia. Had we known that Roxas Airport is much closer to Carles, we should have booked our return flight from there. Research fail.
|up, up and farther away|
It took us 2 hours to reach Estancia. We rode a tricycle going to the port for PHP 10. When we reached the port, we asked around which passenger boat we should take as there are several of them. Gigantes has 2 islands, Norte and Sur. Based on the Explore Iloilo site, we should be in Brgy. Lantangan, Gigantes Sur and that was what we followed. Back in 2011, it is the only source of info about this far away island.
|onboard ferry to Gigantes|
It was already cloudy when we arrived at the port. Just by looking at the skies, we could tell that there was a storm coming. The passenger boat is big. It doesn't just transport people but also loads of supplies. I think everything the island community needed from the town, they ship it here. We left after 30 minutes of waiting.
An hour of smooth sailing had passed. Then, there came the storm in the middle of the sea. OMG, super heavy rain, strong winds and huge waves! It became a very choppy ride. A picture of the movie "The Perfect Storm" started to flash in my mind. It was that bad. But when I looked around, the locals seemed so relaxed. Maybe it's a regular occurrence to them. So I kept calm and pretend not to mind it as well hehe.
|sailing the stormy Visayan Sea|
After a couple of hours, we finally reached Gigantes Sur. It was still drizzling. We asked a habal-habal driver to take us to Brgy Lantangan. We paid PHP 25 each. While on the ride, I was already astounded by what I'm seeing. The tall limestone cliff formations are similar to those of El Nido's but it has a more mystical feel to it. When we reached the said barangay, it looks like a typical residential area. We decided to ask around about a contact we saw in one of the posts we read - Mr Joel Decano.
One of the Kuya's we asked said the Decanos are from the other island. Shoot. Define lost. Looks like they are a well-known family. Even people from the other island knew them. They got us another habal-habal and sent us to the bay where there are local fishermen who can take us to the other island. We paid another PHP 25 each. Kuya driver helped us find someone to can carry us off to Gigantes Norte. We paid PHP 50 each for the boat ride. We were so thankful to the very kind locals who helped us find the right path. :)
|yey! we found it!|
Our sailing from Sur to Norte took about 30 minutes. I didn't regret us getting lost. Because of that, we were able to circumnavigate Gigantes Sur by habal-habal, we met wonderful local people and I was able to enjoy the sights between these two islands while sailing on a small boat. It was all good. :)
When we got off the boat, we asked the locals again and they gave us directions to the Decanos. The big house beside the school, they said. We made it! Woot! After that "journey", it felt good to finally found a place to stay in a far away island only a few travelers have reached.
We told Kuya Joel of how we made it to his inn. He was quite amused because it was an adventure hehe. He asked us how did we find out about his place and the conversation went on and on. By the way, he is a legit Tourism Officer for Carles and is working hard to promote tourism in Islas de Gigantes. I am once again writing a separate recommendation entry for his inn. :)
We walked around the neighborhood to see what it's like and how they live. Everywhere you go, there are piles of scallop shells! Even the walking paths seemed to be made of them. Abundance of scallops here was very obvious. They are the country's top scallop exporter! We saw some locals selling ihaw-ihaw on the side street. We grabbed something to eat because we were famished from the earlier expedition. Then we came back and freshen up in time for supper.
Dinner was so worth the wait! We've been traveling both in land and in sea most of that day. We've just been eating whatever we can grab wherever. We felt so blessed having to eat all these scrumptious seafood being served to us. This is what I miss so much about Gigantes! Waaah, I wanna go back!
I would have been the happiest girl if they had an oven where I can bake these babies with cheese! But as long as it's fresh, it's always delish anyway.
|sweet and spicy mollusks|
Unfortunately, I forgot the local name of this one above. It was one of those semi-big mollusks you see in a shell. It's texture was like a squid, only more rubbery and harder to chew.
Who doesn't love crabs? It was a winner with that soy sauce, calamansi and chili dip. Wow! Fresh seafood overload! We were so delighted by this. It's not everyday you can eat all these in Manila!
We ate to our heart's content. All of those served just for the two of us! We had our dinner outside at the garden with just gas lamps lighting our table. Table, chairs and lamp posts were all made of tree trunks. How cool is that? :)
Our first day in Carles was full of action - adventures and misadventures. It was my first time getting caught up in a sea storm while sailing. We got lost but never felt afraid. It was the least famous destination we've been too (that time in 2011). With that, I meant - no massive tourist influx. I bet a lot of people are now discovering this hidden paradise. We got exhausted but we took our sweet time to take in all the pleasant things around us that moment. It was truly one of my unforgettable trips. That even if 17 months have passed, I can still write about it. We were lost but happily found. :)
This is Part 3 of my Iloilo travel series.