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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Of Fireflies Night and Quaint Vibe of Mararison Island | Antique



Memories of my first visit to Mararison Island played vividly on my mind as we approach it aboard a motorized boat from the port of Culasi. I could still perceive the angelic voice of the Mararison Children's choir belting out a harmonious Kinaray—a traditional welcoming song. Known all over Antique province where they perform frequently in numerous revelries, its members whose age ranges from 6 to 13 thirteen years old has become the island’s cultural ambassadors. It was more than a year ago when I first heard them croon. One and a half lap around the sun later, I find myself en route back to Mararison—not only to listen again to the youngsters’ divine voices but also to embrace the enthralling setting of Mararison.


Home Sweet Stay

Arresting my attention as we cruise over the calm waters are the island’s emerald-colored rolling hills facing east and the sandbar that is shaped like a head of a sickle. The moment our boat docked, I immediately planted my feet on the soft sands under the knee-deep sea water. Instantly, I sensed the urge to dip my whole body. I would have done so if not for the setting sun glistening the sky with fiery colors and is about to bite into the remaining daylight.

The Mararison Children's Choir pictured here during my first visit in 2016
Let’s head to our lodgings on the other side of the island, we can visit the sandbar tomorrow” our guide told us. We boarded our boat again and cruised to the part of the island facing west and the waters of Sulu Sea. Living up to the island's rustic sense are the absence of high-end resorts. To retain its authentic feel, 41 of the more than 140 households in Mararison were accredited and trained for homestay accommodation.

the rocky shore fronting Enrique de Mararison becomes a perfect breakfast spot on low tide mornings
We stayed at Enrique de Mararison—the island's lone resort which appear as a commonplace abode that blends flawlessly with the island atmosphere. We also met its owner Mr. Enrique, who left a high paying job in the airline industry in order to come back to his island of birth. “I wanted to plant my root permanently here and also to help the community in advocating for sustainable tourism in the island”, he tells us.

Night of the Fireflies

Minus a mobile signal which turned out to be a blessing as we felt the quaint aura of Mararison more. Erica, Karla and I laid over a mat under this peculiar tree which the locals refer to as the ‘firefly tree’. Every night hundreds of fireflies gather around it. The dark evening sky illuminated only by scattered stars provided a surreal setting, as we stared at the fireflies hovering above us—their hasty movements leaving magnificent trails of radiance.

We were also kept company by the island dogs
That first nightfall we had on the island of Mararison comprising of animated conversations and unperturbed existence is now categorized in my memory vault as the ‘night of the fireflies’.

Pitcher (Plant) Perfect Hills

Mararison Island spread out like a shape of a hook covering an expanse of 55-hectares. A great part of it is composed of rolling hills that rises to Lantawan, a peak of a few hundred feet—where one stands to a jaw-dropping view of the Sulu Sea, Panay mainland and Mararison’s sibling islands: Batbatan and Maniguin. The three islands according to a local legend, are the children of Mount Kanlaon in Negros and Mount Madjaas in Panay.

Pitcher Plants abound in Mararison
The short trail to the waving hilltops is endowed with a lush grassy knoll hiding an abundance of pitcher plants commonly found in the deep forest of Antique. This carnivorous plant species feasting on insects is characterized by its long elongated leaves shaped like a water pitcher. It has a round opening on top functioning as pitfall traps that nabs insects deep into the leaf’s cavity filled with digestive fluid. 

Karla of Karla Around the World
Sweeping landscape
From a night of fireflies to a morning of magnificent sun rising, our second day at Mararison Island already gifted me with yet another reason to go back. Afterward, as we were enjoying a short swim at the island's western shore facing Sulu Sea and nearby Nablag Islet, we witnessed a few local fishermen doing spear fishing. “C’mon, try it” one of them said to us in Tagalog.

Erica Villa of Girl Unspotted
As Karla and Erica took turns, I floated with my back on the water staring at the sky. One of the fishermen pulled me and told me in Tagalog “look at the coral, it’s starting to become alive again”. He explained to me how illegal fishing practices like the use dynamite damaged the coral reef a long time ago. But now, he tells me “i-ingatan na namin ito” (“we will now take care of this”).


I couldn’t be gladder at what I heard from him. Knowing how the locals are now committed to taking care of their island home, I can only make a plea to future visitors of the island of Mararison to do the same.

*For a no-hassle tour to Mararison Island, please contact Katahum Tours to ensure proper correspondence with the local community. 

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