Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Endless Adventure and Pleasure to Coral Gardens in Concepcion

The beaches in Concepcion are one of the calmest beaches in Iloilo for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. These water activities are without a doubt one of the most enjoyable experiences Concepcion can offer you. The crystal-clear waters and the wide variety of marine life make snorkeling here an unforgettable adventure. Immerse yourself in an oasis of natural tranquility.

Snorkel amidst the kaleidoscopic marine life and the coral garden of Takot Lutaw Reef at Barangay Polopina. The waters are protected by this 10-hectare reef. If you are a beginner or an experienced diver, Takot Lutaw Reef will provide you with an amazing experience you will never forget. The best time to go is in the morning before anybody else starts snorkeling. You have the water to yourself and the tranquility of the morning.

Corals are joined together in this area where you will see many schools of fish. Some of the areas are about 5 to 7 feet to be able to get a bird's eye view of the coral like you can almost reach out and touch the formations. There are a variety of shapes and sizes of corals in the area; some form hard, pointed shapes, while others form soft, rounded shapes, intricate shapes with delicate branching patterns.

If you are a beginner or an experienced diver, Takot Lutaw Reef will provide you with an amazing experience you will never forget. The best time to go is in the morning before anybody else starts snorkeling. You have the water to yourself and the tranquility of the morning. On your scuba or diving adventure, you will probably encounter many species of tropical fish and coral.

Corals are often mistaken as a rock or plant. They are actually composed of tiny, fragile animals called coral polyps. So, when we say coral, we refer to these animals and the skeletons they leave behind after they die. There are hundreds of different species of corals and are generally classified as either hard coral or soft coral. Hard corals are the architects of coral reefs and they grow in colonies. Their skeletons are made out of calcium carbonate or limestone, which is hard and eventually becomes rock. Soft corals, on the other hand, are soft and bendable and often resemble plants or trees. These corals do not have stony skeletons, but instead grow wood-like cores for support and fleshy rinds for protection.

 Corals need to grow in shallow water where sunlight can reach them. Since it depends on the algae that grow inside of them and this algae needs sunlight to survive, corals too need sunlight to survive. It also needs clear water to survive and don't thrive well when the water is opaque. It is sensitive to pollution and sediments that block out sunlight and smothering coral polyps. Pollution from sewage and fertilizers increases nutrient levels in the water, harming corals.

Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems on Earth and are the largest living structure on the planet. Coral reefs form natural barriers that protect nearby shorelines from the eroding forces of the sea, thereby protecting coastal dwellings, agricultural land and beaches.

The tourism industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy. Coral reefs are a major draw for snorkelers, scuba divers, recreational fishers, and those seeking vacations in the sun. Our northern towns stand to benefit from the recreational value provided by their presence, hoping to attract a share of visitors annually to their beaches.

Discover the many pristine island paradise in Concepcion. Politically subdivided into 25 barangays, eleven of which are island barangays, and fourteen of which are on the mainland and has a total land area of 9,702.04 hectares. There are 14 identified protected areas in Concepcion covering more than 5,000 hectares.

The possibilities for adventure and pleasure are endless. Whatever your preference, from scuba diving, boat excursions, exploring snorkeling wonders, island getaways where you can be left on a deserted beach with lunch and an umbrella, it is all here for you in Concepcion, a destination that boasts of the natural splendors of sun, sand and sea.

A Walk to Remember

photo by Toby Pagulayan Jr. (PALI)
The province of Iloilo has a rich and unique; sundry and dramatic landscape. With its 43 towns bounded by a long coastline in the northern and southern portion; chains of tall mountains in the southwestern and areas descending in a series of abrupt steps; with a significant forest lying along the central and patches of protected areas; and a high quality wilderness with high levels of protection within our extensive and diverse reserve system, Iloilo offers hope for the future of our remarkable natural heritage.

With a range of environment accessible from major roads, whether on a long day’s outing or a short wander; a gentle stroll, a physical challenge or mountain vista, Iloilo has plenty for you.

photo by JV Perez (PALI)
With the concept of human appreciation of nature’s beauty and the strong Christian spirit of its people, the AGONY HILL in Alimodian emerged as a destination popular especially during the season of lent. It is a rolling slope towering above the picturesque poblacion of the town and used to be long isolated by its steep ascent with slopes thinly covered with trees. It is now a pilgrimage site with its 14 stations of the cross built and situated within the place. The trek isn’t particularly taxing. With not much shade around the area, the view around however is breathtakingly beautiful.

photo by Toby Pagulayan Jr. (PALI)
Very accessible especially for visiting tourists is the MARI-IT WILDLIFE CONSERVATION PARK located at the West Visayas State University College of Agriculture and Forestry in Barangay Jayubo, Lambunao. It is a rescue and captive breeding center that houses exotic birds like Dolongan and Tarictic Hornbill. It is also home for White-spotted Deer, Warty Pigs and Racquet-tail Parrots or Dangag. Concerned individuals in the area helps in restoring and maintaining a healthy ecosystem and hope to give the park’s native species the respite and protection they need to survive. It is also a picturesque destination that boasts of three prominent waterfalls namely: Inas, Montillano and Aguas amidst majestic trees and flora endemic to the area.

