Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beautiful, Bountiful Banate

The coastal town of Banate in the northern part of the province is primarily a fishing and agricultural municipality. It is well known for their bluecrabs locally known as kasag and ginamos or shrimp paste.

Comprised of 18 barangays, it has a land area of 11,886 hectares, about as big as the city of Iloilo, is 50 kilometers away from the province’ capital.

If you are looking for an all-day adventure, the coastal and mountain areas of Banate provides a glorious backdrop attractive all year-round. The town is a great place for outdoor experiences, from snorkeling to challenging wilderness hikes.


The coastline of Banate covers approximately 8.38 kilometers blessed with coral gardens, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. It is a productive fishing area and also popular for snorkeling and diving.

Reserve status was called for by international organizations such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), due to the unique formation of coastline, the abundant fishery resources and the an interlinked system of coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats in this area.

The marine conservation program in the area, the Banate-Barotac Bay Resource Management Council Incorporated with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the provincial and municipal government contributed to the reserve process when they and residents discussed basic marine ecological concepts, and the idea of creating a marine reserve evolved.

Active enforcement began through Municipal Resolution No. 50, series of 2000 establishing the area as a marine reserve. Studies have been made that provided long-term understanding of biological changes in marine reserves. Results show that reserves can lead to increases in abundance, size, and biomass and that they can benefit the surrounding fisheries. These reserves have provided economic benefits to the local communities by increasing tourism and associated revenues.

University of San Agustin sophomore tourism students in Hibotkan for Tumandok 2011

An important attraction to the reserve is Hibotkan, a 25-hectare rock sanctuary situated in the waters of Barangay San Salvador. It is a marine protected resource supported by Municipal Ordinance No.12. It appears only during low tide and can be reached through a motorized banca. With a distance of 3-kilometers from the wharf, one can go snorkeling to explore several species of corals that are abundant in the area. The presence of these unique corals actively encouraged the area as a tourist attraction; the shallow clear waters make it an ideal spot for snorkellers to observe them.

Get acquainted with another spectacular piece of nature, the hypnotizing natural phenomenon of Caniapasan Falls located in the wilderness area of Barangay Managopaya, 13 kilometers from the town proper. Fairly located in a remote barangay, this relatively small but scenic cascading waterfall has series of smaller water falls on the rugged, upturned rocks. Located in a sheltered, beautiful spot, the water gushes much over a wide ledge and drops about 10 feet. The walk to the falls is moderate. The trailhead is not so difficult to reach but physical stamina may be required.

From Iloilo City, to reach Banate, one may take jeepneys that are readily available in Tagbak Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. Air-conditioned vans are also available at the terminal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

JANIUAY Cemetery: A Great Repository of Architectural Delight

the Roman Catholic Cemetery of Janiuay circa 18th century, photo courtesy of Museo Iloilo

Many of the more interesting historical sights in Iloilo can be found along the main roads going to the different municipalities. And one unique and unusual way to get to know a town’s history is to take a tour to its cemetery. Although there are no guided tours for cemeteries for it easy to see the sight, as you could just drive around them in the comforts of your car.

Cemeteries are reflections of a number of aspects of our culture. Unlike other historical areas in Iloilo, cemeteries were not devastated by wars. They are “untouched,” so, most of the architectures in the area are preserved.

For many Ilonggos, the town of Janiuay is associated with its grand Filipino-Hispano cemetery. This cemetery forms part of the multiplex of Spanish colonial sites of this historically rich province.

photo by Jun Fuerte

The Janiuay Catholic Cemetery is a one hectare tract located east from the poblacion bordering between Barangays Aquino-Nobleza and Damu-ong dates back to 1875. Built on top of a hill, it is one of the most beautiful of its kind in the country. This massive, elevated cemetery is one of the links of the Janiuaynons to the past.

photo by Jun Fuerte

It is made up of three grand arched entrance gates with individual staircases of 21 steps leading to its rightmost entrance; 23 steps going to the main entrance; and 22 steps to its leftmost entrance. It was said that the slabs of stones and limestone blocks used in building the entire cemetery were quarried and hauled by 52 carabaos as far as the town of Dingle---a town 27 kilometers away from Janiuay. The area is fenced by steel supported by columns made of stone.

Common to most Spanish-built structures in Iloilo, egg whites were important ingredients in building this cemetery. When combined with lime and water, the mixture becomes a natural adhesive linking other construction materials together like rocks and bricks. It is also often used as varnishing to cover and protect surfaces of columns, walls and facades of man-made structures.

photo by Ryan Rey Genciana

The octagonal-shaped capilla, partially overgrown with plants and shrubs, is the centerpiece of the cemetery. Artisans from Manila were commissioned to work for its interior. It has lancet-shaped doors and windows. This would have been a place of final vigils and services for the dead.

photo by Jun Fuerte

The building of the cemetery was under the watchful supervision of an Agustinian friar, Fr. Fernando Llorente with actual construction being undertaken by Don Placido Marin through forced labor wherein the town folks had to transport heavy materials such as the stones used in the construction from its boundaries. In November 20, 1885, the cemetery was finished and inaugurated by Archbishop Payo.

photo by Jun Fuerte

Over the past 126 years, the Janiuay Catholic Cemetery, like many other historic cemeteries in Iloilo, has suffered from neglect and natural aging. The present administration, under the leadership of Hon. Franklin H. Locsin recognizes the historical and architectural importance of the site and is lobbying for a major restoration project at the cemetery. The project is dedicated to the preservation of not only the town, but Iloilo’s irreplaceable historic and cultural treasure for future generations.

From Iloilo City, to reach the start of the trail in Janiuay, one may take jeepneys that are readily available in Centraline Terminal fronting Christ the King Memorial Park in Jaro, Iloilo City. Air-conditioned vans are also available at the terminal.

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