Like the Isla Gigantes in Carles, Iloilo, Mararison Island, got under the tourist radar after Typhoon Haiyan. This little known island just 15 minutes off the mainland of Culasi, Antique used to be enjoyed exclusively by the locals and a few tourist. But soon, word got out, or simply, photos of picturesque hills and an alluring sandbar found in just one island went viral across the net. Being highly accessible from the mainland, the once quiet fishing community now welcomes visitors at their tropical island home.
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.
Carles in Northern Iloilo is steadily getting a good stream of tourist nowadays. The municipality, once ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan is now a popular jump-off point for Isla de Gigantes island hopping exploration. If not staying on the islands, Carles is the best area to stay. Coming from the earliest flight from Manila to Iloilo and a 3-4 hours road travel to Carles, I finally made it to my home base for two nights, The New Beach Head Resort. It’s easy to downplay the resort for having only a 1-star rating in booking sites. It is also considered as the “2nd best resort” in the Carles. But it honestly didn’t feel 1-star at all! It felt more than 3-star in terms of comfort and neatness. Not to mention, a beach area where beautiful sunsets abound.
It all stared with a hungry Spanish explorer landing on the shores of Pandan Antique. Meeting an Ati local for the first time, he asked if they have food. The Ati pointed to a basket full of Kamote (Sweet potatoes) and said “Dan” which for them meant “that”. In excitement, the Spaniard exclaimed “Pan” which means bread, mistaking the potatoes as bread. It was an amusing play of words between two different culture that gave birth to the name of this place in Antique. Whether this event really is the etymology of its name, one thing is for sure, Pandan is rich in natural attractions and culture.
Cruising Bugang River was not the end of our water escapade in Antique. The following day, we took a day trip tour to the nearby town of Tibiao which can be reached through a one hour ride along the scenic coastal road heading south. The well-paved road boast of sweeping views of the mountains on one side and the sea on the other amidst a bucolic setting. We’re expecting another wet and wild adventure as we head to our first stop, the Bugtong Bato Waterfalls.