DAY 1

Jan 25 2017

Days before this very first #AxCessTravels were just those typical, normal days where even an inch of excitement did not get through me. But everything changed the night before; I realized the word 'excitement' would already be an understatement.

Axle and I officially landed in Iloilo at around 5PM, which should've been 3:50PM if our flight was not delayed. Upon entry at their airport, I can say it is the nicest and cleanest domestic airport I have seen yet. After claiming our checked-in baggage, we immediately proceeded outside to grab a taxi going to the city proper (approximately 45 minutes away from the airport), where our hotel of choice is located.
*Friendly tip: Gather up your patience and find the shuttle service going to SM City Iloilo. Other blogs said that the fare is around Php50 only. Then, from there you may just ride a taxi to your preferred hotel as to lessen your expenses. We opted to bite in to the offer of one taxi service at the airport to drive us directly to downtown Iloilo since we're already too hungry and eager to get to the city already. Wrong move for Php500, bes. 😐😅

We met up with my best friend Esel, who is currently based in Iloilo right now with her family, for dinner. Since we do not know where to eat, she had decided to tour us around Plazuela de Iloilo, which is just beside SM City Iloilo. Plazuela is a place where several restaurants and food establishments can be found. We cannot actually make up our minds on where to eat, so we found ourselves heading to Atria instead, another place with variety of restaurants to choose from which is a 10-minute walk from Plazuela. We ended up eating at Y2K Talabahan, a personal recommendation by Esel.

The moment we finished our satisfying dinner, Esel decided to show us Smallville, which on the other hand is approximately a 5-minute walk from Atria. The said area is the center of nightlife in Iloilo City, full of bars, discos, and restaurants where friends and colleagues hang out to relieve stress, or simply just to have fun. Afterwhich, we opted to sneak a peek at the 1.2-kilometre Iloilo Esplanade. It is built at the banks of the Iloilo river, where Ilonggos go for jogging or strolling. Just recently, paddle boats were also made available for rent for a minimal fee.

DAY 2

Jan 26 2017

For a typical traveler, it is but normal to search the web for "things to do" at a particular place most especially in today's age of modern technology; church hopping is one of the activities Iloilo is greatly known for. Their wide array of churches not just serve as venue for worship, but serve a huge part of the province's rich history as well.
I was very, very excited for this part because I have this unexplainable 'thing' with churches, and I just cannot let this opportunity pass me by. So Axle and I began our second day very early as we decided to do as recommended on the internet and start at the southernmost municipality in Iloilo: San Joaquin.
San Joaquin is approximately 1.5 hours away from Iloilo City, and you can go there either by bus or van bound for Culasi (Antique). We chose the van for Php100 each since the bus took too long in gathering passengers and we're already running late as scheduled.
First stop for this adventure was San Joaquin Church. This church is unlike the other churches we had visited because it is not located along the main road. From the main road, you may opt to ride a 'padyak' or walk shortly for 3-5 minutes. San Joaquin Church has been declared as a National Heritage Site by the President, September of 1977.

And since we haven't grabbed breakfast yet, we decided to eat at a local batchoy house for Php25 each.

We also took the chance to go to the town cemetery, or Camposanto de San Joaquin as it is called. Camposanto is just along the road, a 15-minute walk from San Joaquin Church, direction going back to the city proper. It has a chapel elevated few steps from the ground and has an overlooking view of the sea on its opposite side.

Going back to the city, you may just simply ride a bus or jeepney passing by with a sign board that says Iloilo City. A 15 to 20-minute ride took us to our next stop: Miag-ao Church. We rode a bus for Php20 each. You can easily see the church since it's just along the main road, or you can ask the conductor to drop you off.
Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, or famously known as Miag-ao Church, is one of the four baroque churches in the country included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, declared in 1993.

Another 15 to 20-minute ride headed us to the next municipality: Guimbal. Fare from Miag-ao is at Php13 each, if my memory serves me right. The town was considered as the cleanest and greenest in Iloilo. Their 400-year old church, Parish of St. Nicholas of Tolentino or Guimbal Church, is naturally yellowish in color because of the materials it was made of. Across it is the Guimbal Public Plaza, a very clean and spacious park with a lively fountain and beautiful landscape.

From Guimbal, we proceeded to our church hopping trip going to Tigbauan. Travel time is 10-15 minutes, and jeepney fare is at Php10 each. Tigbauan Church is also known as Parish of Saint John of Sahagun. When we got there, it seems that there was an event being held in the covered court across it but we haven't got the chance to take a peek.

