Guimaras: the island that fits your taste

Guimaras Island is a perfect destination for those who are longing for sun, the beach and abundance of nature. 

This summer, I was lucky to have been part of a two-day tour of this beautiful island. Let me share with you this 2-day itinerary that you might want to consider during your trip.

From the Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo City, we took a 15-minute pumpboat ride to Jordan Wharf in Guimaras. Upon arrival, we immediately started the tour by passing by the Jordan Municipal Hall, Roman Catholic Church of Jordan, smallest town plaza, GSC Mosqueda Campus and Jordan Food and Terminal Market.

A view of the San Lorenzo wind turbines from Lookout Point Number Seventeen

54MW San Lorenzo Wind Farm Project
Our first stop was the 54MW San Lorenzo Wind Farm Project in the municipality of San Lorenzo. The wind farm has 27 wind turbines that generate a total of 54 megawatts of power that is passed on to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) which then distributes it to many power utilities in Western Visayas, Negros and Cebu.

The wind turbine at WTG 17
Tourists can view the wind turbines at Lookout Point Number Seventeen, an integrated tourism center.  On that area stands one turbine, WTG No. 17.

Standing at the foot of WTG No. 17 made me feel so small and vulnerable.
It is quite windy and dry on the deck, so it is advisable to use a scarf to cover your head and protect your eyes.

We proceeded to Brgy. Constancia in San Lorenzo for mango picking activities.

There, visitors can pick mangoes themselves or buy from the farmers. We purchased ripe mangoes for only P20 a kilo! The bigger ones cost 40 to 50 pesos. So, I was quite happy to bring home two bagfuls of the sweetest mangoes in the world!

Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) - Guimaras National Crop, Research Development Support Center
Next stop was the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) - Guimaras National Crop, Research Development Support Center. Located at Brgy. San Miguel in the municipality of Jordan, the center was declared by then President Fidel Ramos as the mango center of Asia. It is credited for the establishment of germplasm on mango, creation of promising strains of the carabao mango of which Guimaras is famous, development of technology to improve mango production and better quality fruits, and opening of exports to the United States of America and Australian through area freedom certification.

You may contact Mr. Yondre Yonder, OIC through this number: 0919.893.7838

TMX’s Grayn Gange and Mae Panes with TDG’s Mayin delos Santos for mango picking at Brgy. Constancia

Island Hopping
We had a gratifying seafood lunch at Raymen Beach Resort, a popular resort at Alobijod Cove in Nueva Valencia. The cove has white sand beaches that are ideal for swimming and sun bathing.

Raymen Beach Resort has fan rooms and air-conditioned rooms with rates ranging from P400 to P4,000. They also have pavilions for big gatherings.
The contact person at Raymen Beach Resort is Ms. Annabelle Estaya and her number is 0918.520.7271

After lunch, we boarded a pumpboat to start our island hopping. We passed by the Pirate Cave, Ave Maria Islet, Sea Turtle Marine Sanctuary and SEAFDEC.

One of the islets at SEAFDEC Igang Marine Station. Guests houses for researchers are perched on each islet.

The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center’s Igang Marine Station consists of four islets with floating fish cages that are home to varied species of marine life.

The IMS hosts a mariculture park demonstration and training facility that serve as a model of sustainable mariculture technology for marginal farmers. The mariculture park also caters to entrepreneurs who are interested in investing on aquaculture.

It has established science-based culture technologies for abalone, bighead carp, mud crab, catfish, seaweeds, grouper, milkfish, seabass, freshwater prawn, tiger shrimp and tilapia, among others.

After a long walk, we reached the 
small boat that will bring us to 
Magic Island Resort
We had fun playing at the milkfish cage. We dipped our feet in the cage and milkfishes as big as my legs would race to suck our toes, thinking they are food. The do not have teeth, so it’s okay.

We also met Paula and Paulo, their turtles whose size reach almost 20 inches in diameter.