The BULABOG PUTI-AN in Dingle can be enjoyed as a day visit to the area since one does not have to go on extensive trail blazing. Combining trekking and cave exploration, the trip offers a rare opportunity to get close to one of Iloilo’s rarest limestone rock formation in Panay excluding Guimaras. It is situated in an area of rich biodiversity with caves that create a rare natural situation for its fragile environment. This old growth forest is also a perfect laboratory for the study of flora and fauna. Protected areas such as this is especially important for preserving the most biologically distinctive ecological park in the province—that is, those with exceptionally high species diversity with many species endemic to that area.

photo by Ramon Ramirez
Considered to be one of the more popular scenic attractions in the province are the Tabionan pine trees of BUCARI in Leon. Poised to be a chief mountain resort and tagged as the summer capital of the province, the place can be enjoyed as part of a day or an overnight visit. It has spacious green areas perfect for picnic and a camp facility nestling amongst its densely forested pine trees, reminding one of Baguio. It is filled with views of parallel mountain chains whereas the altitude increases, vegetation changes from forest to pine patches of cool temperature. The area provides a great variety of wildlife especially flowers. It has a fertile agricultural area.

A unique experience to commune with nature is a trek to the MAASIN WATERSHED. Take an easy to moderate trek along its reasonable terrain with canopies of bamboo and mature trees that gives a refreshing alternative from the usual humdrum life in the city.

photo by JV Perez (PALI)
One of the more remote corners of Barotac Viejo, NAGPANA is a relatively accessible destination. The walk is not hard and there are great views of northern ranges, backed by thin forest and great stretches of thin, rolling grasslands, luxuriant vegetation and the refreshing, streaming cool waters of its falls.

A more adventurous trek will take one to IGCABUGAO CAVE, 14 kilometers away from the town proper of Igbaras. It is a downhill walk on a rocky track. Along your way to the cave are tremendous rock formations where one can relax in the cool and clear waters of Igbolo Creek. The chambers inside the cave are eerie and immense. Lantern-equipped guides will take one to a pool of clear but extremely cold water.

The beauty of Iloilo is that there is no shortage of adventure. It has many appealing destinations of undulating sceneries---unspoiled, quiet and a great break from the city. Explore Iloilo…truly a memorable place.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CARABAO CARROZA: Iloilo Province’ Oldest Festival Celebrates its 39th Year

photo by Leo Solinap

The annual celebration of CARABAO-CARROZA Festival in Pavia, Iloilo truly reflects the culture of the Ilonggos.

For 39 years the festival has drawn hundreds of visitors from hundreds of miles away to this progressive town, 10 kilometers just outside the city and popularly known as the Regional Agro-Industrial Center (RAIC) of Western Visayas.

Despite the proliferation of hand tractors, carabaos are still the farmer’s work animal. And because of that, it has been, for many years, our country’s national symbol. Even with these innovations, many farming communities in Iloilo still depend on domesticated animals, used as a draft animal since the ancient times.

Slow and restful, the Carabao has been domesticated in the Philippines since the pre-Hispanic times, helping farmers plow the fields and with loads of several tons, transport them and their produce to the market.

The holding of various carabao-related activities such as parades and races does not only promote its significance as a national animal, but also help in their preservation. According to research, carabaos are dwindling in number and are already vanishing. The Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) noted that carabao population in the country has steadily dropped since 1988. Statistics collected showed that in 1988 there were 2.95 million carabaos in the country. However in 1992, it dwindled to 2.48 million and the trend is continuing even today.

