We all do sorts of crazy when we’re on the verge of our youth. Today, I look back on this one-day trip from Cebu to Guimaras to Iloilo up to Roxas City – and I still couldn’t fathom how naive I was. Not to mention lucky.
While I still do believe that the universe will conspire to make everything happen, caution, I believe is something that should always be practiced. But well, it wouldn’t be a tale to recall if it’s not worth the risk.
So, here allow me to narrate this unconventional trip around the beautiful island of Panay – from Cebu to Guimaras to Iloilo to Capiz.
Solo Land Trip to Gigantes Island
Always the uncertain and fickle, I impulsively booked a flight to join my colleagues who were on a trip to Isla Gigantes. However, unlike them who scored an P800 two-way trip to Roxas City, mine was booked via Iloilo. This means I have to travel alone from Iloilo City to Roxas City to meet them.
It was never a problem actually. I have survived the long bus rides of Cordillera and somehow found solace in traveling alone. But never in my wildest dream would this trip would go as spent as I’d be.
Truly, the universe will never cease to challenge and surprise us.
So, What Happened to this Unconventional Trip to Gigantes Island?
By midnight, I was already at Cebu International Airport waiting for my 4am trip to Iloilo. I arrived at 4:50am at the latter and directly headed to Parola Port for a short visit to the astounding island of Guimaras.
By two in the afternoon, after a long motorcycle trip arond Guimaras under the scorching heat of summer, I requested Kuya Felix to send me back to Buenavista Port as I was planning to do a side trip to the 300 year old National Heritage church of Iloilo – Miag-ao Church.
An hour after, I was already riding a jeepney bound for Miag-ao City. Now this is where the epic journey began. Honestly, I didn’t do my assignment on this journey to the renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site. I just checked Google Map and upon seeing that the place is “just nearby” the city proper, I decided to include it in the itinerary before heading to Roxas City. Ah, such impulses.
What I was not prepared for was that some roads were blocked because of reconstruction; hence the numerous rerouting and heavy flow of traffic. The trip almost took three hours. Yes people, three hours. And my silly estimate was just a thirty-minute trip. Goodness gracious.
I really thought I’d be having a stiff neck after long hours of looking outside the jeepney’s window, trying to figure out which town I was. Despite the many times my memory fails me, up until now I can still remember all those towns we’ve passed through: Oton, Tibauan, Guimbal, and then finally, Miag-ao.
When the driver announced our arrival, I immediately went out of the public vehicle and searched for the reason of that trip: Miag-ao Church. To say it was beautiful is an understatement. With the sun setting, the church’s façade flares more of its almost golden limestones. Like a child watching the fireworks for the first time, I stood in awe in front of the church.
After such long gaze, I finally decided to get inside the church, sat on the last pews, and stared blankly at the altar. I did a short prayer, thanked the heavens for the safe trip, and wished to head back home in one piece as well. It felt overwhelming. Maybe it was fatigue finally making itself known. Plus the place was too solemn for reflection.
When I felt that everything was settled, I decided to go outside and take photos for remembrance. I could hear Rihanna singing in the background: ‘Baby this is what you came for’
After enjoying such exquisiteness, I then decided to head back to Iloilo City. It took a long time to realize what was installed for me for the rest of the day. As much as I wanted to visit Garin Farm and the rest of the old churches in Iloilo, my time was limited. (More reason to come back). I needed to catch that last trip to Carles.
I arrived at Tigbak Bus Station at seven in the evening. And as if I was not exhausted enough, I found out that the last trip to Carles was at 2pm. I wanted to think of other possible options, but my brain was no longer with me at this time. I was hungry, tired, and way out of plan.
Good thing though that the attendants there were very helpful. They suggested that I take the last trip bound for Estancia and from there I can make my way to Carles via jeepney or tricycle. Again, I thought Estancia was just a thirty-minute or an hour’s trip. So, without eating dinner, I embarked on another journey.
Guess who was horrified when an hour has passed and no signs of arrival was made known. Make it two hours and still none.
Then came the heavy downpour. Lighting and thunder taking turn, making the trip even more horrifying as it sounds. Maybe I was just delirious. Or hungry. Kitkat was probably right: you’re not you when you’re hungry.
I wanted to ask someone of how long will the trip would still be. But there were only four of us left at that time. The driver, his conductor, a fellow passenger, and I. Four people in a bus in a deserted place with the howling wind and rain in the background.
