Islands and Beaches

Iloilo and Guimaras


Enzo Lacap | Apr 16, 2013

By: Gina Lopez

I've been doing a lot of travel. This particular travel was especially touching for me because it is connected to my roots. I brought my eldest son, Roberto with me so that he could have a sense of his roots.

He knew we were going to Iloilo – so searching in the net he had this fixation on batchoy. We ended up eating in the public market at a place called Netong. The next morning in a quest for the best batchoy in town he went to Ted's. In the evening (as if we hadn’t been all "batchoyed" out) he went to the market and bought batchoy at Decos.

Decos’ Batchoy won hands down. When he came from the market he told me, “Mom the owner has a picture with Korina Sanchez and Mar Roxas. He had another picture with a foreign girls’ soccer team…” While Roberto was waiting for the food to be served he was taken aback when he saw the owner in the kitchen cutting meat. That was impressive because there was no one special in the resto and yet he was cooking in the kitchen. So if you go to Iloilo, you must go to Decos for the best batchoy in town. My son liked the meat. A friend liked the noodles saying it was nice and thin. I liked the energy of it and the flavor.

We also went to Nelly's Garden. That was historic and memorable. My great grandfather was governor of Iloilo at the very young age of 27! He was gunned down unfortunately at the age of 30. They were two brothers: Vicente and Benito – and they married two Hofilena sisters! When the assasination happened, Vicente, who lived in Nelly's garden took in the two boys. While the mother, Presentacion , distraught , went to Guimaras and built this beautiful house called Roca Encantada.

Nelly's Garden is an old style colonial house with a loooong garden. It brings back the feel of a time long gone. Going there I could see in my mind’s eye the parties and dinners that must have happened there. Lots of activity – but now the place is quiet since the movers of that generation have passed away.

We went to Guimaras. I especially wanted to visit there after hearing the governor talk about how Guimaras has embraced ecotourism and agriculture – a total of 15,000 traffic DAILY from Bacolod and Iloilo to Guimaras, impressive. What is even more impressive is the going from 75% poverty to 13% through their stand on the environment. I wanted to see how we could help them further. Cecile Ortiz, the provincial development officer, brought me around, and brought me to San Roque. Oh my goodness! Gorgeous… Forty-seven (47) islets – rock islands, white sand beach and clear water. It is unfortunate that it was raining. Since I am malimigin, I didn’t take a dip but the beauty of the place sank in deeply. I want to help the fishermen there and the community. They have had the enlightenment to make a marine sanctuary, but now the people need to get out of poverty. It won’t take much money or much time because the place is so gorgeous... They just need media and basic infrastructure. Since that is the CSR incline of ABS-CBN Choose Philippines, there is a perfect fit...

We went to this 150-hectare wildlife place that was a unique experience. It’s been 12 years in the making and it’s still not done. The man is unusual because he has poured in money not sparing any expense in terms of taste. However no part of the estate is open for business yet. In fact no one is allowed to take pictures. The buildings are filled with antiques and exquisite paintings that to me looked very expensive. There were sculptures, jars and antiques. Henry Babiera has good planning sense. There was a Badjao seafood restaurant. Another building with beautiful sculpture in the lobby was meant to be for Chinese cuisine. .He has an eye for details because even the steps and the plants have been carefully chosen. There is a library, a church and a huge wildlife area with different animals which include lions, tigers and different kinds of primates! A hotel is being put up... I wonder when he will open because the maintenance of the place alone which includes the feeding of the animals must go up to the millions.

Roca Encantada was something else – a house on a rock, facing the sea, wind gushing and a spectacular view... It was good for my son to have a feel of the place. I ended up reading the whole book Undaunted by Raul Rodrigo. It gave me a clearer feel of my family history. This is my uncle's legacy – that he is a historian and for generations and generations to come, the kids will know where and what their forefathers had done... It gives stability in good measure.

Family, environment, roots – I thoroughly enjoyed this trip… If you want to see San Roque, you will not be disappointed…

ILOILO RIVER No story would be complete without talking about the Iloilo River. I had gone there to attend the Iloilo River Council. The Iloilo River is where I would like to bring the Pasig River. It still hasn’t suffered the bane of heavy urbanization. Sen. Frank Drilon and Mayor Jed Mabilog have done a magnificent job: from getting out the illegal dwellers to the huge task of getting out sunken vessels and a ship yard that not only made the river ugly but polluted it. Now there is an esplanade with beautiful landscaping. To me it looks like Singapore in the making. If done well, I can see how the Iloilo River can jack up the economy of Iloilo big time. Indeed, this is Sen. Drilon's vision.

I took the leisurely walk down the esplanade and was told in the afternoon the place is crowded by people exercising, strolling... There is not much development on both sides which leaves room for an array of dizzying possibilities. It must be done well with strict guidelines for the environment. If done well, the effect will not only be felt in Iloilo but in the region – and even in the country.

I wish them all the best. I have nothing but high praises for Sen. Drilon and Mayor Jed Mabilog.

If you want to go to Nelly’s Garden, please call (033) 3203075 and look for Dai Lucea Jezon. You may email them at [email protected] or like their Facebook page (

If you want to see the beauty of Guimaras, please get in touch with Cecilia Ortiz – the Provincial Tourism Officer. Her number is 09173214743. The contact number of Guimaras Tourism Office is (033) 2371134.

If the place is ready you should try San Roque. It is really beautiful there. And definitely I strongly encourage a walk down the esplanade beside the Iloilo River...

2GO’s MAIDEN VOYAGE TO SIBUYAN ISLAND I am pleased to announce that you can do now go really comfortably to Sibuyan by 2GO Travel. This was so long in the making - I am so relieved that they are finally plying the route. For the Maiden Voyage on March 10, 2013, the route goes Caticlan-Odiongan-Batangas. The rates are really affordable! You can even have a stateroom with your own bathroom and toilet for Php1,000.00. For the Maiden Voyage, the ship leaves at 8:00am from Caticlan Port. You can sleep and then wake up there... 2GO Travel boasts a restaurant, an outside porch where you can enjoy the fresh air. They even have a chapel. Their less expensive accommodations are Php750. But the place is clean and the rates as you can see are reasonable. For reservation please call (02)528-7000.

Below is the schedule of travel: BATANGAS – ODIONGAN – Tuesday and Friday – 9:00PM ODIONGAN – BATANGAS – Sunday and Thursday – 12:00NN ODIONGAN – CATICLAN – Wednesday and Saturday – 5:00AM CATICLAN – ODIONGAN – Sunday and Thursday – 8:00AM

Ticket offices are the following: 2GO Odiongan Corporate Booking Office Odiongan Port Area (0921) 301-2911

2GO Batangas Corporate Booking Office Terminal 2, Batangas Port Area (043) 702-5525 (0922) 856 – 7246

I am so pleased with this because my dream is to eradicate poverty in our islands. Without access that dream will remain a dream. The fact of comfortable travel, easier access brings that dream closer to reality.

If you want someone to arrange for you at Sibuyan: a place to stay and where to go, please contact Ecotourism Supervisor Meggie Ochoa at 09178236218 or email at [email protected]

It's summer! Now is the time to plan your outdoor activities.

I can be reached at [email protected]

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