FACING THE GIANTS: UNLEASHING THE HIDDEN GRANDEUR OF ISLA GIGANTES

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This little gem radiates like a sapphire and gives me such feeling that somewhat a giant is waiting to be either conquered or explored beneath its threshold.

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When i was a little  boy I’m am so amazed and astonished to hear stories  from various mythology and legends of many different cultures include monsters of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. “The Giants”.In various Indo-European mythologies, gigantic people are featured as primeval creatures associated with chaos and the wild nature, and they are frequently in conflict with the gods, be they Olympian, Nartian, Hindu or Norse. There are also accounts of giants in the Old Testament, most famously Goliath. Attributed to them are extraordinary strength and physical proportions. Fairy tales such as Jack the Giant Killer have formed our modern perception of giants as stupid and violent monsters, sometimes said to eat humans, especially children (though this is actually a confusion with ogres, which are distinctly cannibalistic). The ogre in Jack and the Beanstalk is often described as a giant. However, in some more recent portrayals, like those of Roald Dahl, some giants are both intelligent and friendly, as in Gulliver’s Travels.

But hold on a second… Look what I’ve found out that made my summer getaway a perfect one! A summer that incorporated snorkeling, spelunking (Caving), island hopping,nature trekking and seafood galore. I found a Giant! A giant of life trotting-experience.  A humongous  form of a beauty, mysticism and concealment that looms in this majestic silhouette of nature. Isla Gigantes…..

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Isla Gigantes is a group of islands off the coast of Carles and Estancia .It is considered now as one of the last ecological frontier in Northern Iloilo by some it’s a place wherein cluttered of lush green jungles meet the compelling pristine waters and once you visited this virgin paradise you just stop from coming back. It is one of the least travelled locations in Iloilo because it is not that accessible. They don’t even have a regular electricity and communication signal there. Even though I was born and raised in Iloilo, I haven’t gone to this place which is only a few towns away from our place. But now, Its has already been discovered by many and by the word of mouth and the influence of internet, Its enchanting beauty has already captured the heart of many Filipinos, foreign and even the media.

Friends of mine would say “Why Isla Gigantes?”Isnt it dangerous there?”often i smiled back and leave them with 2 words to ponder-“Simply Irresistible”My total admiration drove the idea of posting such article for the readers and future travellers that eyed this magnificent hidden gem.

How to get to Isla  Gigantes?

Travel cheap to Isla de Gigantes, Carles, North of Iloilo. A group of paradise islets and a center of marine biodiversity of the Province of Iloilo. Actually, saying that getting their costs a lot of money is a misconception. There are still other islands that dot the waters of Northern Iloilo   so many sights to explore and discover! For those who want to visit Gigantes Island for themselves, Estancia Port is the main jump off point to Gigantes Islands

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Everyone can travel like the locals there do. The Bus Usually, the rendezvous area would be the Estancia, in Estancia port. From Iloilo, Roxas or Kalibo, catch a ride going here. The Boat The boat leaves only once a day at 2 PM. Take the Saint Micheal boat because it goes directly to Gigante Norte where the Gigantes Hideaway Inn  Resort is located. You should be at the port at least 30 minutes before the trip if you don’t want to miss it. The journey takes 2-3 hours,  The most comfortable place to sit down is by the window. (80 pesos). I would always advice to take the passenger boat because its bigger than the package boats hired by the resorts to pick you up from the Estancia port. When arrived to Isla de Gigantes, it will be like after sunset. The breathtaking views will be replaced by your adrenaline rush to jump onto the bamboo raft to take you to the shore. Secure your backpacks with some plastic bags so it won’t get wet just in case you drop it. People on the boat will give you a hand anyway. The Habal- Habal It is the means transportation in the Island. It’s a motorbike which is 10 pesos each ride or more if you hire them all day. But from the port, it will take you to the resort for only 10 pesos

Myth of Isla Gigantes

Isla  Gigantes boasts of pristine and raw beaches that are exuding charm and mystery. Legends and folklore immediately speak as I arrived in the island at night. Legends have it that the Gigantes Islands are reigned with “giants” way back then, and this is supported with artifacts found in one of its many caves(giant coffin). According to the local folklore,the giants who once  inhabited the island were destroying  the environment that a fairy(diwata) and other mythical creature cursed them and prophesied that the next generation of the islands inhabitant or their descendants will no longer be of great size and force.

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Giant Coffin Relics found in Gigantes Cave

 

Some fisher folks and native of the island testified that it was named after the sky scrapers like and towering tress which they named after the island. I didn’t see real giants when I stayed there; what I saw instead are warm people standing tall and proud like a giant with their prized possession: the islands itself.