And to revive local traditions and old practices in agricultural communities, farmers pay tribute to carabaos for they are very important to them, its socio-economic importance and considered part of our country's national heritage and treasure and their local economy.

photo by Leo Solinap

In Pavia, carabaos are the biggest crowd drawer with the town’s tradition of carabao racing, leaving its mark as one of the most entertaining festivals in Iloilo. Amid the scorching heat of the sun, villagers and tourists gather to watch locally-bred carabaos race. Carabaos take the center stage through grand spectacle although they are not particularly noted for their speed. Each carabaos are attached with a bamboo carriage and race across the fields reaching finish line. Prior to the event, they are trained daily. The race is a fun-filled event showcasing the native field animal. It has become more than a celebration to Pavia. Attracting many, it is considered as one of the biggest tourist attracting annual cultural celebrations of Iloilo that has enjoyed great success over the years.

Carabaos are also exhibited as an artwork. Farmers clean their carabaos' skin until it is smooth and polished. The horns are smeared with oil and given gloss. Then, they are sometimes groomed and dressed or artistically painted, decorated with ribbons sometimes, painted and attached to carts and parade them through the town. Residents gather together with visitors on the streets of this old town waiting for the 18 carrozas on parade. Prizes are awarded to the most gaily-decorated and beautifully-painted carabaos. This does not only draw participants closer to farmers’ best friend but lures tourists as well.

This year's festival opens on May 3rd from 7:30 in the morning with their annual Gaily-Decorated Carroza with Festival Muses Parade starting at Ungka-I; the Carabao-Carroza Race on a 400-meter course follows at around 9 a.m. and the rest of the day’s activity will run through till 7 in the evening with the Coronation of Carabao-Carroza Festival Queen. The carabao race is located just off of the municipal plaza at Pavia Comprehensive High School just a few meters from the historic Sta. Monica Parish. The event has become so successful and it gets bigger ever year.

So, if you are planning to visit Iloilo, try to visit Pavia in time for their festival so you will have a glimpse of the town’s history, culture and tradition.

Tubungan, All Set for the 10th TUBONG-TUBONG Festival

The 73rd Foundation Anniversary of Tubungan with its annual Tubong-Tubong Festival promise to kick start the month of flowers with a remarkable combination of music, dance and theater on April 27-May 1, 2011. Eight contesting tribes coming from the councilor’s district will put their creativity to work for its annual Tribal Dance Drama competition on May 1 at 8 a.m.

This year's celebration with theme: “Ikasarang Ko, Itubong Ko” (My Capacities, My Contribution) is reflected in their five-day series of activities which are mainly focused on the capacity of Tubunganons in contributing, cooperating and showcasing their local talents and abilities in promoting their town.

Tubong-Tubong is derived from the word 'tubong,' a term used in gambling or in games, meaning 'to add,' 'to contribute' or 'to chip-in' to the original bet. The Spanish Laws of the Indies requires a place to have a certain number in terms of population in order to be recognized as a town.

The Laws of the Indies are the entire body of laws issued by the Spanish Crown for its Philippine possessions of its empire. They regulated social, political and economic life in the area. Its main emphasis is in guiding and regularing the establishment of presidios or military towns, missions, and pueblos or civilian towns. It is a comprehensive guide composed of 148 ordinances to aid colonists in locating, building, and populating settlements. Signed in 1573, the Laws of the Indies are seen as the first wide-ranging guidelines towards design and development of communities. One of its rules stated that colonists who should want to make a commitment to building a new settlement in the form and manner already prescribed, be it of more or less than 30 neighbors, (know that) it should be of no less than twelve persons and be awarded the authorization and territory in accordance with the prescribed conditions.

And to comply with this requirement, people from neighboring towns were recruited and encouraged to settle in Tin-an, the original town of Tubungan. Its recognition as a town during the Spanish regime was made possible through tubong-tubong in terms of population.

Tubungan continues to celebrate its proud heritage every year with its annual Tubong-Tubong Festival, now on its 10th year. It is a favorite with Tubunganons, as the occasion calls for more entertainment than any other time of the year. It is the year's most important community activity. Family members gather in the poblacion, traveling from across far-flung mountain barangays to spend the celebration in each other's company.

Tubunganons with its Tubong-Tubong Festival do not make any claims of being the grandest, the loudest, the most fun or the most colorful––they just do what they do, and do it in a way that keeps their visitors coming back.

Central to its festival success for the last ten years is a genuine story, a tale of building something up from humble beginnings, and of finding ways to innovate and grow in an increasingly crowded market, while still maintaining the intimacy and vision that made people come in the first place.

Exploring Oton’s Rich History through KATAGMAN Festival

The municipality of Oton will celebrate its 439th Foundation Day Celebration and the 10th KATAGMAN Festival on April 28-May 3, 2011.

