Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bugnayan Marine Sanctuary and Marine Park in San Joaquin

photo by Reynaldo Paguntalan Jr.

The journey to San Joaquin begins in its town center. It is home to landmarks with the legacy of Spanish civilization that has influenced this town's history; home to the landing site of the 10 Bornean Datus according to the Maragtas Legend; location of a number of major festivals and events in the cultural calendar of Iloilo; and of course, blessed with the great food and grand scenery.

As visitors moves further and further, the habitations become steadily more picturesque where the town scenes give way to a series of tiny fishing villages and small towns and dramatic rugged cliffs. The most common way to arrive at the area is by car or jeepney, travelling along the narrow, serpentine coastal road winding close to the seaside where the scenery is beautiful and serene.

photo by Reynaldo Paguntalan Jr.

Much of San Joaquin’s charm comes from its scenic coastline. With bright and abundant sunlight, this coastal town is dotted with beaches good for swimming all year round. A number of spots dispersed along its coastline are still in the developing stage for summer resorts with bathing beaches. In addition, its coastlines are mostly coral reefs and are declared protected areas by the local government. This attraction alone merits a visit to the area.

San Joaquin is also famous for the best snorkeling and diving in the southern portion of Iloilo where its seas are protected and patrolled with strong commitment from the LGU and its local communities, ensuring an abundance of marine life. Just like any other marine protected area, human activity has been placed under some restrictions in the interest of conserving the natural environment. This would include different limitations on development, fishing practices, fishing seasons and catch limits, moorings, bans on removing or disrupting marine life of any kind.

Christmas Tree worm, photo by Excalibur Seterra

Its most recognizable landmark is its rock formations. The rock formations are placed in such close proximity in a land area of 2000 square meters and where the public can safely walk through. A few well-constructed steps will take you straight to the park. These geological formations do not only add aesthetics to the landscape but also provide excellent vantage points from which to better view the coastline. A small paved trail takes visitors around the park and is easy walking for adults and children. The park has a paved parking lot at the entrance. It has a mini-hall that can be converted into a picnic area, but with no drinking water available and no restroom.

photo by Reynaldo Paguntalan Jr.
photo by Reynaldo Paguntalan Jr.
photo by Reynaldo Paguntalan Jr.

To get the best view of these rocks is an ascent to its hilly area achievable in a very short space of time with less effort. Its lush green meadow is in sharp contrast to those fiery beginnings long ago. Combined with the tranquil environment of the municipality, the Bugnayan Marine Sanctuary and Park create a sense of awe and an understanding of why the area is protected. Not surprisingly, the area is one of the most popular and scenic protected areas in Iloilo. 

photo by Reynaldo Paguntalan Jr.

For more information of the Bugnayan Marine Sanctuary and Park, please contact Mr. Jimmy Sibonga-Operations Unit Manager at 09082569497, Mr. Excalibur Seterra-Municipal Coordinator Coastal Resource Management Program at 09205652378, and Mrs. Erlyn  Alunan, Municipal Tourism Officer at 09179857804 or at the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism at telefax (033) 3384910.

Leganes Celebrates 9th SAAD Festival

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

A week after Easter, the people of Leganes pays homage to their patron saint, San Vicente Ferrer--- often pictured with wings, is a Valencian Dominican friar, who gained acclaim as a missionary and a logician and was honored as a saint of the Catholic Church. The annual celebration of Saad, one of Iloilo’s most special and important religious festivals, is a big issue where people go out of their way to make a special effort to celebrate it. It is an occasion for the Leganesnon culture to really shine in this appropriately sunny town.

