“The most fulfilling adventures happen when you start your journey without knowing where you’re going, because only then are you free to experience the unexpected detours you’re meant to take.”- A.J. Darkholme,
This was just a detour. It was not part of the original plan to be here, but just like any unexpected side trips, this was one pleasant surprise and what a beautiful surprise this was!
My friend Fritz and I had only had planned to go to Boracay. There was a travel expo we attended to and we chanced upon a sale going to Caticlan, the town which leads to Boracay. They say, we only pay Php 599, but after lining up for so long, we realized it was more than what was stated. The Php 599+ sale became Php 2300, more than triple of what we have prepared for but we were already there so we might as well go for it. After all, I've never been to Boracay until now, so, it's one destination off my bucket lists.
But then we thought, why not go to Antique first. It's just almost a stone's throw away from Aklan and from what we heard, the province boasts off a lot off attractions too like the newly discovered Antique Rice Terraces or the kawa bath or the splendid 7 waterfalls of Bugtong Bato that makes the province a must see for travelers like us.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to visit both of these as the rains were pouring very when we got to Tibiao. So, much as we got a bit dismayed and frustrated coz we realized that even the public transportation like the "habal habal (single motorcycle) was very expensive at Php 70 per person, we decided to just go straight to Boracay instead.
But despite that, we had a tremendous time enjoying Mararison Island, a beautiful spot situated in the town of Culasi. If you are going to look it up on Google, you should put in Malalison because that’s how it is written on record, but the locals said that it’s original name is Mararison, and that the registered name was due to a spelling error of a teacher.
Anyway, so we set off to Antique after that 2GO ferry (Php 2300 back and forth) from Batangas to Caticlan. The trip was a grueling 9 hours and since we were on economy when we first sailed, the ride wasn’t as comfortable but we managed somehow.
When we arrived in Caticlan, we then boarded a Ceres bus bound for San Jose (Php 200) which is Antique’s capital. It was raining when we got there so we kinda thought we won’t be enjoying the trip. Good thing, it was just trickles when we got there. So, we asked the conductor to drop us off at Culasi. We went down near the Municipal Hall of Culasi, and from there, we walked a few meters going to the boat terminal to Mararison.
But of course, we had to eat first. Fritz and Fonzi got a taste of one of Iloilo’s ( this place is near the province so they adapted the dish as well) specialty which was batchoy, and since I do not eat pork, I had to be content eating the usual pancit bihon.
After our brunch, we headed off to Mararison. Fritz had already arranged a boat thru a man named Mang Mario. But when we got at the Tourism office, we were informed that he does not have his own boat and he’s just doing the arrangements with the boatmen. While we were trying to figure out what to do, we chanced upon this woman who asked us where we were going. She said her name was Antonia Palacios and that she lives in Mararison Island. Wow! Talk about wonderful coincidences.
So, she told us that her family has 2 spare rooms we can use for only Php 250/night. Just the right accommodation we needed as we were just planning to stay only until we head off for Boracay. Meanwhile, we found out that Mang Mario was not authorized to pick us up because as the Tourism office had said, they have a first come, first served policy or what they call as a numbering system for their boatmen and their passengers. This is to give equal chance to everyone. Such a commendable effort from the town’s officials and their people.
After, everything’s been settled with the boat, we set off for Mararison Island. We agreed to pay the Php 750 fare (for the 3 of us) and we were on our way.
When we finally reach the island, we were in awe at what we have seen. The island was very beautiful. It didn’t boast much of the sand much like the white sand in Boracay, but the clear blue sea and the serenity of the place had compensated for that. It was unexplainably peaceful. And that’s exactly what we came here for.
When we got to the shore, Fritz paid for the boat while I started to take pictures and even a video of the place. I kept on saying, “Ang ganda” (It’s beautiful) because that’s just how I felt being there.
