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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Standing on the Shoulders of Isla de Gigantes


A 3-hour sleep removed from walking on the rain drenched streets of Iloilo City, I found myself inside a van with a few friends heading to a group of scattered but positively raved Islas in the Western Visayas Sea. A few hours of land travel followed before I stood staring at the radiant skies above. To think, Mia was having doubts earlier in the evening of pushing through because of the bad weather in Iloilo - the sight that greeted us at the port of Carles screams of a setting perfect for romping over pure and glistening sands with a beer in hand.


Lunch in the Island Starring the 1-peso Scallop

We missed buying beer somewhere though – so we opted for bottles of Whiskey during the night. Earlier in the day, the shining morning sun guided us to the islands of Antonia Beach where we clambered over an edgy limestone cliff and witnessed a mini-sports fest participated by a group of youths on the beach.

Antonia Beach
Afterward, we sailed to the John Lennon of Islas de Gigantes; the Cabugao Gamay Island, where we feasted over a sumptuous lunch comprising of a plateful of scallops, the boomerang shaped Wasay-Wasay shells, and adobong pusit.   

Cabugao Gamay Island
City slickers us who are used to avoiding scallops because of its pricey reputation in big city restaurants, were exulted at the fact that scallops comes at 1-peso each on this part of the Philippines. Imagine the number of scallops a measly 100 peso would fetch? Yes, more than the required ration for five hungry people.

1-Peso Scallops. Local fishermen catches starting at 4-5 AM every day. 
We spent the next couple of hours at the island by lounging on a hammock and chilling under the coconut trees – in between dipping into the crystal clear waters.

Batman's Boomerang? Nah, it's Wasay-Wasay
The IG-Famous Spot

Although not as ecstatic-inducing as the Graffenberg Spot, the position atop a small hill at Cabugao Gamay is where most images of Gigantes islands seen on Instagram and Facebook, are photographed from.

The beautiful miss Aph Cruz of Las Islas Travel and Tours
Standing on this X-mark gives you a great perspective to frame the dual shoreline of the island, against its curving shape leading to the lush green portion of the island. Flanked by the deep blue-green colored sea and the stunning sunny skies, one instantly creates a postcard-like picture just by standing here and clicking the shutter button.

Night One at Gigantes Norte

With Mayan, Sam, Mia and her then boyfriend – an Australian dude whose name now escapes me – we all spent the night at Rosewood Place in Gigantes North. The biggest of all the island cluster in Gigantes, and is also where the 1895 Spanish built North Gigantes Island Lighthouse is located.


From the small port of Gigantes North we rode shotgun on a habal-habal (motorcycle) for each of us. Samantha was extra thrilled because it was the first time she’s been at the back of a motorbike in a Philippine province.

That night, we huddled ourselves over a few bottles of whiskey and an almost endless round of table discussions – where the Aussie boyfriend of Mia took the role of main conversationalist.


I retired early into our triple-bed room I shared with Mayan and Sam and slept soundly into the next beautiful day at the island.

Night Two at Cabugao Gamay

The next day, our party of five became one as I opted to stay an extra night while Sam, Mayan, Mia and Aussie dude went back to Iloilo. It so happened that miss Aph of Las Islas Travel and Tours is also heading to Cabugao Gamay with her group of clients. Arranging to rendezvous with her party, she ended up adopting me for another couple of days and I get to enjoy more feasts of scallops and wasay-wasay shells. That, plus enjoying her magical presence and fun company. 


I spent the next two days just chilling by the beach watching as the skies shift from bright to cloudy – since there is a strong typhoon passing by in the waters surrounding Panay Island.

Fortunately, other than a windy span lasting almost an hour in the afternoon, the weather settled back to summer mode even in the month of August.


The next morning we crossed over to Cabugao Daku – the island closest to Cabugao Gamay. We rested under a small nipa hut and enjoyed the more secluded vibe of the island. We also checked out the small but charming lone home-stay accommodation in the island as I made a mental note of staying here next time I return with a girlfriend. (Writer’s note: too bad miss Aph is already taken now).

Cabugao Daku
It was absolutely and most definitely, a wonderful way of spending a few days just amassing 25 billion ‘chill time’ just by staring at the beautiful boodeh of water and bounteous nature that exist all over the Gigantes group of islands. All that plus the company of two sets of friends; old and new alike. 

A Rare Travel Guide

What to Do:

Island Hopping

Gigantes Islands can be explored in a whole day but for those wanting to have more chill time at every island and beaches, then a two-day or even a three-day jaunt is advisable.

Rock Climbing – The view of the Islas de Gigantes becomes more impressive when seen from the top. Scrambling your way along the many towering limestone cliffs that dot the peninsula shall give you a magnificent scenery of the surrounding islands.


Easier routes are set up in place at Antonio Beach and Cabugao Gamay Island where most visitors can take a photograph; while a harder route in Gigantes Sur (referred to as the “Boulevard”) should require a bit of technical climbing prowess ascending up the steep and jagged trail that leads to a breathtaking 360-degree scenery of the whole Islas de Gigantes.

Other can’t-miss spots includes; the Tangke Saltwater Lagoon and the Bantigue Sandbar. Since we went there during the onset of the habagat season, entering the lagoon proved impossible because of the strong sea current.

Where to Stay:

Travelers can spend the night at Maruja’s Flora Island Paradise at Cabugao Gamay Island or pitch a tent at Antonia Beach. Other choices include a number of resorts located at Gigantes Norte such as the Rosewood Place and Arjay beach resort.

How to Get to Gigantes Islands:

Iloilo, Kalibo and Roxas City all provide bus and shuttle vans transportation to the municipality of Carles. Upon arriving at Carles port, make sure to visit the tourism office to pay for your environmental fee and arrange for your island hopping boats if you are traveling D-I-Y style.


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