Saad Festival in Leganes runs March 19 to April 5, 2013. The municipal streets are decked out with flags and streamers, entertainment nightly in the plaza and the entire population out celebrating their local fiesta. With various rural activities, it is definitely worth checking out. April 1 (Monday) opens with a Grand Civic Parade and a Magical Concerto; April 2 (Tuesday) is for the Sound Showdown and the annual Miss Saad Festival Beauty Pageant; April 3 (Wednesday) Sports Activities and the Battle of Sounds; April 4 (Thursday) is for the Saad Festival Proper with a Sinadsad Dance Parade at 8 a.m., Eucharistic Celebration at 4 p.m., Procession at 5 p.m., the Saad Festival Cultural Dance Competition at 6 p.m., and the Awards Night and Street Party and Fireworks Display at 8 p.m.; April 5 (Friday) caps with Masses for St. Vincent Ferrer, Fiesta Day and the Coronation of Fiesta Queen 2013.
photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes
Leganes would not be Leganes without its famous and iconic church. It is a popular pilgrimage honoring Saint Vincent Ferrer. On the saint's feast day, it is customary to visit the church for the so-called "Palapak." This is done by gently pressing the base of a small image of San Vicente Ferrer on the head of the devotee. A huge crowd gathers to line up for the “palapak”, to light candles, offer prayers and join the Eucharist in honor of the miraculous St. Vincent Ferrer. It is believed that the image can heal various illnesses and prevent calamities. Palapak is aimed at conserving and promoting age-old Leganes traditions, it is a great opportunity to get your fill of this time-honored activity.
photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes
The much-anticipated Saad Festival Groups has groups dress up in traditional Filipino costumes and parade the streets while carrying sculptures and images of the St. Vincent Ferrer. The dance competition is a worship dance accompanied by their Saad music composed mainly of Hiligaynon folk songs. Their praise dance is upbeat and faster in tempo. The choreography would include movements that convey specific symbols of worship such as a cross, and specific acts of worship such as kneeling. Clapping, rocking of the body, and waving of the hands are also typical movements. They are prayers through movement evoking an adoration of their patron saint within the hearts of an audience.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

Blending Catholic traditions in their performances, the Saad festival dance tradition has produced an understanding of the religious image not so much as an object of detached contemplation or a reference to a religious symbol but rather as an energized element which physically shapes the relationship and exchange between the material and the spiritual world.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes
Saad Festival is a time of special importance. It is a day where the people of Leganes commemorate the preaching of St. Vincent Ferrer who has described the path towards salvation, eternal peace and satisfaction. They fulfill the purpose of festival remembrance by maintaining and passing on, one generation to the next, the emotions of a heritage carried forward into the present and never lost. They nurture the sense of cohesiveness that has sustained the community throughout their long and often heartrending history.

To get to Leganes, one can take a 20-minuterjeepney ride from Jaro Plaza. For more information, please contact, Mr. Jerry Anas - Municipal Tourism Officer at 09127721033.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gigantes Island Adventure: An Exotic Getaway Paradise in Carles

Sicogon, photo by Bombette G. Marin

Considered as one of the pearls of Iloilo are a string of islands in Carles, the last municipality north of Iloilo Province. It is comprised of 33 barangays with six big islands and 19 islets boasting of long pristine coastlines.  It is a unique coastal municipality with high ecological value due to its protected areas, native fauna and rare ecosystems.

Tangke, photo by Bombette G. Marin

Among its popular attractions are a tableau of unspoiled and isolated granite monoliths known as Isla de Gigantes or Giant Islands that comprises the Norte (north) and Sur (south). These groups of islands are known for their extraordinary huge rock formations sitting on azure waters boasting their white sand beaches. Their majestic marble walls or cliffs are popularly known to the locals as Pader.

ancient potteries found in Gigantes, photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

ancient coffins, photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

Both Gigantes Norte and Sur are a natural paradise of great ecological importance that we Ilonggos should be very proud of. They are home of endemic Gigantes Gecko and frog. The islands are also of great archeological wealth being identified by the National Museum as an archeological site due to the discovery of abundant archeological materials, notably earthenware ceramics that are typically of metal age. Known to be ancient burial grounds, wooden coffins measuring 8-feet in length were also found especially in Gigantes Norte. Local folklore says that these coffins were used by “giants” living in the caves found in Gigantes islands.

Caves exploration is also among the highlight of the Gigantes Island adventure. Explore the trails of Lungon-lungon, the Cliff, Cathedral or Simbahan, Panaderya or Bakery and the Pawikan caves found in Gigantes Sur. The caves of Langub, Boulevard, Harpa and Bakwitan are found in Gigantes Norte.

Tangke, saltwater lagoon, photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

The islands are perfect for any water activities by visitors who wish to discover the magnificent underwater landscapes and mysteries that lie beneath its crystalline waters. Among the most popular is the Tangke. Located on the southern side of Barangay Gabi in Isla de Gigantes Sur, it is a hidden saltwater lagoon formed by a surrounding wall of granite monolithic cliffs. During low tide, the level of water also recedes but also rises when it is high tide. Visitors to the area need to climb on its steep rocky wall that serves as the lagoon’s fortress. However, an easier and shorter climb from where the motorized-boat docks alongside its walls is done only during high tide. The lagoon’s rocky borders offer visitors one-of-a-kind formations.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

