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When to go to Malumpati Cold Spring

There are so many exceptional beaches and swimming holes in and around Panay Island but I had never been to Malumpati Cold Spring in Antique. After checking out the attractions of Jawili in Aklan, we drove to Pandan which is a short distance from the border of Aklan province.
Everyone had the same idea as we did. Malumpati was insanely crowded. Summer break was well on its way and families were in the know where to cool down. Who can resist turquoise waters on a sweltering day?
I was naive to expect tranquil surroundings. I did find a little piece of heaven on the other side of the bridge that is enveloped by overgrown trees with hints of caves and my mind's idea of an idyllic day by the water. But it is not accessible to the public. Summer is not the best time to visit Malumpati nor weekends. I'll go back another day. Make that a weekday.

There's a minimal entrance fee to Malumpati Cold Spring. We paid 50 pesos for parking. There are people at the parking lot who say they…

The Hidden Charms of Aklan

Aklan has many attractions that tourists miss when they head straightaway to Boracay from the Kalibo International Airport. Lambingan Beach is just a few minutes down the road from the airport and the perfect spot to celebrate the blue hour. Or meet locals frolicking on the beach.

Tinago Lake in Batan is aptly named. Tinago means hidden and this lake is well hidden except to those who seek off the grid paths. We met two other visitors when we were in Tinago. It was easy to appreciate the expanse of lake and sky and harness the #bluemind in tranquil surroundings.

I enjoy shopping for pottery in this village because the prices are reasonable and the stall owners are open to bargaining and will even give an extra planter or two if you purchase a lot of pottery. Bayangan means "potter's wheel" and Lezo is the pottery capital of Aklan.

St. Isidore the Farmer Church is right next to the pottery market. It has served the parish community since 1910.

The cool plunge pools at Jawili …

The Enchanting Islands of Concepcion

The Concepcion group of islands is located east of Panay Island in the Visayan Sea. These 17 islands are part of the Municipality of Concepcion in the province of Iloilo. 

The sandbar on Bulobadiangan Island stretches across the sea toward Igbon Island. These islands have so far escaped the throng of sun worshippers. It was our only stop during our visit because Agho Island which is known for its white sand beach, was closed to visitors at the time and no one at the Tourism office knew when it would reopen. There is a P25 entrance fee per person to get off at Bulobadiangan and we had to bring our own food which one of the residents prepared for us for a P150 cooking fee. Cold drinks are available on the island.

Danao Island with its white sand beach looks inviting from the shores of Bulobadiangan. 
The peak of Mount Manaphag or Sugarloaf Mountain towers over Pan de Azucar Island and can be seen from the mainland. Pan de Azucar is the largest island in the group. Mountain climbing enthusi…

8 Heritage Houses of Iloilo

The province of Iloilo on the island of Panay has a rich trove of heritage houses, left over from the sugar industry boom in the 19th century. Iloilo also had the largest port in the Philippines at that time which facilitated the export of sugar to foreign shores and deposited money in the hands of the sugar barons. The barons dropped their earnings into the acquisition of properties in Negros and the construction of beautiful homes in Iloilo, many of which are located in the vicinity of the Jaro Cathedral.

The Lizares Mansion was built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares for his wife, Concepcion Gamboa and five children. The family fled to safety when World War II broke out and the house was occupied by the Japanese military. The family returned to the house after the war but left once again after the demise of Don Emiliano. It was sold to the Dominican order in the 1960s and was converted in 1978 to a private school, Angelicum School. The mansion now houses the chapel. Andres Luna San Pe…

Historical Churches of Iloilo

The Miag-ao Church is a Unesco World Heritage Site together with three other colonial Baroque churches under the collective title, Baroque Churches of the Philippines. Please follow this link for my article on Miagao Church: 
https://travelswithcharie.blogspot.com/2014/03/miag-ao-church.html

The two belltowers are of unequal height and served as watchtowers following Islamic invasions in 1741 and 1754.
The gold-plated retablo is the original altar used in the late 1700s and was found during excavations in 1982. A fire had ravaged the church in 1910 and it was believed the retablo had been razed as well. 
Guimbal Church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It was built in 1774 and restored twice, once after World War II and after the earthquake of 1948 which also destroyed the Jaro Cathedral.
The Romanesque inspired walls of Guimbal Church have withstood the ravages of time.
The Molo Church is called the "feminist" church for the 16 statues of female saints on each sid…

Islas de Gigantes

This trip to Islas de Gigantes sat long on the planning stage. But one fine day in October, we finally made it there. And it was everything I had heard and read about. The image above shows our approach to Cabugao Gamay Island.