History and archaeology combined dramatizes the richness of Oton’s culture. The town takes pride of being the gateway of Christianity, along with Cebu and Manila, since it was also the focus of Spanish colonial domination. These beliefs gave meaning to the celebration of Katagman Festival. Katagman was the old name of Oton under the leadership of Datu Paiburong long before the Spaniards came.

the old Oton Church, photo courtesy of Museo Iloilo

It was recorded that Miguel Lopez de Legaspi brought knowledge of Spain to Ogtong (now Oton) in 1566. They settled in the area where it became the center of administration of Iloilo. It was an era of great artistic endeavor and a place as an area of power at the heart of the region.

The town also expresses their pride as a once flourishing Malay Port (somewhere near the Batiano River) where regular trade and cultural contacts already existed even before the coming of Spanish authorities in the country. Written records reveal that Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics found in the Oton tell the story of how the town forged social and commercial ties with China and its neighbors. Trade between China and the Philippines was firmly instituted with the discovery of Chinese porcelain trade items from our coastal towns. In the 1960s anthropologists Alfredo Evangelista and F. Landa Jocano excavated in Barangay San Antonio in Oton and found a death mask made of very thin gold with one piece used to cover the eye and the other piece placed on the nose. Pre-Spanish ceramic trade wares had also been retrieved. Golden necklaces and other semi-precious stones were also recovered. It was the practice of early people especially in the Visayan areas to put a death mask on the chieftain. Being the one who is the most powerful, when he dies he would be buried with ceramics because, according accounts, there is a possibility of being accepted in heaven. The skeletal remains and burial items could help determine the people's level of wealth or power in society.

Katagman Festival is designed to be an educational learning experience, in which the people of Oton learn methods that improve their leadership skills, while enjoying the entertainment through the annual street dancing and music, dance and theater competitions with fellow performers. It also provides spectators with an opportunity to explore area’s rich history. The performance displays the dancer’s succulent athleticism and an ethereal movement range based on theater.

The previous celebrations proved a success, and with the help of the local government of Oton, headed by their municipal mayor, Hon. Vicente B. Flores Jr. and the generous support of many concerned groups in the community, Katagman came into being as an annual event.

Held annually since 2002, festival attendance has grown. The Katagman Festival celebration kicks off on April 28 with the Opening Salvo Mass and Parade along with the Opening of the festival with a Pasundayag of the seven participating tribus, Opening of the Agri-Fair, Garden Show and OBOP (One-Barangay-One-Product Sale and Exhibit, and the Opening Exhibit of Memorabilias de Alcaldes; April 29 is set for Laro ng Lahi, Search for Ginoong Erpat and Ginang Ermat; April 30 will delight sports enthusiast with their Fun Run, Airsoft Competition, Fishing Tournament, Exhibition of Remote-Control Flyers, Borador sa Katagman and the Awarding of Outstanding Ogtonganons and Young Achevers; May 1 welcomes everyone with Porma Balas, Motorboat Race, Awarding of Winners for the Fishing Tournament and Live Band; May 2 is for the On-the-Spot Painting and Drawing Contests and FITS Day; May 3 highlights the 439th Foundation Day Mass, Street Dancing and the Music, Dance and Theater Competition.

Oton is a first class municipality in the province of Iloilo. It is politically subdivided into 37 barangays. It is 11 kilometers south from the city.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oton Soars with the 9th Borador sa Katagman Celebration

Kite flying enthusiasts will once again launch their strings of creative and colorful kites through a friendly competition at Barangay Trapiche in Oton on April 30, 2011 at 8 a.m. Multi-colored and elaborately designed kites are launched to the vast sky as onlookers surround the contest ground and its adjacent areas. The festive mood of the venue promises a wonderful day for Oton. The annual BORADOR SA KATAGMAN will be one of the highlights of KATAGMAN Festival to be held in April 28-May 3, 2011.

During the summer, when the sky is clear and the warm wind is moderately blowing, many fields in Iloilo become a camp ground for kite-flyers of all ages. This informal gathering of kite-flying enthusiasts has inspired the Local Government of Oton through its event coordinator, Miss Ami Rodrigo. And for nine years, kite flying has stage a colorful and exciting twist to the annual festival celebration. Their objective is to revitalize Ogtonganons’ love for indigenous activities, which has been part of their culture however seemed virtually unknown among the youth nowadays. The activity encourages one to go out and enjoy nature.

A kite is light framework covered with cloth, plastic, or paper, designed to be flown in the wind at the end of a long string. It is not certain as to where the first kites came from but it has long been part of our culture.

The kites during the competition range from the traditional bamboo and paper type to modern ones made of light plastic and fabric; to gigantic novelty and three-dimensional kites, Ilonggos are known to highly-skilled in building beautiful kites.