seawed gatherer in Sicogon, photo by Bombette G. Marin

Still part of the Gigantes group of islands is the ever-famous Sicogon, situated in Barangay Buaya. It was once known as a high-end prime tourist destination in the early 80’s. The area is also rich in aquatic treasures such as coral reefs and rare marine life ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling. The island still brings together classic charm and modern touches for a unique seaside experience. One will surely enjoy this hideaway with dazzling white sands and clear turquoise sea. The beach of Barangay Buaya is reason enough to go to this island. Its sugary sands extend into deep waters far offshore. It is a heaven for snorkelers. Sicogon Island appeals more to the adventurous tourists, backpackers and nature-lovers. For those who would to stay overnight and experience the serenity of rural life, there are lodging houses in the area. There is enough space and so few visitors that you will probably find a spot just for yourself.

aerial view of Cabugao Gamay Island, photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

Cabugao Gamay, photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

If you are looking for the ultimate tropical paradise, set your sights on Cabugao islands. Immerse yourself in an oasis of natural tranquility. Both Cabugao Islands boasts of white sand beaches without all the crowds, the perfect spot to relax, slow down and get into the groove of the real tropical paradise. Sprawl by the warm turquoise waters on Cabugao Gamay while enjoy an underground adventure in Cabugao Daku.

Carles is 146 kilometers away or a 3-hour bus or van ride from the city. To get to Sicogon Island the nearest, one can be reached through a 30-minute motorized boat ride from Estanca Feeder Port. To get to Estancia, one must take an air-conditioned bus at Tagbak Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. Public passenger motorized boats ply from and to the island only once a day, normally at around 1 p.m. Motorized boat good for 54 and 80 persons can be privately arranged. To get to Tangke and Cabugao Islands, one can go to Carles from Iloilo City via bus or van from Tagbak Terminal in Jaro. To get to these islands, take a motorized-boat ride from Bancal Causeway in Carles where the fishing port of the town is located and the starting point to all mainland and island destinations in the area. For more information, please contact Mr. Joel Decano,-Municipal Tourism Officer at 09184685006 or at the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism at telefax 3384910.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Barotac Viejo re-enacts the Passion of Christ

photo by John Ray Palmares (USA-CAP)

In Iloilo, where 95% of the population considers itself Roman Catholics, Semana Santa or Holy Week is a time for rest. While many head for the beaches or travel with their families and friends, some use their time to reflect on the life of Jesus and to take part in celebrations and re-enactments.

Lenten practices have evolved dramatically from Pasyon and Vista-Iglesia to the current grand Kapiya contest and re-enactment. This Semana Santa, from Jerusalem to Iloilo, Christians will commemorate the final days of Jesus. In churches and municipal plazas, the faithful will listen to readings or act out the moments leading to Christ’s crucifixion.

A vow made in 1975 has drawn in many visitors to Barotac Viejo, Iloilo every year to witness the reenactment of Christ's passion, Taltal. Celebrated this year on March 29, Taltal is considered as one of Iloilo’s longest running Lenten traditions. The community take this event very seriously that it has been religiously observed for the last 39 years as the local government helps in providing logistical and technical support. It is a well-celebrated Lenten event although not as grand as the one in Guimaras is fast gaining in importance.

A huge crowd annually show up for this dramatized tribute performed in Hiligaynon by volunteer actors in the community. No professional actors are hired and the cast is drawn from all walks of life from within the municipality. Almost a hundred people participate in the production.

The passion play begins at the covered gym where crowds gather to see Pilate sentence Jesus to death. Theatrical empathy flowed easily. From there, actors form a procession as Roman Guards whipped Christ’s back. Many, mostly children scurry along the corners of the gymnasium to a glimpse of the wounded Christ. Emotions ran high as throughout this annual ritual, children and adults are swept up in an event characterized by wailing women especially at the flagellation of Christ.

photo by Norman Posecion (USA-CAP)
Taltal may not be the best re-enactment, but it will be unforgettable and visitors will surely enjoy being in the midst of locals. It is truly a “community” event. It truly is a presentation to be seen. In this day and age, when the world seems to be in so much turmoil, one needs the heart, mind and spirit good to see something happening that is so spiritual and involving so many people of different backgrounds. It is a great way to start off the holiest season of the year. You do not want to miss this amazing event.

The staging of Taltal helps the community deepen their self-awareness as Catholics. It is an event that takes them closer to God on a somber and holy day remembered by Christians worldwide. It hopes to bring faith in Christ to those who do not know Him, remind those who d and develop faith is the greatest gift that mankind can have. Taltal serves as an invitation of Jesus to be redeemed and transformed in our lives.

