Island of the Giants: Carles

Iloilo City Travel Blog

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As a kid, I would always hear my father talk about his treasure hunting days. I would always hear him say this and that about “Isla de Gigantes”. He talked about huge coffins, the Yamashita treasure, the beautiful beach, the caves and everything. Listening to him alone made me want to go to that place. I did not know where it is or how to get there but Isla de Gigantes is definitely on my “”When I grow up, I’ll go there” list.

Colcol asked me if I wanted to come along with him and Harren to Isla de Gigantes. Without thinking twice, I said “YES”. I was actually surprised as to how they knew about the island because I thought it was just my father and his treasure hunting friends who knew about it. We had several meetings before the actual date of travel. The only meeting that I was able to attend to was the last one, I was actually surprised and a bit shocked when I saw a lot of people on the table meeting withy my friends. There are friends that I know, friends that I barely know familiar faces and total strangers. My “When I grow up, I’ll go there” list must have leaked or something as many people who wanted to go to my must-go island too.

In the end there were only 16 of us who made it to the terminal. We took the 4 am bus going there. The Tanza terminal is perfect for people who want to catch the first trip with the first seats on their destination. Buses that leave for Boracay can also be found here. We took the Estancia bus as it will take us to the port where we’ll meet with Maan’s cousin who will take u to the Island. For people who want to use public transport going to Isla the Gigantes, going to Carles is the best option as there are boats that will take you there. As for us, were lucky enough to have Maan because she has a Tito who lives in the Island.

After 4 hours or so, we arrived at Estancia. We had to do some marketing and the like because according to one of our friend who will come with us too, there are no markets there. Considering that none of us were able to go there yet, we bought gallons of water, loads of food and a sack of rice.We met with Christian at the town proper of Estancia. He had 2 other friends with him. They asked if the boat of Maan’s cousin can accommodate all 16 of us plus our big bags. We did the math and decided to let Oooey, Colcol and Arthur go with Christian and his little boat.

The boat ride from Estancia up to Isla de Gigantes took 2-3 hours. We passed by several island along the way. One of which is the famous Sicogon Island. It is a private resort that has an airport of its own. Gloria Diaz’s Pinkamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa was shot there. There are other islands too, some inhabited, some not. Me and my friend Cathy sat at the farthest corner of the motor boat. It was 8am and we were travelling under the scorching summer sun. We did not mind the fact that we have no covers on our heads or that we weren’t able to put on sunblock because the air is cool and our excitement got the better of us. By the time we arrived at the Island at around 11 am, I was already badly burned. It is the worst kind of sunburn. Worst that until now, a year and a half after my first Isla the Gigantes escapade, the burned skin has not yet recovered. Where my shorts and tank top fail to cover my skin, the sun‘s heat more than made up for it.

When we arrived at the island, we went straight to Maan’s Tito’s house. It was just 50 steps away from the beach. First thing that I noticed about the island is its “ambiance”. I don’t know if it’s just me or if my prejudice is getting the better of me. But setting foot on the Island’s white sand seashore has a cosmic effect on me. Blame it on my badly burned skin or the stories that I hear from my father.

Our friends who hitched in the smaller boat arrived a little bit later. I was right in assuming that size and speed are somewhat related when it comes to motor boats. We had bigger boats, it was quicker, we arrived faster. They had a small boat, it was slow and they just can’t keep up with us.

After lunch, we decided to check out the “tanke”. Locals refer to it as the “engkanto’s swimming pool”. I was scared but excited as hell to check this place out. The “tangke” has no shoreline. It is actually hidden in the high rocks. Imagine a small beach in between high rocks with trees and shrubs wrong above and beside it.

Now as for the mysterious side of it: This “tanke” as I have mentioned is surrounded by rocks and trees but the water’s surface is clean and does not have single fallen leaf, shrub or stem on it. (As they say, it is the”engkanto’s swimming pool so it is somewhat maintained and cleaned regularly but unseen forces of nature”) The locals there are very superstitious, they told us to keep out mouths shut and to never destroy the serenity of the place as it might enrage the “engkantos” there. And this we did when we got there. We spoke in hushed voices, we were extra careful and all. I wonder if the “engkantos” there got mad when some vandals put their names, their lover’s names, their fraternities’ names and the like at the rocks around.