After the fourth church, we honestly ran out of ideas on where to go next. But since it was almost lunch time, we already decided to grab lunch at one of Iloilo's popular restaurants: Breakthrough.

Breakthrough is not situated along the route of jeepneys going back to Iloilo City since it is located near the beach, Villa beach to be exact. From Tigbauan, you may ask the jeepney driver to drop you off at Yulo Drive or near Villa Arevalo Plaza (fare is at Php8 each), and hop on in a tricycle going to Breakthrough (fare is at Php10 each).

Of course, we got another plate of oysters, but as requested by Axle, we ordered the baked ones this time 😍

With our stomachs full and satisfied, we continue with our journey by going back to the main road. Beside the Villa Arevalo Plaza is Villa Arevalo Church, or the Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish. Although it looked different from the first four churches that we have visited since it seemed newly built, it is said to be the home of the third oldest Santo Niño figure in the country.

By this time, we realized we're getting closer to the city proper already. From Villa Arevalo Church, we rode a jeepney once again for Php8 each, for 5-8 minutes. After alighting the jeepney we rode, we decided to drop by Molo Mansion first.

The Molo Mansion, or Yusay-Consing Mansion, serves not just a tourist spot but also as a one-stop shop for souvenirs and dining facilities. There is an entrance fee but is refundable if you will be buying souvenirs or dine in one of the restos. All you have to do is present the receipt of your purchase.
We personally tried Cafe Panay, in search for a hot 'tsokolate sa batirol'. If my memory serves me right once again, I think we have paid Php79 for 2 cups. As I was the one who is a big fan of chocolate drinks, hot or cold, I urged Axle to try it with me (coz hey, never miss a single chance to try anything authentic, right? #culinarytourism 😊)

Affronting the mansion is the Molo Church, or Parish of St. Anne. If Miag-ao church was the choice of Axle as his favorite, this church would be my choice. Molo Church has this eye-catching aura one cannot resist not taking a long glimpse of. According to one travel guide I read on the internet, it is the only Gothic church in the Philippines outside Manila. At the plaza is also a structure built with human-sized statues of some Greek goddesses. 

It was already 3 o'clock when Axle and I began to feel tired, with the extreme heat of the sun adding to that feeling of exhaustion. We decided to go back to the hotel and get some short rest before heading back to our unfinished exploration. A 10-minute jeepney ride from Molo took us back to the hotel. After taking a siesta for an hour, we went back outside to continue. We opted the 20-minute walk to Museo Iloilo and Old Iloilo Provincial Capitol instead of taking another two jeepneys, for another two sets of Php16 for the both of us. Looking at the brighter side, that was also a chance to explore the city on a slower pace. 😅

Approximately 10 minutes away from Museo Iloilo, we have marked our seventh church which is Jaro Cathedral, or the Parish of Our Lady of Candles. What makes it unique among the other churches is that its bell tower is located across, away from the church itself. It also has a staircase in its facade, like a veranda, and serves as a roof for the main entrance beneath it as well.

Our 8th church is located at least 5 minutes away from Jaro Cathedral: St. Clement's Church. We haven't got the chance to take a look inside since there was an intimate mass ongoing.

To cap off our church exploration and finally call it a day, we went to San Jose Parish Church, a 10-minute jeepney ride from St. Clement's Church and is located in front of the famed Plaza Libertad and Iloilo City Hall. It is also said that this is the birthplace of the annual Dinagyang Festival.

Hopping from one mode of transportation to the other gave us the chance to mingle with locals and observe their typical ways of living as well. One phrase Axle and I will never, ever forget is the phrase "lugar lang", which basically means 'para'; hearing it from the Ilonggos during our jeepney rides made it sound like they are saying a certain 'warla' word, but Esel told us there's no such thing and most probably it was just because of their Ilonggo tone that made it sound like that. 'Warla' pala ha, beshie 😂😂😂 Lugar lang = Para, okay? 😉

DAY 2 SUMMARY 📍

San Joaquin Church

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Camposanto de San Joaquin

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Miag-ao Church

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Guimbal Church

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Tigbauan Church

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Breakthrough Restaurant

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Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish

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MOLO MANSION ILOILO

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Molo Church

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MUSEO ILOILO

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Jaro Cathedral

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St. Clement's Church

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SAN JOSE PLACER PARISH CHURCH

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PLAZA LIBERTAD

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DAY 3

Jan 27 2017

Axle and I wanted to start this day early just like what we did yesterday, but the bed is the worst body-magnet, ever. We left the hotel at around 8AM, very late from our 6AM schedule 🙊✌ We opted to grab breakfast at a fast food chain to save time and immediately headed to Ortiz Wharf. It was very convenient for us to get there since it's near our hotel. From the port, a 15-minute boat ride (fare is at Php14 each) will take us to the Land of the Sweetest Mangoes: Guimaras.

