The School on the Hill

It was after lunch when we decided to go and give school supplies to the children at an elementary school in the hills of Mararison Island. The climb was difficult under the sweltering heat but this view of the Antique coastline was well worth it. We hired an enthusiastic guide who made sure we saw as much of the natural beauty of the hills as we possibly could and in the safest manner. She also helped us carry some of the school supplies we prepared for the children. 
The elementary school used to be by the beach until a typhoon devastated the island and destroyed the classrooms. The school was then rebuilt on top of the hill. There are concrete stairs to get there which are easy on young legs. We opted to take the unpaved trail lined with roots of overhanging trees because it was an easier climb but treacherous when wet. The trees provided shade from the heat.

There are less than a hundred students at the school. Only a few kids were at school on the day we visited as some of the children had left for the mainland for a school sponsored activity. The children were happy with the notebooks and pencils that BalayniCharie Foundation gave them.

There is limited electricity on the island so it was good to see that solar panels have been installed at the school. Construction was ongoing for another building on the campus at the time of our visit in October 2018.

These giant jackstones act as breakwater and will eventually be moved farther out to sea where the other jackstones are in the background.

One of the reasons visitors hike on these hills in Mararison is to find these pitcher plants. Pitcher plants are carnivorous and as the name implies, store water.

Beautiful as they are, they trap unsuspecting insects. 

Back on the powdery white sand beach, we dipped into the welcoming sea to cool down a bit. So glad we could give the kids some school supplies and also enjoy the beach. Can't wait to go back to Mararison when the season changes and the sandbar will pop up once again.

How to get there:
It's important to register at the Tourism Office located by the dock in Culasi, Antique. There is a minimal fee to be paid. The office will find a boat operator for groups of five or if you prefer a private boat. The roundtrip boat fare is P750.00 including a tour around the island. The boat operator will wait for you until you are ready to return to Culasi. For those traveling alone, there are frequent pumpboats leaving for the island and the cost of the fare is shared with the other passengers. Mararison is 20 minutes from Culasi.

You can either buy food from the public market in Culasi (which is located at the port) to take to Mararison or you can get lunch of fresh fish, rice and vegetables on the island. The local "sari-sari" stores in Mararison can refer you to someone who could prepare your meal. They can also refer you to a guide.

There are buses from Iloilo, Caticlan and Kalibo that stop in Culasi.

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie


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