Next is a little beach whose name I forgot. This one has a very short shoreline, a few rocks here and there. It has white sand too. One of the rocks was high enough that some of my friends decided to jump at the top of it before finally taking a plunge. I figured, the water must have been deep enough as nobody among who jumped broke a neck or limb.

After that jumping beach, we went to Bantigue. The sandbar there was amazing. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived there, the tide was getting high but the stand bar is still visible. But seeing the sandbar from afar made me a bit scared as it looks like a long line of boiling water.

It was getting dark, so we headed back at the Island and started to pitch our tent. We had 3 tents. I borrowed Dandan’s humongous tent, so there were like 8 of us inside it and still a room for more. We woke up the next day with local children peeking at our tents.

On our second day, we started our adventure by going to Pawikan Island. It is actually visible from where we pitched out tents. It is called as such because the island resembles a giant sea turtle or in vernacular, a “pawikan”. It does not have permanent residents though fishermen camp there overnight sometimes.

We decided to have our lunch at the Mayor’s Island. I don’t know if it’s actually called as such but our boatmen said that the town mayor’s owns the island, he even built a concrete house for island hopping tourists. Unfortunately, the cruelty of typhoon Frank destroyed the house. We are left with nothing but the concrete ruins of the house. Since the boatmen volunteered to cook our lunch for us, we roamed the island. At the top of it are stones. Well, for it practically looks like stone but they said that they are ancient coral which popped up from the sea and eventually evolved into becoming a little islet like this. The view from the top is amazing as you get to see the surrounding islands.

Next stop is the cave. Not just a regular cave but THE cave with the buried Japanese treasure. I imagine this as the place that my father use to talk about. The trek up the cave is steep. A trail is established and we have guides but for a city dweller like me who walks at concrete and FLAT walkways everyday of my life, the climb is very difficult. Some of my female friend even gave up midway up.

The cave’s entrance have a lot of vandalism. Nene was here. Toto loves Nene. SRB. Botlog was here. Fuck you. I love you! I lhab you. Inday rocks! I don’t know whether vandals go up here with a sole purpose of vandalism in mind because if I were them, I would not do it. I’d rather vandalize the town CR or the Multipurpose hall, where going there does not require you to hold on to a branch of tree for dear life.

The cave is big, beautiful but abused. If it were a person, the cave would be a big beautiful whore. For instance you can still see signs of its natural beauty. You know for a fact that is was once a virgin spot whose beauty is become is both bane and boon. Stalactites cut here, stalactites cut there. Holes here, holes there. digging there, digging here. One thing that caught my eye was a stone with a hand mark on it. They say it was a mark for the treasure. People believe that the have house the Yamashita treasure and the hand mark belongs to the Japanese soldier who buried the Yamashita treasure here.

After cave, we went to another Island. The name I forgot again. It looks like a giant mole or a giant’s mole (either way works!) I actually imagine it be a giant’s mole protruding out of the ocean. I assume the giant is asleep under the ocean. This belief made me scared to step on the slippery big brown stones of the island. I’m afraid it might come to life and the giants might swallow us whole (say, this mole is located near his mouth?) Anyway, we bathe in that giant mole-ish island. Our boatmen interacted with other fishermen in the island who were camping there for the night. We played with a few crabs. We even eat sea urchins offered to us by one of the boatmen.

On the way back to our base island, we saw a lot of dead corals. Moving forward, we spotted two boats of fishermen engaging in dynamite fishing. I now understand why this mode of fishing is prohibited. Looking at the dead corals and fishes is just not an interesting sight.
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GROWING up in such a scenic place, I must admit, I took for granted the beautiful spots that Jaro offered. I have spent most of my waking hours walking, looking, smelling and witnessing almost everything that Jaro offered me. I was too blind to see that I live in one of the most beloved districts of Iloilo City.

Being a Jareno, the annual fiesta celebrated every 2nd of February is such a grand event. People from different parts of Iloilo would flock to Jaro to participate in the festival. Some would go to the church to honor the district’s patron saint, Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria, said to be miraculous. Some would go there to visit their relatives and friends.

