The beach and the sea may be my playground but I always felt more at home in the mountains. The nippy air, being among trees and soothing greens is a balm to the senses. Upon learning that in my return to Antique, just barely after a month from my last visit, I would have a chance to visit one of the highlands in Panay Island. On the first night of our Antique Heritage tour, we’ll be located at 869 meters above sea level at Aningalan, San Remegios, south of Antique bordering close to Iloilo. It’s where clouds roll along hills, dramatic rock formations jutting out the cascading landscape and a glassy lake are found.
It took us around two hours drive to reach Aningalan from Tobias Fornier. As soon as we got out of our vans, cool air greeted us along with the warm glow of the afternoon sun. Mountain peaks surrounds our view and it was refreshing. We settled in for a coffee and mushroom burger snack at Highland Park Strawberry Garden which would be hosting our stay. The brewed coffee was just the perfect recipe for that afternoon. Don’t be surprised if a hawk suddenly swoops in and pass by your view while gazing at the mountain views.
We couldn’t help our excitement to explore and decided to walk around the nearby hills to check out the sunset view. The group unintentionally scattered in different spots. Some went to the protruding triangular peak, Igmatindig Peak and decided to climb up. A scene we saw a distant away as we found ourselves near an ATV park where the setting sun painted an equally stunning scene.
Under the Stars
I always take it as an opportunity to capture celestial scenes when I’m out of town. It may deprive me a little sleep but it’s something I can’t do when I’m in the city. The conditions were in our favor, clear sky, stars are aligned, moon in hiding and little to no light pollution in the area. Had the pleasure of having Kara and Celine as company this time as we shoot for the stars.
Our first destination that morning in Aningalan required a light hike to the Danao Lake. It looks idyllic, surrounded by rice fields and vegetation. A few cottages are available for picnics. The placid waters large enough for bamboo rafts to wander around the lake. Our ride back got more exciting as we rode a dump truck to the main road. The bumpy ride added to the excitement.
The site of the monolithic limestone rock of Igbaclag Cave was a sight for a fairy tale setting. Aside from age-old trees surrounding its perimeters, the cavernous limestone tingles excitement to adventure seekers. It reminds me a lot of climbing Ille Cave in Palawan. Except this time there are no harness, ropes or even helmet to protect us. There’s a chimney passage to reach the higher open peak but requires scrambling up sharp rocks and guts to pull oneself up. Why I had to bring a backpack was beyond me. But I managed to get through and enjoy a view of a condense rainforest that seemed to be fairly untouched.
Highland Park Strawberry Garden
Our early start gave us more time to enjoy the Highland Park Strawberry Garden. While it wasn’t a strawberry season, their variety of strawberries are similar to the ones in Baguio as we were told. When in season, visitors are allowed to pick from them an pay per basket weight. Off season, the park is in bloom all year round and there are lots of opportunities for instagram-worthy photos, if that’s your thing. From the rainbow stairs to vivid variety of blooms.
Oh! Their 3-room with living area accommodation is quite clean and comfy. It’s nice to have cool temp even at summer that fans are second option. Water pressure is strong and bathroom always clean even with many of use utilizing it. The establishment can offer cooked meals but guest can also bring their own.
I really enjoyed Aningalan Highlands, it’s one of those places that I can easily be comfortable with. My kind of escape. A balance of nature adventure and the right chill. And I wouldn’t mind going back here again. Maybe to catch one of those huge rafflesias in bloom in which San Remegios is also famous for.
To visit Aningalan the ideal jumpoff point would be in Sibalom.
- From Sibalom take a jeep bound to San Remegios (P30 per way) and alight at Aningalan
- Habal-habal can also be hired to take you directly to Aningalan for Php 300 per way.
To get to Sibalom the easiest way is to take a direct flight to San Jose Antique via Philippine Airlines. PAL flies directly to Antique from Clark Airport three times a week.
From Iloilo, take a bus to San Jose (Php 80 fare) then transfer to Sibalom (Php13 fare).
For Highland Park Strawberry Garden, you can contact Pinky at 0916.504.2864 or through their Facebook page /Highland-Park-Strawberry-Garden/. Overnight stay starts at P1000-1500 for a room good for 4pax or the whole house for Php 3,000. Perfect for families or groups.
The Antique Heritage Tour was organized by Katahum Tours
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.