Taltal is a call to conversion, a call to everyone, believer and nonbeliever. And to those who believe, the annual celebration invites us to a deeper commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ, and a deeper participation in the paschal mystery of his passion, death, and resurrection.

Barotac Viejo, Iloilo is 52 kilometers northeast from Iloilo City.  It is subdivided into 26 barangays with a land area of 14, 230 hectares. The town is bounded on the northwest by the Municipality of San Rafael; on the south by the Municipality of Banate and the Visayan Sea; on the east by the Municipality of Lemery and the Province of Capiz, and; on the west by the Municipality of Passi and San Enrique.

The town is currently experiencing fantastic growth and interest as a tourist destination in the province of Iloilo. The town hopes to offer everything visitors could want in privacy, beauty and breathtaking views. Come discover Barotac Viejo’s best kept secrets this Holy Week.

To get to the town, one can take a bus or van at Tagbak Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. For more information, please contact Miss Lorie Ann Dumdum-Municipal Tourism Officer at 09995796398 or Hon. Merelyn P. Valdez-SB member on Tourism at 09298366075/ 09228267231/ 09065556375 or at telefax (033) 3620208.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pintados de Pasi Festival: A Celebration of Power and Prestige

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

One of the most colorful festivals in the region will take place in the picturesque city of Passi on Iloilo’s central district from March 9-17, 2013. For the last 13 years, visitors from all parts of the country make their way through this amazing tattoo festival annually celebrated as a sign of their cultural identity where inked creations were revered as an art form and to celebrate alongside their foundation anniversary as a component city in the Province of Iloilo.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

Pintados de Pasi Festival highlights with the tribal dance competition where participants paint their body with elaborate patterns and shapes. The dance is characterized by the flow, a seamless stream of movements that emphasizes the agility of the upper body with simultaneous alternating waving of arms which are the basic movement of the Pintados dance. The dance involves leaping, turning, jumping and kicking movements of a warrior. They wear colorful costumes tightly on their bodies. During the dance, drums and plastic pipes are commonly used. Bamboo poles are also used and pounded with sticks to keep the beat and to produce musical tones.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

As always, the celebration will bring a varied program with all kinds of surprises and great live music await every visitor. Various fun-filled activities are listed up for this 9-day occasion with outdoor activities that feature traditional games, lots of food and shopping. With the theme, “Kulturang Passinhon: Balikdon kag Palanggaon,” this year’s celebration will open on March 9 (Saturday) with the Food Festival and Beauty and the Beat: A Night of Fashion, Music and Merry-making; March 10 (Sunday) Talent and Festival Attire Competition for Bb. Pintados 2013; March 11 (Monday) Dumog 2013- 2nd Passi City Grappling Tournament; March 13 (Wednesday) Tamiya Forward Mini Race Contest; Mach 14 (Thursday) Pasundayag/ Parade and Opening Program of the 15th Foundation Day Celebration, Fireworks Display and Handuraw; March 15 (Friday) Karosa Parada and Carabao Painting Contest, Coronation Night for Bb. Pintados 2013; March 16 (Saturday) Sinadya sa Suba/ Pinta Lawas and; March 17 (Sunday) Tribe Competition at 8 a.m. and Night with the Stars.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

The three main island groups of the Philippines had a strong tattoo tradition. It was already common even before the archipelago was colonized by Spain. But it is in the islands of the Visayas where tribesmen wore the most elaborate, intricate and extensive etchings that led Spanish chroniclers to call the island “La Isla De Los Pintados” or “Islands of the Painted Ones.” It was said that when Spanish authorities arrived in the island, they were welcomed by a group of heavily tattooed men.
Tattoos were used on men to show tribal seniority, accomplishments, age, and power, as well as acting as talismans in certain cases. It describes their fundamental identity as tribes-people, headhunters, warriors, and community members. Tattoos were earned through the passage of rites ceremonies and for accomplishing specific tasks. Both the men and the women were tattooed, and for a variety of reasons. The Visayan men were warriors, commonly headhunters with strong, detailed lines on their chests and heads. The designs or patterns in their body parts would get more elaborate the more enemies they would kill. The women have simpler patterns on their arms and wrists and were regarded as marks of beauty.
Tattooing is still practiced today just as they were many centuries back. The annual celebration of Pintados de Pasi Festival serves as the last bastion of this unbroken tradition of tattooing in Panay.
Passi City is located along the Iloilo-Capiz National Highway. It is an hour ride from Tagbak Bus Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. For more information, please contact Miss Mae Pojol-Buenaflor - City Tourism Officer at 09213543537.

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