- The people of the South Sea Islands were believed to be the earliest to have used kites.   
  They used to use it in fishing where the bait is attached to the tail of the kite;

- Kites were associated with gods in the Polynesian Islands. Their gods Tane and Rongo 
  were the patron saint of the arts, kites, and kite flying;

- Kite flying was considered a sacred ritual to Maoris. They made their kites using the   
  shape f birds. Their god Rehua is depicted as a bird, and was thought to be the 
ancestor of all kites could carry messages between humans and gods;

- Both the Chinese and the Japanese learned to use kites for raising soldiers into the air as spies of snipers. Some old Japanese and Chinese prints show warriors flying over their 
  enemies’ territory;

- It is a Korean tradition to write the names and birth dates of male children on the kites 
  and then to fly them. The line is then cut to ensure a good year by taking all the bad 
  spirits with it;

- In Thailand, each monarch had his or her own kite which was flown continuously during 
  the winter months by imperial monks and priests. During the monsoon season the people of Thailand to send their prayers to their gods through kites.

Kite flying combine the study of science, art, and culture. It investigates cultural importance of kites around the world and the development of flight. It teaches us how to retell kite legends and stories from various cultures.

It is important to take time out on a regular basis to do something fun and exciting. An activity such as kite-flying frees us of earthly worries, filled with childish wonder.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lenten Rituals and Practices in Iloilo

As one of the religious and cultural center of a prosperous region, Iloilo grew to be one of the country’s significant provinces. During the Holy Week, religious customs and traditions are practiced around the different municipalities, clustered and commemorated in various ways in service of worship. These are practices that inspire special devotion and many of these towns still follow customs of the Holy week that are special to them.

Although the celebration of the Holy Week It is traditionally a day of quiet meditation, a time to commit to penitence, prayer, fasting, reading and meditating on the word of God, there is a great variety on how it is observed. Iloilo takes everyone to an unforgettable Holy Week as locals and visiting tourists here and abroad experience the spirit of lent in an old fashion observance and a laid-back setting.

A trip to the different towns brings together the best elements in making your Holy week truly memorable where featured major activities for the day are matched with nightfall observances.

Many details varying with the community mark activities such as the presentation of Passion plays dramatizing the passion and death of Christ are performed annually every Good Friday such as the TALTAL in Barotac Viejo. Taltal involves performers and stage technicians, all residents of the town bringing the story of Jesus of Nazareth to life for the audiences that flocks in from around Iloilo and neighboring provinces in the region. It starts approximately from 8 a.m. until noontime.

The Good Friday procession is the most popular amongst the Lenten devotions of the Ilonggos. From the principal church, a certain amount of ceremony is tied up in luxury and splendor through a solemn procession of life-size images depicting the passion and death of Jesus Christ, mounted on huge, ornately-decorated carriages. People follow the carriages, which also bear images of their favorite saints. Most of these religious statues were hand-sculpted and have been handed down from generation to generation.

Re-enact the Way of the Cross through PASYON in Cabatuan. It is normally heard during Good Friday after the procession in the town. The recitation is chanted by local singers. They chant narratives of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and woven into poetry standard elements with colorful dramatic theme having stanzas of five lines with each line having eight syllables. They perform it in front of a specially-constructed shrine or altar locally known as KAPIYA with life-size images of Biblical characters made from indigenous materials. KAPIYA Tour is also popular in Sta. Barbara and Alimodian.

The PAHUGAS or the WASHING OF THE FEET is a traditional practice in the celebration of the Holy Week. It has become increasingly popular as a part of the Maundy Thursday observance where the Mass starts with the Lord's Supper begins and after the homily, the washing of feet may be performed. The service concludes with a procession taking the Blessed Sacrament to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose. The stripping of the altar and other items on the chancel occurs in preparation for the Good Friday service. The towns of Miag-ao, Leon and San Miguel are popular areas to be visited.

Visit Iloilo’s centuries-old churches and be amazed with its history and exquisitely crafted images of saints through VISITA IGLESIA, a tradition where Catholics visit the different churches after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. Among the major churches expected to be visited by a large number of people are the historic in the First, Second and Third Districts in the province of Iloilo.

Take the AGONY HILL trek in Alimodian and reach the summit where the cross and the area around it developed into a sightseers’ mark as one gets an exhilarating view of distant mountain ranges of neighboring towns,. Visitors and guests commemorate the Lenten Season.