We were met by Ate Antonia and her husband Kuya Dalmacio Palacios. They carried our things and ushered us in to their home. After a few exchanges here and there, we opted to just rest for some time. After all, we haven’t had much rest since our 9-hour journey from Batangas to Caticlan. Then we had lunch that was prepared by Ate Antonia, and then we decided to explore the place more. Kuya Dalmacio got in contact with a tour guide from Mararison, Olive Dorotheo, who also assisted us in climbing Lantawan peak. It was Fritz and I’s first time to summit a mountain (we tried to climb Mt. Kinabalu in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia but we only reached as far as the base because it was too high for us.)
Climbing Lantawan Peak was easier than going down from it. Maybe because we didn’t we realize how high we were once until we started to descent. But no matter how tough it was, still it’s worth every step and every fear we had to conquer.
As we went down the mountain, it was a bit more challenging than we thought. We had to wait for our tour guide Olive to assist us. I, for one, have fear of heights and just seeing what's down below was enough to give me the jitters. Fonzy and Fritz had their share of uneasiness as we were going down, but we all mustered enough courage to survive this difficult task.
This journey was not an easy one for newbies like us. Not only did we conquer our fears but we have also learned to put our faiths in ourselves. It was one for the books.
But more than the wondrous sights and the new experiences that we have gained from this trip, it's the people whom we have met that made this adventure more fascinating.
We got to meet a family whose kindness extends far beyond their duties as our hosts. Ate Antonia and Kuya Dalmacio Palacios were very hospitable and humble people who would always asked us what we needed. When we didn't have any idea of what to eat, they accompany us to stores or eateries where we could satisfy our appetite or better yet, they cook for us even when we didn't ask for it. They also made sure we got what we needed, clean linen, pillows, towels, soap and even a rechargeable light to guide us during the night. You might think, well, that's their duties as hosts so you should not feel indebted to them. While they may be true, still, their gestures of concern and thoughtfulness really touched our hearts.
Their kids and grandchildren too were part of those who had amused and made us enjoy our short stay with them especially these two wonderful kids, Budoy and Benjie. They're just so adorable and they were so delighted with having their Kuya Fonzy around them. Its like finding a new playmate. They just couldn't get enough of their new "Kuya". Wherever Fonzy goes, they would follow. It was a charming and endearing bond that they had. We just wished we had more time to spend with them.
These are people we met for the first time but at first instance, they treated us like family and we treat them just the same. There was not an iota of pride in them only tons and tons of humility and generosity. True, their house was very simple, plain, uncomplicated, two stand fans and jalousie windows that would probably be a bit hot for those whose used to airconditioned and luxurious hotels or inns. But despite this meekness and some inconvenience, it is the joy of being with these folks that compensates for the inadequacies. After all, all the extravagance or indulgence are just mere ornaments to a journey worth cherishing.
Amazingly, we only spent one and a quarter days in Mararison Island. But with everything that we have experienced and the treatment that we had from the Palacios family, it felt like a week's stay. It was more than what we had expected, less than what we had been anxious about. But just like any other voyage which unfolds right our very eyes, this was another reminder of how much splendor this world has in store for us if only we know how to take care of it. It also tells us how little value we give to the humblest gifts that God had given us. There is so much beauty all around us, so much to be grateful for. Yet we take it for granted thinking that we are entitled to everything that we have. But you see, all these are not ours. They were just entrusted to us. And when time comes that the Lord is ready to retrieve what is rightfully His, then that's the only time we realize the folly we have caused ourselves.
Lastly, I learned the most important lessons in life. That we human beings put so much value on the more trivial things like material wealth, vanity, power, recognition, intelligence, supremacy over what is not even ours. The Palacios family do not have as much as most of us do. Yet, they live with dignity, joy, contentment, humility and happiness. Things that are so hard for people in the city to achieve because we think that we need to have a lot to be happy. But the truth is, if we only have what they do, kindness, humility, good intentions, love for ourselves and for others, strength of character and complete trust and faith in the Lord, then we have more than enough to get us through this lifetime.
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How to Go to Antique
Antique is accessible from major cities of the country through Iloilo City, from where buses leave for San Jose, the province's capital town. Travel time is approximately 2 hours.
From Manila, you can fly to Iloilo (estimated cost of Php3,000++, round trip, one hour). From Iloilo Airport, you can hail a cab and ask to be dropped off at your destination.