Ortiz Wharf

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Jordan Wharf

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Upon alighting the boat, we were warmly welcomed by the locals of Guimaras; one of them assisted us through the Tourist Information Center. We registered our names while the worker briefly introduced Guimaras to us and the places they recommend for visit. She even gave us a map for reference (which, by the way was of big help throughout the whole tour). The consultation is free of charge and we were advised that we shall only pay the corresponding rate agreed upon registration to our tour guide. Since it's just me and Axle, we opted to have a tricycle as our mode of transporation in touring the island, with a corresponding charge of Php1,500. It was honestly a bit costly for the two of us. Situations like this make you realize it's much better to travel by group to have more persons share the expenses 😂 I just said to myself that this would be one of their ways to earn for a living, so I shove off the idea of being the 'kuripot' me.

*Friendly tip: We highly suggest you take the tours being offered in the Tourism Office in order to maximize your time in the island. Public transportation is not that accessible, most especially in remote areas.

Our tour guide, Kuya Tanok, also served as our driver for the day. He also willingly volunteered to be our photographer. We started our tour in dropping by the big letters signage of Jordan (pronounced as Hordan).

Afterwhich, we headed to the country's smallest plaza, which is truly a pride of Guimaras. This plaza has a monument of Jose Rizal and was once in the Guiness Book of World Records as the world's smallest plaza, until another country claimed the title.

We then headed to the District of San Lorenzo to visit the Holy Family Hills, one of Guimaras' known pilgrimage sites. It was established in 2000 and has a life-size statue of the Holy Family and Stations of the Cross. Axle and I honestly did not get the chance to roam around the whole area since it is very huge. We have to consider as well the distance between the places we will visit, which were not that close or near to each other. It actually took us at least an hour or so to get here from Jordan.

The long ride in between the places we have to visit actually has a brighter side; we got to be one with nature. I have also observed that even if the sun is striking at its peak during noontime, the breeze of the wind is still cool and soothing. Much thanks to the trees and other plants grown in the island.

Next in our list is the Guimaras Windmills, situated as well in San Lorenzo. It may be embarrasing to admit but it's my first time to see one (lots, actually) in person. We also have windmills in Rizal (Pililla Windmills) but sadly, I haven't been there yet 🙊 (Don't judge. Hahaha)

While on our way to the site in order to get a closer look, we observed that the windmills are scattered strategically, from the plains, to the hills, up to the mountains. Some are near the road as well.

Upon arrival at the site, a guard on-duty asked us to register first. Okaaaay, picture taking time! 😁

Kuya Tanok decided to drive us back to Jordan to grab lunch at Pitstop, the home of the well-known Mango Pizza. What's a visit to Guimaras without sampling one of their culinary pride, right? 😁

After grabbing lunch as fast as we can, we proceeded with our tour by heading to the only monastery in the country run by monks, Our Lady of the Philippines or famously known as the Trappist Monastery. It is founded in 1972 and is the perfect place for retreat and soul-searching. It also has a pasalubong center inside its vicinity, where you can buy lots of food products flavored with (yes, you've guessed that right), mangoes. There are also other souvenir products to choose from.

I was so excited for this part of the tour since I have read so many wonderful things about it on the internet. Located in the town of Nueva Valencia, the Guisi Lighthouse was our next stop.

Going here was also not that easy since Axle and I braved another hour sitting in our tricycle, but it was definitely worth the travel. Upon arrival, we walked for a few minutes going up the site and was asked to register once again and pay a minimal entrance fee of Php10. Faro de Punta Luzaran, or Guisi Lighthouse, resembles that of the ruins in Cambodia (which I hope I could also visit soon). Every section of the ruins are perfect spot for photo opportunities.

The lighthouse at the back of the ruins was already rusty but still stands strong up to this day. At the right side of the site, there is a newly-built lighthouse as well. The view from where the old lighthouse is located is a breathtaking seascape and definitely left us in awe.

Going back, Kuya Tanok also led us to a passage going to where the Guisi Beach is located. We actually haven't got the chance to enjoy the beach since the passage only serves for viewing purposes and did not lead directly to the beach. From afar, the beach looks so serene and beautiful. I secretly wished to myself having the chance to enjoy that beauty, but we still have other plans ahead. Maybe next time 😉

Speaking of enjoying the beach, we were then brought to the Alubijod Beach, particulary to the Alobijod Cove. Right beside it is the Raymen Beach Resort. Sightseeing/swimming in the resort costs us an entrance fee of only Php25. We only got the chance to enjoy the beach for 45 minutes or so, since we planned to go back by sunset in Iloilo.