Before my thoughts could kill me, we finally arrived at the bus terminal. I don’t know if you’d call it that. It was very dark and the only thing that emitted light at that time was a lamppost. And the only establishment I saw that was still open at that time was, guess what, a local bar with a couple of people: probably composed of laborers and entertainers.
I tried looking around to search for travel inns or lodging houses who would accommodate a lost soul that night. Probably seeing my uncertainty, the fellow passenger came to me and asked where I would be staying for the night. Afraid of divulging my misfortune, I returned the inquiry to him. He shared that he’s bound for Masbate and would be probably sleeping on one of the pump boats in the port area since there are no more trips for the night.
Before he could retort the question back, I immediately hailed the tricycle passing by without knowing where I was actually headed. At that time, all I wanted was to get a good night’s sleep. It’s almost midnight and I have been awake for almost 24 hours. Like, literally.
With the last strain of energy, I asked the teenage driver to bring me to the nearest travel inn or lodging house. What I totally forgot was that this was no city, and the inns and lodging houses that they know of are quite different.
I don’t know if I’d feel comforted when the tricycle driver brought me to a house with a wooden label outside that says “Lodging Inn”. At entrance, we came across a couple just going out. Yes, this was the stereotyped lodging inns where adults stuff happens. The teenage driver apologized for bringing me there saying it was the only lodging house he knew. As if it was his fault.
He called for the attendant, who got the spare key to the room. I paid for the night’s stay and thanked the young lad for the assistance. In fairness to the inn, it was clean and big though dimly lighted. I can’t help but imagine the adult stuff that are probably happening in the adjacent rooms. Good thing my body no longer wanted to cooperate with my overly-imaginative mind. After plugging in all of my gadgets, I immediately fell asleep – without washing and changing my clothes.
By four in the morning, I received a message from my colleagues that they were already on their way to Carles from Roxas City. Immediately, I took a shower and prepared my things for the much-awaited island hopping adventure. Kidding. I actually extended my sleep.
After breakfast, I left the inn and asked a tricycle driver to bring me to the bus terminal. There I found out that there were no longer jeepneys that are bound to Carles from Estancia. And if I was determined to go, I have to hire a habal-habal driver P60 going to Balasan market where I could possibly get a ride to Estancia. Such early morning stress.
But the man on his sixties, who probably heard my conversation with the habal-habal drivers approached me and shared that I can just ride a bus bound for Roxas. It will only cost P15. Upon reaching Balasan market, I was informed that, again, there were no jeepneys that travel to Carles at that time of the day. Heavens, what do I do next?
Seeing probably my desperation, the coffee vendor suggested that I hire her husband, who was a habal-habal driver to bring me to Bancal Port for P250. I was already frustrated, and the offer sounds tempting. But it felt like a holdup in a broad daylight. There should be other way out.
And so I went out of the terminal and asked a uniformed personnel (whom I guess was ready to report to work) if there’s a way that I can go to Carles without spending too much. And as if heavens have heard my prayers, he hailed a tricycle for me, asked the driver to bring me to the junction, and help me get a ride to Carles. He added that I only need to pay P10.00 for the ride. When we got to the market, the driver called out his friend (another tricycle driver) and asked him to bring me to Carles. This time, I was charged with P20.00. Finally, when we reached Carles, he called out a habal-habal driver to bring me to Bancal Port. After learning my lessons, I secretly asked him how much would be the fare, he said that it’s only P15 but if I like, I could make it P20.00.
To make this very long story short, I arrived in Bancal thirty minutes before our scheduled island hopping, ate with my friends, and enjoyed the rest of the day like nothing traumatizing had happened before the meeting. It was crazy, fun, and life-changing. All in all, it was a lesson to live by. And the prize of such adventure? These wonders.
Gigantes Island: Photo Dump
Was Gigantes Island worth this unconventional trip? I’d say yes. The islands were too beautiful.
Would I take the same trip again should time permit? I guess once is already enough. And I think I’ve shared fairly enough for today. In case you’re planning for a Gigantes Island tour, feel free to contact our very accommodating boatman, Kuya Nonoy Rolex at 0918-429-6503 or Nanay Lyd via George Cano at 0917-683-9456/0917-128-2655. Make sure to enjoy the scallops and wasay-wasay. Superbly delicious at a very affordable price!