This is the iconic photo of Islas de Gigantes. We scrambled up a hill to get this unobstructed view of Cabugao Gamay and the Visayan Sea. It's a good thing we arrived early in the morning before the selfie crowd got in.


This is the hue of the sea taken from Cabugao Gamay. How it nurtures the blue mind!


The white sand beach of Cabugao Gamay is free from debris. 

Bantigue Island and its sandbar rises from the sea like a mirage. We stopped here for lunch of rice and fish.

The Tangke Saltwater Lagoon on Gigantes Sur is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. It was still low tide when we got there.

Scallops are only one peso each. But at Bancal Port in Carles, you can buy them by the bucket. And it is so succulent.
How to get there: The closest gateway to Islas de Gig…

More discoveries in Capiz

Just when I thought I've explored Capiz enough, I'm finding captivating places off the beaten track. Some of these sites hit me with nostalgia like the ruins of the approach to a railway bridge while others took me completely by surprise (La Playa Beach and Marugo Lake). These new discoveries inspire me to wander down dusty roads and hunt for more local color.
These hardwood pylons supported the approach to a railway bridge in Duyoc, Dao. This was constructed in 1910 and the railway extended for 117 kilometers from Capiz to Iloilo. Passenger service operations ended in 1985. Buses and private utility vehicles (PUV) now ply the highway between these two provinces. These ruins are on McKinley Street in Duyoc, Dao.
There are so many beaches in Capiz but La Playa stands out for its serene surroundings. It's far from the noise and crowds of the city. If you appreciate a quiet time and a beach to yourself, this is the place to go.
Pilar is an hour by private car from Roxas City and…

Celebrating Thanksgiving in the Philippines

Far away from California and longing to celebrate Thanksgiving, I decided to invite a few close friends and family to my Thanksgiving luncheon. I had never had a boodle fight meal and had wanted to experience it so I decided to have a boodle fight on the beach at Bitoy's. It was so nice of them to accommodate my group with less than 24 hours’ notice before the event. And the result was everything I could have hoped for.

I had reserved for 10 people and this is how much food we got.  It sure was a table of plenty. We had oysters, shrimp, milkfish, chicken, eggplant, okra, fried banana, green mango, tomatoes, shrimp paste and rice. I had also brought with me the alimasag (baby crab) we bought at the beach in Ivisan the day before. Guests brought several kinds of dessert including guinataan*, brazo de Mercedes and various kinds of Philippine kakanin (delicacies). Needless to say, we lingered over lunch and slowly savored what was on the table before us.
The simple protocol of boodle fi…

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Pan-ay

Christmas arrives early in the Philippines. When the months end in ber, Christmas songs are heard at malls and over the radio. In October, the TV stations start the countdown to Christmas and stores start displaying Christmas trees. And in November, the Christmas decorations are installed in town plazas such as this one in Pan-ay, Capiz. 
Santa Monica Church is a National Historical Landmark.
When the temperatures dip a couple degrees, Christmas has truly arrived. Pan-ay, a 20-minute ride by car or public transportation from Roxas, is ready to usher in one of the biggest celebrations in the country. 
There is a famous Pilipino Christmas carol that you'll hear a lot, Ang Pasko ay sumapit. It goes,
Ang pasko ay sumapit Tayo ay mangagsi-awit Ng magagandang himig Dahil sa Diyos ay pag-ibig Christmas is here Let us sing Beautiful melodies Because Christ is love.
This bell is a replica of one of the biggest bells in Southeast Asia. Many visitors visit Pan-ay to see its huge bell in the campanile wh…