The Easter Sunday is the great celebration and culmination of the Holy Week. This is the day of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the main reason why Christians keep Sunday as the primary day of religious observance. Witness the spectacle of RESPLANDOR in Alimodian and DAMPOG in Sta. Barbara, Leon, Oton and Leganes.

Each town in Iloilo has their own religious traditions besides their general festivities. It is a very important to them and is religiously celebrated. It does not only mean festivity rather it stands as the epitome of the Ilonggos’ faith in goodness and religion. It is one of the holiest days and is observed in many different ways.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Unforgettable Lenten Retreat

The Holy Week is one of the major national and religious holidays in the Philippines. It is a highlighted season in the Catholic calendar. The Holy Week is usually observed solemnly especially from Maundy Thursday until Black Saturday. It represents a time of sacrifice, a time for improving one’s spirituality and focus on an increased emphasis on prayer. Others consider this as an ideal time to seek reconciliation with someone whom they have had a falling-out.

In Iloilo, many follow local Holy Week traditions even while on vacation. They go to their province where they just stay with their relatives and follow their own traditions. There are different ways of observing Holy Week in the provinces. There are Lenten observances that are of interest to visitors in virtually every village, town in Iloilo beginning with Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday and ending Domingo de Gloria or Easter Sunday. Each and every community boasts of unique traditions for celebrating the Holy Week. This is probably the most common practice of Filipino Catholics. The church calendar provides Filipino Catholics with special opportunities to make time in our busy schedules for special time with God.

But there are those who consider Lent as a time to celebrate the joys in one’s life. For those who are less spiritually inclined, some areas in Iloilo present a welcome respite from the busy atmosphere of city life.

When Iloilo is very quiet and somber at this time with almost all businesses closed starting noon Wednesday and transportation is scarce on this occasion, and when most of the visitors have left to go home, it is a perfect opportunity for families to travel and for those who are looking for simple quiet ways to celebrate the Holy Week. They say traveling can open one’s mind, and hopefully one’s heart to new ideas and new ways of seeing God. It implies a willingness to open one’s eyes to new ideas and people and can widen one’s perspective and deepen one’s spirituality.

There are plenty of activities in store for the whole family. Besides, it is a favorite month of the year to travel. The weather is usually very nice, although it can sometimes be hot.

The municipality of San Joaquin is known for its vast coastline. Off the beaten track and without the commercial bustle characteristic of more touristy areas, San Joaquin’s LSDC does not only offer privacy, but quietness. Set in an area surrounded by palm trees, Lhetz Snorkel and Dive Camp (LSDC) in Barangay Cata-an offers a relaxing and friendly atmosphere. This 7,000 square meter resort is an ideal area for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. The resort sits within the boundaries of a reserve area. Its coastline has been turned into a sustainable protected area in the community. LSDC is an excellent choice for those who want peace and quiet time with family and friends. T has 9 affordable rooms where guests can enjoy spectacular sea views. Guests can come for the day for a P30.00 entrance fee and a P50.00 fee will be charged for those staying overnight. One can also pitch a tent for a fee of P150.00. It has a dining hall that can accommodate 50 persons. The resort is owned and managed by the very couple Mr. and Mrs. Abdon and Reine Andrea Santocildes. For those who wish to go on scuba diving in the area, you can call the owner through 09167656146 or 09164938633.

photo by Jose de Luna

One of the well-established resorts in Iloilo is the PAON Beach Club in Barangay Paon, Estancia. It is a three-hour drive from Iloilo City and is far enough away to give you the peace and quiet you need to refresh your spirit without any distractions. This unique family resort is a kilometer tricycle ride from the town proper and is intimately attractive. It is a welcome change from the ordinary. The resorts’ Malasugi and Kawayan restaurants offer great food and a relaxing ambience to match those extraordinary dining experience where one can view a breathtaking sunrise and sunset in this side of Iloilo. It offers 46 affordable guest rooms with 4 family air-conditioned suites; 24 air-conditioned de luxe rooms; 10 fan rooms and 8 traveler’s quarters. Other amenities include a 10-seater bar; cottages, a videoke room; mini-zoo and golf and a swimming pool. The resort also offers an inter-island tour to neighboring Carles. Their friendly staff and tour coordinator will assist those in pursuit of an adventure-filled active Lenten vacation. The resort is owned and developed by Mr. Dominador P. Barba and Sons, Inc. and managed by Mr. Alexander Barba. For more details, please call 033-3970444.

