In all honesty, I've only learned about the existence of Guimaras Island during the oil spill incident in August of 2006. I can not even recall if I've ever heard of it during one of our Sibika classes in gradeschool. Perhaps, the oil spill somehow, paved the way for other people like me who did not know then about Guimaras, to actually go out and discover the hidden beauty of this island.
We booked a flight going to Iloilo since there's no direct flight going to Guimaras. From Iloilo, we went to Ortiz Port where we rode a pump boat going to Guimaras. Fare was only P13.oo and the duration of the boat ride was only approximately 15 minutes.
Far from the small island with the beach strait already welcoming you when you arrived at the port (think Puerto Galera) that I did pictured Guimaras prior to this trip, the island was actually big enough.
Guimaras is an island part of the Visayas Region in the middle of the Philippine Group of islands.
There are a lot of resorts, agri-tourism sites, special interest sites, historical sites, diving sites as well as research centers. Guimaras is also known for its sweet mangoes.
When we arrived at the Jordan Wharf, we were asked to list down our names in the Tourist Information Area just so they have a record of the people staying in their island just in case the situation calls for it. After signing up, a number of tricycle drivers beleaguered us, each offering their service to bring us to Sitio Alubihod where the famous Raymen Beach Resort is located. Good thing I was able to talk to Kuya JD-a tricycle driver we met at Ortiz Port and who immediately offered us his tricycle service for a lower fixed price of P500 for all 6 of us. This fee's already inclusive of a tour to some famous spots if we want. However, since we're already inching to see and dip into the waters of Guimaras beach, we decided to just head straight to Raymen Beach Resort.
The tricycles in Guimaras were designed to fit in at least 7 people including the driver. Cristina and I were separated on the back side of the tricycle so we were able to fully capture the beauty of Guimaras-at least those areas that we were able to pass on by. Needless to say, I was becoming more and more impressed with the island. It was a hot weather but because the place was surrounded by trees and green fields, it still felt warm. The only thing I disliked about that tricycle ride was the numbness of my butt after that 1 hour ride from Jordan Wharf to Raymen Beach Resort.
So what can we say about Raymen?
The good reviews about Raymen Resort I've read in blog posts prior to the trip were all right. Raymen's really a good catch. The name might not sound as posh as the other Guimaras resorts such as Costa Aguada, La Puerta Al Paraizo, etc, but still the place was good. It was not yet the official start of summer so there were only a few visitors in the resort. If it were only me, I would just get a fan room (man! I'm all for the budget traveling!), But since I was certain that Paolo will averse me if I do that, we decided to get the aircon room with two beds and an extra bed. The rate was P2,400 per night for all 6 of us-already included the extra person and extra bed charge since the room was just good for 4.
We booked the island tour at Raymen's for only P400 for the first hour and additional P150 per succeeding hours.
Then off we went to the island hopping adventure …
First stop was the Turtle Island where sea turtles were being kept and taken care off. They even had a donation box to help buy medicines for the turtles.
Next stop was the Ave Maria Island. I forgot the details why this island was named as such but I think it has something to do with the form of island which has a resemblance to that of Mother Mary's form when praying.
Ave Maria Island was really breathtaking-the rock formations around the area, the white sand, and the pristine water. This was where our first dip into Guimaras water.
After a little while, we then boarded the boat and headed to our next destination: the Baras Cave
Actually, I think it was not really a cave at all but a mere rock formation which happens to have a big hole that boats can come inside. Do not expect a Palawan Subterranean River when you go here because you'll just be disappointed. It was just like we made a U-turn from inside the said rock formation. However, since the boat can pass inside the so-called cave, we were able to go down the boat and had some photo sessions on the rock formations inside.
After Baras Cave, we passed by Baras Beach Resort-where we were originally given to stay. The said resort's a great island hideaway since it's hidden in a sheltered inlet with cottages built inspirations of Indonesian architecture.
We also passed by Natago Beach which is famous for its landmark of a house built on top of the cliff.
The last resort we passed through was the Isla Naburot which is really a nice resort with a wonderful stretch of white sand. According to Kuya'ng bangkero (boat driver), however, an overnight stay here is really pricey.
And the island hopping adventure came to an end. It took us just 2 hours to finish the tour.
The Sumptuous Late Lunch
After the island hopping, we were so hungry so we decided to head on to the resort's cafeteria to have our super late lunch. We had kilawin, butted shrimp, sinigang na bangus, inihaw na pusit, and two big bowls of rice.
The food was good and quite affordable. For everything that we ate, we only paid approximately P1,200.
Prelude to Iloilo Comeback: The Trappist Monastery
According to Explore Iloilo site, the Trappist Monastery is a peaceful and sacred enclave in Guimaras run by kings of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. These monks follow the rule of St. Benedict and are best known for the extreme austerity or strictness that characterizes their discipline. I was also told that monks here do not really talk as a sign of their strong devotion to their beliefs.
Trappist Monastery also reminded me of the retreat house in Tagaytay where we had our retreat in highschool.
We bought some goodies from the monastery's 'pasalubong' store like Mango Biscocho, Mango candy, and Mango Otap. The otap was good enough but I do not really like the biscocho since it's not sweet enough as compared to Biscocho House's biscocho.
After some photo sessions, we went back to the tricycle waiting for us and rode off Guimaras.