To cap off this tiring yet wonderful tour around Guimaras, Kuya Tanok brought us back to Jordan and took yet another obligatory picture of Axle and I with the huge Guimaras letter signage 😅

We also took the opportunity to drop by Museo de Guimaras, but it was already closed during that time.

We arrived at the port at around 5:30PM. For remembrance, I requested for a selfie with Kuya Tanok. We thanked him for the wonderful chance of touring us around Guimaras and for driving us safely from one place to another. After the payment has been made, Axle and I waved goodbye to him and bought our tickets bound for Iloilo.

That would be it for our Guimaras exploration. I can definitely say I'll be back and explore more of what this amazing island has to offer. As planned, we left Guimaras by sunset, which greeted us in our boat ride going back to Iloilo.

Starving to death, we had our dinner in the Robinson's Iloilo branch of Ted's La Paz Batchoy. It is the most accessible authentic La Paz Batchoy house near us since it is just literally beside our hotel. I think the Gokongwei's definitely took over in this trip because of our choice of airline, hotel, and shopping mall 😂 kidding!

DAY 3 SUMMARY:

Jordan Wharf

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Smallest Plaza

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Holy Family Hills

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Guimaras WINDMILL co Sumbing Family by CORA

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Pitstop Guimaras

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Trappist Monastery

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Guisi Lighthouse

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Alobijod Cove

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Guimaras Museum

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DAY 4

Jan 28 2017

Two days left for this trip and I can't help but think where all the days had gone. Two days left and one destination remains. This day, we decided to go towards the route less taken and give this underrated province a visit -- Antique.

Esel, the bestfriend, opted to thirdwheel (if that's even a verb 😂) en route to Culasi, Antique. She only got to chance to go with us today since she had work to attend to the past few days. Having read and heard of such many great things about this particular island in Culasi, Antique, we decided to include it in our itinerary. I'm talking about Malalison Island.

Esel suggested that we check-out in our hotel already and just leave our belongings in her uncle and auntie's house somewhere in Jaro, since we will be spending the night at Antique. On the way to where we will ride a jeepney, we passed by another church which is just situated at the back portion of Robinson's Iloilo. It felt so ridiculous that in search for churches, we did not know there is one just 2 minutes away from our hotel 😅🙊

Iloilo City

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Culasi

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Travelling to Culasi, Antique is very accessible from Iloilo City. With the same van we rode during our church-hopping escapade (Day 2), off we go to Culasi for an approximate travel time of 4-5 hours. Fare per person is Php200. We committed another wrong move; and that was deciding to go pasalubong shopping early morning before heading to Antique but was not able to do the exact plan. We should've gone to Culasi instead as early as sunrise so that we arrive in the island early as well and make the most of our stay. Oh well, no-turning-back sitch already.

Axle, Esel, and I left Iloilo City at around 1PM. We arrived at around 5:30PM, bought some snacks at a convenience store where we were exactly dropped off, and immediately hopped in a tricycle going to the port. You can also opt to walk from the main road to the port, since it is just a few minutes away. I think Esel prayed so hard while we're on the road, wishing numerous times that we make it just in time for the sunset -- because we did. Talk about perfect timing 😉

Luckily, there was still an available boat upon our arrival at the port. Boat rent costs Php750, which I think is good for a maximum of 5-6 persons. The charge is already roundtrip by the way, so the same boat will be taking you from the island going back to the mainland Antique. Travel time is roughly 15 minutes, and you can actually see the island all the way from Culasi port.

As we arrive in Malalison Island, we were directed by our boatman to this part of the island where several nipa huts are located near the shore. The nipa huts are just small but are already good for 2-3 persons per hut (4 if you insist in adding another one 😂). Rate is based per person and is Php250 each. Pillows and blankets are already provided. Esel came in handy for us as she was the one negotiating with our housekeeper about our food, in Visayan language 😁

You can bring your own food in the island, but for alternative, you can eat at the local carinderias or ask your housekeeper to cook for you for a minimal charge. We did the latter; however I can no longer remember the exact breakdown for our food expenses. Hahaha! Before having dinner, we opted to take a quick night swim while our housekeeper cook our food. Esel even shared an amazing trivia -- you can determine if the water in the ocean/sea is clean by shaking your hands while they are submerged in water; once you see glowing little lights in the water, or scientifically called as plankton, the water is indeed clean. We tried it and there were plankton! I was like a kid in awe of an amazing information taught by her teacher 😂

After the swim, we took a quick bath in the common CR near our cottage. There were two cubicles, which I can say are unbelievably clean and well-maintained. Water is for free which you will pump by yourself from an artesian well, or 'poso' as we commonly know. However, the water from the well still tastes a bit salty and the soap does not bubble even if you scrub it on your body real hard, toothpaste does not as well. 😂

Our food came and the three of us shared a wonderful and appetizing dinner.