Another safe and convenient tourist spot that offers natural ambiance for visitors to enjoy the outdoors with no stress is the CASA FIAMMETTA in Barangay Tabucan, Barotac Nuevo. It is a 50-minuter drive or 28 kilometers north of the city. The area’s 5-hectare ranch offers riding, camping and kayaking activities for the whole family to enjoy. It also offers bike trails and has a swimming pool. Accommodations include 8 air-conditioned log cabins with bath suitable fro singles, couples and family. The inland resort houses a riding school that offer lessons on English Equitation wit modules from basic, intermediate and advanced courses. It has a riding rink situated opposite the resort’s campsite. Great care has been given to make the ranch accessible without being obtrusive so everyone will feel welcome. For more information, please call 09207124912.

Private resorts are frequently visited during Holy Week and Easter Holidays for residents of Iloilo. Many travel out of town on getaway to the north to unwind and relax in outdoor resort. If you are looking for a quiet, nature-oriented island get-away, MARBUENA ISLAND RESORT in Binongan-an Island, Ajuy is a perfect choice for you and your family. The island is a 25-minuter motorized boat-ride from Barangay Mangorocoro, just 7 kilometers away from the town center. The resort boasts of white sand and its thick mangroves where a beautiful ocean-front hiking trail circles around it. The resort is also famous for its sandbar and is home to birds and fruit bats. Owners of the island work to preserve the island and do not allow hunting or cutting of trees. Around the resort are religious images where one is constantly reminded of God’s love and protection of man and nature. The beach area has picnic and napping shelters. For a day visit to the island one is charged for a fee of P100. The resort has 10 rooms; air-conditioned rooms good for 4 and 2 persons; a non air-conditioned room for 4 persons. The resort also offers 4-island tour and 7-island tour around Ajuy. For more information, please call 033-3296798 or 09205618766.

Damires Hills, Janiuay, Iloilo, photo by Roni Poblacion

Staying in a private place makes it possible to enjoy a peaceful holiday with no stress, a place for a vacation and to celebrate special occasion. A great getaway from the crowds and overcast of the city, whether for a day or a weekend is in DAMIRES HILLS, Tierra Verde located in Barangay Damires, Janiuay. It is perched against the backdrop of mountains where relaxation comes easily. It is an inland resort 25-minuter drive from The New Iloilo Airport and an hour from Iloilo City. It offers the perfect introduction to the municipality with its steep mountain backbone, slopes carpeted with lush plantation of banana, papaya, pomelo, lanzones, rambutan, calamansi and mahogany trees. Since the resort is located only a 5-minuter motorcycle or motorbike-ride from the poblacion, it is not uncommon for its adventurous locals to frequent the area. The resort covers an area of approximately 40 hectares with a fabulous farmland frontage and stands as a vision of a typical family-owned rest-house by the heirs of the late Federico Tirador, Sr. It provides a rare taste of paradise with cogon huts that can accommodate 10-15 persons; 2 family rooms for an overnight stay; 2 function rooms good for trainings and seminars for a maximum of 70 persons; and a stunning pool---the social epicenter for the resort for guests of every age. Damires Hills, Tierra Verde is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekdays; Saturdays at 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m. For more information please call 09096991390/ 09176325901 or email at

Bulubadiangan Island, Concepcion, Iloilo, photo by Roy Gatpatan

There are many who prefer the privacy of an exclusive resort that offers outdoor amenities like beach and picnic grounds so the whole family can spend quality time, lay back and rest with no stress. A must visit destination during the Holy Week include the beautiful Agho, Bulubadiangan and Tambaliza Islands of Concepcion serenely set in a sea. With waters ranging from the palest aquamarine and turquoise to the deepest sapphire matched with its luscious stretch of white sand. Tourists who enjoy swimming and snorkeling are drawn to these islands. The best beaches for having a quiet time are sprinkled all around the island-barangays. They are all clean and peaceful and provide a welcome and relaxing break away from the busy city life. The Sandbar Beach Resort of BULUBADIANGAN is a satellite island of barangay Polopiña. It is a 45-minuter pumpboat ride from the poblacion wharf. Bulubadiangan is considered as the local’s favorite and the much photographed of the islands because of its long stretch of sandbar. It has tent sites and picnic facilities and faces offshore Mt. Manaphag. The uninhabited shore of AGHO Island is another reason enough to go to there. It is a satellite island of Barangay Igbon with a strip of oyster-white sands set against a backdrop of palm trees. Its waters provide perfect snorkeling because of its rich coral gardens. It is also a prime site for a beach picnic. The island is astonishing and almost indescribable in its sheer natural beauty. The golden sandy beach of TAMBALIZA is famous for its landmark, Mt. Manaphag or Pan de Azucar, the gem of the island. There is plenty of lush greenery and the ocean is a beautiful greenish hue that merges into a dark blue out in the open waters of the island. To get to these islands, take a bus from Tagbak Terminal in Jaro; this will take you 2.5-3 hours to Concepcion. For more information, please contact the Municipal Tourism Office at telefax (033) 3920309.