Where to stay

Basically, all of the lodging houses for tourists in the Gigantes Islands is located in Gigantes Norte.  Some lodging houses are in Barangay Granada, but the one where we stayed at, the Gigantes Hideaway Inn, is located in Barangay Asluman, which is in the other side of the island.

The Gigantes Hideaway Inn Resort is more of a resort than a simple inn – it’s a collection of beach cottages in an extensive “open” compound.  It has basic amenities, and notable for its very strong water pressure.  The water is directly sourced from nearby mountains and it’s actually safe to drink, although it has a distinctive taste.  Like the rest of the island, there’s electricity for around 5 hours every night, but the resort has a generator that can be used to extend this, probably for a certain fee.

The Gigantes Hideaway Inn is owned by Joel Decano, who is also a tourism officer in the islands. As there’s almost no cellphone signal in the islands, you might need to be patient with Joel if he can’t answer your inquiries right away.  He spends half of the time in Estancia, and that’s where he’s able to check his text and online messages.  He prefers that you call up rather than just texting.

 

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Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn

Rock formations

The picturesque line of jagged cliffs in the southern part of Isla Gigantes is worth a visit. The scene could almost be mistaken to be in the exotic seascapes of Palawan or in Thailand. It is astonishing how nature could have made this formation over centuries.

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The Spanish Colonial Light House and Church

Sitting a kilometer away from  Gigantes Hideaway Inn Resort for an outstanding viewing of a perfect sunset in Brgy.Asluman Gigantes Norte is the towering and nauseating height of the white and huge Spanish Colonial Light House.Fear of heights needs to conquer as the altitude of the stairs going up to the pinnacles of the light house gives you a nostalgic feelings.Far behind it is a wreck  brick old Spanish structured church that display the relics of religious belief of the former in inhabitants of the island

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Baquitan Cave

Another exceptional place to visit in Isla is “Baquitan Cave,” which can be reached by conquering a steep cliff and entering a hidden forest on top. The trek to the top is not for the weak, the incline is around 45 to 70 degrees  and 200+ feet high, however, the effort is worth it after seeing the spacious caverns inside the cave with its otherworldly mood and rock formations. The cave is surprisingly well-lit because of several holes on the cave’s roof, which form an atrium of sorts. It would take two hours to reach the other portal of the cave together with  a two tour guide inside.

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Tangke”The Saltwater Lagoon

Tangke,” a salt water lagoon formed by a surrounding wall of monolithic cliffs. Tourists can take a dip and immerse themselves in the serenity of nature. Of all the places I’ve been, this island stands out the most. It is a wonder lagoon that mistakenly be thought of just a simple rock formation covering the entire islet. If you just pass by, you’ll never guess inside it lies a lagoon having a turquoise body of water that a smooth white sand underneath gives a clear reflection of the water and indigo skies. The best time to visit here is when it’s high tide so the water is deeper. It’s a warm and relaxing seawater, you’ll surely be reluctant to leave. This will give you a tour of this God’s given gift Philippines must be proud of. The boat docks beside the piercing rocks and you need a balanced gate so jumping off the boat is quick and easier. Shoe cover is badly needed to prevent cuts because these covering rocks are unforgiving. Hiding the sacred lagoon that gets deeper on high tide season. As we drew nearer, everything becomes more exciting. I could peak on the holes of the rocks and was able to see the calm turquoise water.  The birds are flying and singing like celebrating. The various rock formations surrounding the lagoon is perfectly so good to be naturally designed like of a wise and fine architecture of old temples .The mysteriously crocodile shaped stone, for instance is in the middle of the water is a natural rock formed like. You’ll see how great and wise the Creator is. No plan to swim but the water is so inviting .Wild Bonsai trees grow on some parts of the rocks, giving the lagoon a perfect spectacular view. This island resembles El Nido in Palawan. And it is possible to go rock climbing as well, if you have the gears. Lots of trees to go green, amazing lagoon, is perfect to give more climax keeping this milieu splendid, that’s good for the heart and soul.

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Antonias Island Coral Reef Sanctuary

Another oasis of comfort is Antonia Island Coral Reef Sanctuary where you’ll be able to swim with a school of kaleidoscopic fishes above the coral reefs. This is also where I braved the scorching heat of the sun to have a swim. Except for our tour guides and the island’s caretaker, it was only me swimming in the island in midday, savoring the sea after a sumptuous lunch.

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Bantigue Sand Bar

Not far from Antonia is the Bantigue Sandbar which is also a magnet for tourist’s attraction. It offers a good view of a fiery sunset during low tide which is the only time you’ll be able to see for yourself it’s snake-like formation.

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Potential as Tourism Site

Truly, there’s really a big room for improvement but given more time, Isla  Gigantes would surely be a giant name in Philippine tourism. In retrospect this little gem radiates like a sapphire and gives me such feeling that somewhat a giant is waiting to be either conquered or explored beneath its threshold.

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