*Friendly tip: Electicity is provided in Malalison, but during 6PM-10PM only. Prepare your powerbanks and charge as much devices as you can before the electricity dies.

DAY 5

Jan 29 2017

Spending the night at Malalison was one for the books. If you'll ask me why, I'll tell you it was one hell of an experience. We were furious, nervous, worried, scared, yet sleepy all at the same time. The weather was quite bad and it was raining all night, and the wind was so strong it seemed our cottage will get blown any minute. I may be exaggerated, but it nearly felt that our lives were about to end. Hahahahaha! Esel and I were also worried that our plans for the following day might not push through, considering that we have to leave the island by 9AM at the most.

Obviously, we did not get that much sleep. As planned, we were already awake by 5AM for our morning hike up the island's summit. The weather had improved yet it was still drizzling. Breakfast was not yet ready and since our guide, Aling Maria, had already arrived, we decided to do the trek first and have our breakfast once we come back. At around 6AM, we started with our morning activity.

Tour guide fee: Php200 only

Aling Maria led us to the peaceful path on the way to the mountain top. We have told her about how worried we were the night before due to the weather and we were shocked when she said it was just a normal situation in the island. 😰 Most probably what caused that certain situation was the location of our cottage since the wind's direction blew towards it.

Esel, Axle and I encountered plenty of pitcher plants, a particular plant which resembles a test tube because of its shape.

The hike lasted for only 30 minutes or so. It can be considered as the beginner's type, but for girls like me without an athletic body, it can still be too tiring. However, just like what any mountaineer would say, the view up there would always be worth the hike. Indeed, it was. The rain may have poured, but it even made the view from the top a very breathtaking one. *sings Rainbow by South Border 🎶*

I observed that we were the first group to do the activity and as we descend, we began seeing other groups already. Our timing was just perfect as we had the chance to have the mountain top all to ourselves (no photobombers haha!). Of course, the time going down was faster than the time we spent climbing.

It was already quarter to 8 when we came back for breakfast. Considering that we have to be on our way back to Iloilo by 9AM, we quickly grabbed breakfast and enjoyed the rest of the time we still had left.

This particular spot in the island with what seemed like giant pieces of jackstones situated along the shore makes up for an Instagram-worthy shot. But they do not serve just that, but they also act as shields for the houses against huge waves.

As beautiful and enjoyable as it is, we obviously forgot about the time and it was a good thing our housekeeper fetched us by the shores to advise us that the boat who will send us back to the mainland has arrived. We quickly took a shower, gathered all our things up, and headed to the island's tourism office to settle an environmental fee of Php20 per person and a terminal fee of Php10 per person. While settling the said fees, Esel and I heard the Malalison children's choir rehearsing their rendition of the Jessie J song, Flashlight. We haven't got the chance to see them up close since they're inside a classroom, but it was absolute heaven to our ears 😍

You can honestly tell it was a super 'bitin' stay, but there's still next time, hopefully. With Malalison's genuine charm, one cannot resist not coming back over and over.

The three of us arrived in Iloilo City at around 2PM and since Axle and I have a flight to catch at 4:20PM, everything became like The Amazing Race. We quickly went back to the house of Esel's uncle and auntie to grab our things. We decided not to drop by The Original Biscocho Haus in Jaro and opted to buy pasalubong in the airport instead, which I know is the super ultimate wrong move because of its price compared to the local stores, because at that point catching our flight was more important than buying pasalubong even though my mom strictly ordered me to buy her favorite Barquillos (sorry mom, I still bought you your requested Barquillos naman eh 😂). We do not want to risk any chance of being declined in boarding the plane bound for Manila, considering that we still have to catch the 1st birthday party of our godson Jeron. Successfully, we were able to buy some pasalubong, as well as catch our [still delayed] flight.

Asta sa sunod ta nga kitaay (hanggang sa muling pagkikita), Iloilo. You have been awesome ❤

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