Sea Turtle Marine Sanctuary
Meanwhile, we stopped by the Sea Turtle Marine Sanctuary at Brgy. Lawi, but sadly, we didn’t get to see them because they were already released to the sea.

The guide said that for some reason, the turtles just come there to nest. This behavior started even before the island had inhabitants.

When the eggs are hatched, the residents take care of the hatchlings and later on release them to the sea when they are ready.

Magic Island Resort
Exhausted from the island trip but happy and contented after seeing the beautiful sights of Guimaras, it was already almost 5 p.m. when we proceeded to Magic Island Resort. Since it was already low tide, we had to walk a few meters before reaching the resort's rather small boat which then brought us to the island.

Magic Island is located at Brgy. Tando, Nueva Valencia. It is called magic island because during low tide, the island seems to be part of the mainland of Guimaras but during high tide, it is a separate island.

Upon arrival, instead of our tired bodies jumping to our beds, we jumped into their swimming pool and let the jacuzzi massage our backs.

Sunset at the Magic Island Resort dock

After swimming, we showered and headed to the dining area where we feasted on crabs, prawns and pancit.

After dinner, we were left to our own activities. I found a place to meditate until my breathing and the cool breeze relaxed my mind and body.

During the evenings, the water around the island disappears

We woke up early the next day and found that it was already high tide, so the island was again surrounded by water. My soul basked at the stillness of the surroundings and the breathtaking view of the sea and the islands. A lonesome fisherman who has set out very early can be seen from afar.

To stay in Magic Island, you may contact Ms. Elena Espiso in this number: 0910.6243.770

And in the morning, the water surrounding the island appears

More Island Hopping
After eating a hearty breakfast, we had another island hopping adventure that included the Suba Malawig Mangrove Eco Tour, discovering rock formations and islets, visiting the Taklong Island Marine Reserve and swimming on the sand bars.

Suba Malawig Mangrove Eco Tour

Suba Malawig Mangrove Eco Tour
One need not go to Bohol to experience a river cruise because the Suba Malawig Mangrove Eco Tour is a better alternative. As our boat made its way through the water, we were thrilled to see thousands of mangroves – mature and young. The guide said that this area was affected during the oil spill in 2006 but from the looks of it, it is back in shape after years of rehabilitation efforts.

Locally known as “bakawan”, mangroves prevent erosion, protect the shoreline from damaging winds, waves and flooding; filter pollutants and serve as a nursery for fishes.

Suba Malawig is home to hundreds of mangroves

Taklong Island National Marine Reserve
Taklong Island National Marine Reserve is a 1,143-hectare “Jewel of Guimaras” which covers 46 islands and islets in Barangays La Paz and San Roque in the municipality of Nueva Valencia. It has vast mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass meadows of high biodiversity. The area is protected from fishing and other human activities except those related to research and education.

TINMR has 25 species of mangroves, nine species of seagrasses, 114 species of hard corals and 17 species of soft corals and three caves namely Taklong Cave, Masai Cave and Apusan Cave.

It is home to 59 species of birds, six species of mammals and nine species of reptiles. These include the Philippine duck, reticulated phyton, Tabon bird, Little-Bronze Cuckoo, White-collared Kingfisher, Philippine Hawk Cuckoo, Philippine Night Jar, Philippine Hawk Owl, Whimbrel, Large Flying Fox species, Paradise Flying Tree Snake, and Black-Bearded Tomb bat.

It covers several white sand beaches such as Piagu Island, Balas Balabag, Apugan Island, Binabaywan, Taklong Island and Kaliruhan.

Floating Cottage
We stopped by the famous Floating Cottage which is located in the middle of the sea. It stands on a shallow area so we were able to swim here. We were very delighted because the water is so clear. And the white sand? Forget Boracay!

Mango Bulalo, a tasty soup with beef, bone marrow, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and mango balls

Everything Mangoes at The Pitstop
We went back to Magic Island to freshen up and check-out. After that, we proceeded to The Pitstop Restaurant for lunch.