It is not objectively wrong to take a vacation during the Holy Week. The atmosphere, surrounding and the beauty of nature can help us to focus on God. Quietness can help one listen to God. However, let us not forget that the Holy Week is a solemn time to reflect on the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ and to prepare for the celebration of his resurrection from the dead.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

BANTAYAN Festival of Guimbal

The history of the Guimbalanon's struggle should be established so that the younger generations will know how their forefathers generously shed their blood for the noble cause. Its return to significance gave birth to the annual celebration of Bantayan Festival that started in 2003.

Bantayan Festival is an annual re-enactment of the battle between the natives of Guimbal and the Muslim pirates. The theatrical dance format of the presentation incorporates the prop guimba, an ancient instrument of the Spanish Panayanons that resembled a drum and is beaten by hand to send messages from tower to tower to warn the community of an incoming raid. The bantayan and guimba were instrumental in securing their area for defense and to protect their peaceful community from Muslim marauders who were responsible for the looting of many communities and capturing the natives. The town was believed to have derived its name from guimba.

This year, the people of Guimbal, headed by their very dynamic Municipal Mayor, Hon. Christine S. Garin is inviting everyone to their 9th Bantayan Festival on April 12-16, 2011 with the following series of activities for everyone to enjoy. On April 12 (Tuesday) the festival opens with a Mass at 1 p.m., Opening Parade and Street Dancing Competition at the poblacion area 2 p.m., Opening Program at the municipal plaza, 3 p.m. and the Search for Miss Bantayan Festival at the Municipal Amphitheater at 7 p.m.; April 13 (Wednesday) will be a day for the children with an Acrobatic Show at the Amphitheater at 7 p.m.; April 14 (Thursday) Boat Racing and Porma Balas at the Bantayan Beach Resort, 8 a.m., Pinta Lawas at 12 noontime at the Bantayan Beach Resort, Fluvial Parade at Guimbal Shoreline, 1:30 p.m., Re-enactment of the Moro Raids at the Bantayan Beach Resort, 2:30 p.m., 7th Bantayan Video Festival at the Amphitheater, 7 p.m.; April 15 (Friday) is a Musical Concert featuring Gerard Santos and Princess Velasco with Stand-up Comedians from Manila at the Amphitheater, 7 p.m.; April 16 (Saturday) Tribal Dance Drama Competition at the poblacion, 1 p.m., Merrymaking at 5 p.m., Awards Night and Fireworks Competition at the Amphitheater, 7 p.m.; April 12 -16 Food Festival and Agro Fair.

The prosperous and peaceful municipality of Guimbal has plenty to celebrate and be grateful of. Guimbalanons owe much to their rich heritage of the past.

In 1590, Christianization of Guimbal took place and settlements in the area became the operation fields of Spanish authorities. And just like any Christianized villages, inhabitants lived closer together forming a bigger community for local administration of the mission.

Like the rest of Christian villages in the area, Guimbal’s ancestral settlement near the sea became the objects of frequent Moro raids. Pirates attacked and enslaved Christian-Filipinos. Their invasions left tracks of death, blood, and ashes. Captives were even sold in Sandakan and other slave markets in the East Indies. Women and children hurriedly left their coastal dwellings to escape the pursuing Moros.

As Muslim raids in the southern areas of Iloilo continued periodically over the years, bantayans were built. They were built out of huge blocks of stones. This earthen fortifications were easily visible from its spot just a little way inland fro the shore.

The bantayan or Moro watchtower is one of the most valuable ruins built centuries ago. It maintains a noticeable and significant historic integrity to the people of Guimbal. It is one of the sought after attraction of the town that you should not miss if you are visiting the area. It is considered as a cultural icon of the people of Guimbal, reminding them of their ancestors who died from conflict against the fiercely independent Muslim warriors.

Some bantayan have lasted for centuries due to its remarkable strength. The ones remaining in Guimbal and that you can still see with your eyes are found in Barangays Tuguisan, C. Colon and Pescadores where one can get an unfettered and more authentic look.

The municipality of Guimbal is 29 kilometers east from the city of Iloilo. The town lies along the southern portion of the province and shares borders with Tigbauan on the east; on the northeast by Tubungan; Igbaras on the northwest; and west by Miag-ao. With a land area of 44.61 square kilometers it is politically subdivided into 33 barangays.

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