Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dwarves in the Island of the Giants

Restless feet syndrome, I don't need any cure. 

Isla de Gigantes. Literally the Island of the Giants. It consists of 
 about ten islands; with the two largest are Gigantes Norte (North Gigantes) and Gigantes Sur (South Gigantes).

Urban legend says there was a giant called Tay-og who fell in love with a beautiful maiden but this maiden was abducted and killed by the pirates. In grief, Tay-og threw all the things he saw forming the islets. Another version is there was a couple of giants who lived there and the islets were there children (or the place where their children lived). The other version is, two giants a couple, fell out of love then started throwing rocks to each other forming the islets. This version is quite violent but it made me laugh so hard. They don't have divorce yet at that time. :p


The agenda of the trip to this hidden paradise is the  team assessment of the TFM- HEKS Shelter Project and I (together with Ken) just joined. But since we're also Ilonggos, it's very easy mingling with the group. Our two-hour boat ride to the Isla from Estancia Port was full of laughter. We are all first timers and we can't wait for the adventure.



A mountain of scallops

These cute puppy and its aggressive mom who doesn't want to be photographed
Considered the Scallop Capital of Visayas, you will not be surprised with the high pile (a mountain) of scallop shells in different colors and sizes at the shoreline.  During  the 80s, when the scallop industry boomed, thousands of tonnes are delivered every day to Iloilo and Cebu. Now, after several typhoons and with not much other livelihood alternative, the harvest dwindled. Scallops are just sold for P140 per kilo here. Since you don't get it cheap most of the time, try the different ways it is cooked- fried (scallop omelette), grilled or steamed. 


Electricity is just from 6PM up to 5AM the next day. So expect the wailing from the neighborhood videoke from sundown to midnight. There is no cellphone signal so for those who are regularly monitored by their partners, you've been warned. 

We arrived late so we spent the night drinking and telling stories and some music swapping with Marcus, the Dutch supervisor of HEKS. The next day is our trip to the parola (lighthouse). But Ken and I was too busy talking to Miss Margie of Dwelling Place, a homestay type inn on the other side who shared to us stories and tourism mishap in the area. She shared how the supposedly tourism  budget  was misdirected by a former tourism officer and spent on the private resort he owns now, which ironically where we're booked. In the spirit of fairness, I wanted to interview the owner of Hideaway Inn but he's not around at that time.

Entrance of Bakwitan/ Pawikan Cave
Longon: wooden coffin
Tugkay. It is a chicken or a maya? :p 

The next iterinary is to Bakwitan Cave. Mambubulong (shamans) go here to collect balinsasayaw eggs to mix in their medicine concoctions. In olden times people believed that engkantos dwell in the cave and you can request and borrow any material thing. But this was lost when humans broke their promises with the engkanto such as the time of returning the borrowed items. 

Some said it was called as Pawikan Cave because of the egg-shaped rock formation at the end of the chamber. Our guide said that it was also believed that these marker resembling giant turtle eggs was used by the Japanese for the treasures.  Today, this egg-shape marker disappeared when a lot of treasure hunters for the infamous Yamashita Treasure came. It left several digging inside the cave. There are also  a lot vandals made by some tourists and locals whose sense of "achievement" is to see their name on the walls. Such vanity and idiocy.

However, this cave is now called as Bakwitan Cave as this also served as an evacuation site during World War II and last Typhoon Yolanda. There were three families who sought refuge in the wide spacious chambers of the cave during the onslaught of the strong winds. .








The next stop after breakfast is the Cabugao Gamay Island. You can climb the rocks to have a vantage point of the island and neighboring islets. The combination of wide emerald green and dark to light blue seawater will surely make you say, "Ahhhh this is paradise's lost!' :D


Then we went to Antonia Beach for a game of volleyball, snorkeling, eating of wasay-wasay (another kind of shellfish you can eat soaked in vinegar) and drinking! Here in Antonia Beach, you can see rocks formed and balanced in unlikely ways, and suspended and looking like an installation art. 

But there is nothing much to see underwater for snorkeling. The corals are dead for the relentless dynamite fishing. There is another group of filthy rich tourists who came with their speedboats and arrogance. Sad but the sea and its fishes are bound to dwindle with the dynamite fishing.  And with tourism as possible alternative livelihood, you have to offer a better seascape. And farming (whether container or other parts of the island with agricultural potential) should be considered as an additional source of income. There is not much vegetables in the area so don't expect much greens for your fish tinola or scallop soup. 

As much as we would like to stay for another night but we have to go back Jaro. Another companion has a flight back to Manila and Jan-jan, one of the student interns was stung by the jellyfish. Also heavy rain started and we have to get back to the Hideaway Inn for our things. 

The end of this trip is even more adventurous. Heavy rain and strong winds made us all wet,  (mga basang sisiw) and quiet. No one wanted to sit in front of the boat, except Marissa and I. And we have to contend with all of the waves spilling inside the boat. This whole affair with the (un)predictable weather made us call on the Almighty for safety and protection.  Our saving grace? Prayers, our skilled boatmen and the large cellophane bag to keep all of our things dry.



Isla de Gigantes is full of potential in terms of research and archaeological find. And if I only have a lot of resources at my disposal, I wanted to stay longer here. Well, another island out of 1,707 islands in this blessed archipelago that we're able to explore. And we're blessed to set our foot here and return in Iloilo unscathed. 

If you would like to explore the island and try a different adventure, you can stay at Gigantes Dwelling Place and Contact these very hospitable and knowledgable people:  Rene (based in Bacolod)- 0939. 893. 0248/ 0917.463.9470 or Margie: 0946.2850.457 or Neknek (0998.164.2588).

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