The Pitstop serves dishes that include mangoes among its ingredients. 

My favorite was Mango Bulalo, a tasty soup with beef, bone marrow, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and mango balls. Their Bangus Sisig with Mango Bits is also delicious. Their Chicken Adobo with Mango Twist tastes similar to Estofado but it has mango slices and cashew nuts. Then, the recipe that started it all - Mango Pizza - is a must-try. It is topped with mango cream, cheese, cashew bits and slices of bell pepper.

Mango Pizza

The Pitstop is owned by Mr. Eugene Mark, president of the Guimaras Caterers Association. He can be reached through this number: 0927.8949.395

Sapal Weaving Village
After a satisfying lunch, we visited the Sapal Weaving Village in Brgy. Sapal in the municipality of San Lorenzo.

We noticed an abundance of pandan plants along the road. Our guide explained that the residents grow their own pandan and they use these to weave many products such as bags, purses, sleeping mat and more. Their products are displayed at the People's Handicraft and Processed Food Center.

Elaine Gambol of the Sapal Weavers Association pose with their sleeping mats and bag
"Weaving has been our old folks' source of livelihood, said Elaine Gambol, a member of the Sapal Weavers Association which was founded in 2009.

"Because of this, we and our children were able to go to school," she added.

Slippers made of woven dried pandan

The Department of DTI accepts orders on their behalf. The agency also facilitates their training. The other agencies that are helping them are the Guimaras Provincial Tourism Office, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), and Provincial Economic Development Office.

The association can be reached through their village head, Hon. Evelina Salcedo in this number 0912.3346.332

Rebecca Tubongbanua, owner of McNester Food Products

McNester Food Products
We visited McNester Food Products and were welcomed by owner Rebecca Tubongbanua, hailed as Sientistang Magsasaka in 2007.

Their products include Mango Jam, Mango Calamansi Concentrate, Dried Mango, Mango Chutney, Calamansi Juice, Mango Calamansi Juice, Flavored Polvoron, Mango Sauce, Mango Ketchup, Mango Squash Spread, Pineapple Ketchup, Indian Mango Pickles and Pineapple Marmalade.

Mangga Atsara or Pickled Mangoes by McNester Food Products

Tubongbanua said she started the business with only P7,000 and her first product was calamansi concentrate. This was followed by mangoes. Rebecca said that she chooses only the mature mangoes because they are sweet, thus she uses less sugar.

She showed us how to use mango sauce and hot and spicy mango ketchup to come up with Mango Pasta which was utterly creamy and delicious.

McNester can be reached through these numbers: 0915.9976.633 and 0919.991.3574

The famous dried mangoes of Guimaras

Guimaras Model Galleon Makers Association
After having a fill of the creamy and sweet-spicy Mango Pasta, we purchased pasalubong items and continued with a running tour that brought us to the Guimaras Model Galleon Makers Association in Buenavista.

They make small and big model galleons that are sold in Boracay, Dumaguete and Cebu.

Benito Ferrer, president and founder of the association, said that it was his father who started the galleon-making business in Guimaras right after World War II. He added that they have 40 members now.

Benito Ferrer, founder and president of the Guimaras Model Galleon Makers Association pose with their products

Ferrer said their market includes local and international tourists.

“I have been making galleons since my elementary days. I get paid whenever my galleon is sold and this helped me and my family meet our daily needs," said Davy Nerios, a member.

Mr. Ferrer can be reached through this number: 0916.4192.076

Travel Checklist
That was our last stop before we proceeded to the McArthur’s Wharf in order to take the pumpboat back to Parola, Iloilo City.

When traveling to Guimaras, bring a scarf, a pair of shades, enough bottled water, environment-friendly bags where you can stash your pasalubong items, swimsuit, and aqua shoes (for walking across islands during the low tide or swimming in rocky beaches).

And oh, don’t forget to bring your sense of adventure!

Guimaras Manggahan Festival

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