History showed that Jaro used to be a bustling town in Panay even before the Spaniards came. It was the seat of governmental power and business activity and center of Catholicism in the entire Iloilo Province and not the other way around as it is today.

This year, however, marks a momentous occasion in the Jaro fiesta tradition. The Association of Barangay Captains here in Iloilo and the Dinagyang Organizers decided to merge the event because after the Dinagyang highlights, the Jaro Fiesta follows a few days later.


Lots of activities were prepared by the ABC led by barangay chief Julieta Diamante. The celebrations will be kicked off by Saturday’s opening parade. The beautiful princesses Jea de la Gente, Ma. Corazon Dolar, Toni Ellyza Tanchuan, and Katrina Marie Muyco with their escorts, Queen Camille I, the daughter of Senator Manny Villar, and escort Alberto Lopez III will parade through the streets of Jaro in their fluvial floats.

Before the presentation of the royal court, there will be a parade which will start in front of SM Jaro at 3 p.m. followed by ribbon cutting.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Trenas, Iloilo Congressman Raul Gonzales Jr., Senator Manny B. Villar, and fiesta queen Camille A. Villar will give messages to their fellow Ilonggos.

On January 22, the Girl Scouts of the Philippines will have their activity. On the following day, January 23, the Association of Senior Citizens will also have their activity. January 24, meantime, is the day for all the rockers of Jaro since there will be a battle of the bands. January 25 will be the Search for Mutya ng Jaro 2006. The Jaro Cultural and Historical Foundation will conduct their activity on January 26. On the 27th is the day for the Association of Baranggay Kagawads Jaro District’s activity.

A coronation night for the children’s fancy ball parade followed by a bodybuilding contest will take place on the 28th of January. On the 29th will be the day allotted for the Sangguniang Kabataan’s activity. January 30 will be the day for the Filipino-American School Town’s activity. On January 31, the College of Criminology of the University of Iloilo will conduct their activity.

February 1 will be the presentation of Queen Camille. And on February 2, the fiesta day, will be the Jaro Fiesta Queen Coronation night with the beautiful daughter of Senator Villar as the queen.

With all these activities ahead for the upcoming fiesta, indeed Jaro is the most famous and the most beloved district of Iloilo.

Re-post from Sunstar Daily
Back when I was still a student, weekends was the best time to hang out with friends. Now that I belong to the work force, non-working holidays are the best ones.

Evelio Javier Day is a local holiday here in Panay. Every 11th of February, the death of the said hero is remembered. Me and my friends decided to spend the day at the beach. We did not want to go far out in the city as we are not going to stay there for the night. There are a lot of nearby beaches within Iloilo City. There is the Villa Beach located at Villa de Arevalo. However, it is not such a great place for bathing as the water is not that “clean” anymore.

Our options for nearby beaches are Oton, Tigbauan and Guimbal. The three municipalities that I have mentioned are like 30 minutes away from the city. They have clean water and they are not that far from the city. This means friends who can not make it in the morning can still catch up in the afternoon. This includes me as my work does not honor local holidays. I get off at 3:30 pm.

When I got off from work, I took a jeepney going to the Mohon Terminal in Villa. We took a Tigbauan Jeep in the terminal. We paid about 14 pesos for the fare. We told the driver that we are going off at Sol Y Mar. Drivers and conductors alike know where the resort is and since we were unsure of its location, we did the safest and wisest thing that needs to be done: we told the driver that we are going down at Sol Y Mar.

The resort is simple. You need to walk about 50 paces or so to be able to get to the actual beach. The lawn going there is manicured so you get to see beautiful plants and shrubs along the way. We paid an entrance fee of 40 pesos. Take note that they charge a corkage fee for outside food and drinks. Picnic cottages are available depending on its size, there is a small picnic cottage for 300 pesos and there is also a bigger one for 500 pesos. Since it is just near the city, you can be assured about its internet connection and power supply. I haven’t tried their wifi connection but I think they offer it as well.

My friends have been there since 9am and they were already tanned when we got there. The view of Guimaras Island is stunning during sunsets. You also get to check out the Antique mountain range on the right side. The beach may not be white-sand but it certainly is refreshing. This place is perfect for people who don’t want to go that far but wants to enjoy a quiet day at the beach.