After enjoying a day at Isla de Gigantes, our third day in our Panay island loop is spent in transit to Antique. On the way, we’ll stop by Capiz first for an afternoon of sightseeing. Quite excited as it was my first time visiting this province. Known as the “Seafood Capital of the Philippines”, I was looking forward to try to some delicious seafood dishes. Capiz also home to some fascinating heritage. From Carles, Iloilo, it’s roughly 1.5-2 hours drive to Roxas city, the provincial capitol.
Santa Monica Church Pan-ay
Along the Iloilo East Coast – Capiz Road before entering Roxas city proper, stands the prominent and magnificent looking Santa Monica Church or Pan-ay Church. Originally built by Fr. Miguel Murguia in 1774, a new church was rebuilt in 1884 under the supervision of Fray Jose Beloso, OSA after a typhoon decimated the original church in 1875.
Santa Monica Church is declared as a National Historical Landmark in 1997 and was declared a national cultural treasure in July 31, 2001 by the National Museum.
The Sta Monica Church is 70 meters long, 25 meters in width and 18 meters in height. It has 3 meter thick walls made of coral blocks. It is one of the most significant heritage structures in the country having housed the biggest church bell not only in the country but also in Asia. The Dakong Lingganay which means “big bell” was cast by Don Juan Reina in 1884 using 70 sacks of coins donated by the townfolks. The bell measures 7 feet in diameter, 5 feet in height and weighs 10.4 tons. The original bell is still being used at the five-story belfry while a replica is found at the ground floor near the museum.
We managed to take a little tour of the church. Inspecting the walls, reliefs, European-styled windows and carvings. There’s a grotto at the ground floor of the belfry. We managed to go to the 5th floor to see the original Dakong Lingganay and smaller bells while enjoying the view of Capiz. A little fun trivia: at the side of the church, there’s a nice door keyhole people are fond using as a frame for their pictures. A post marker can also be found on the early evangelization of the Panay people.
Palina Greenbelt Ecopark
Several rivers run through Capiz which have also become part of their ecotourism attractions. We visited the one in Barangay Cabay, Sitio Cablatan for the Palina Greenbelt Ecopark. Located at the mouth of the Palina river meeting the sea, this attraction is one fine example of how the community revived a dying river and made it sustainable for the local people.
With Capiz’s reputation as the seafood capital, local fisher folks took advantage of the abundance by setting up fish-pens to the point of over-fishing and damaging the river. The local government stepped in to declare the area as a mangrove sanctuary in 2002 to stop further destruction of the river. In 2006, Capiz established the Palina River Development Association (PARIDA) to convert the river area as an ecopark. The fisher-folks affected were trained for ecotourism activities like tour guideing and tourism services. Palina Greenbelt Ecopark was a success story that it even garnered environmental accolades internationally.
Sun setting at Palina River
The ecopark have several floating cabanas used for river tours and picnics. We didn’t do a tour, instead, had a hearty late lunch of a sumptuous seafood spread at one of the cabanas. A bilao of oysters, plates of squid and shrimps, sinigang and BBQ. Must be the freshness but all seems to be tastier at this side of the world.
We decided to just stay there for the sunset. It was amusing to observe people crossing the river at sundown. There appears to be a community nearby. Kids getting off from school riding small boats to cross and their canine buddies following them on a shallow swim. A beautiful burst of warm colors entertained us before we moved on.
Roxas City Night Stroll and Food Stops
Before we left Capiz, our host from Las Islas Travel and Tours made sure to let us spin by and stroll at the Halaran Plaza of Roxas City. It’s the heart of the city, a busy rotonda yet clean and presentable. The riverside is even fringed by blooming plants.
Making sure we keep our tummies filled while on the road to Antique, we dropped by a couple of local favorites. Cafe Romeo by the Baybay Black Sand Park for their coffee and cakes and Spanggo for their unique tasting pies. It was one activity-filled afternoon in Capiz and I just wish I could stay more.
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.