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 PolopiƱa. 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.

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