The Western Visayas is primarily known as the hopping off point to Boracay. That island of squeaking white sand, indulgence and sin. This however, was an island I knew nothing about. Luckily, I had a good friend, Melasel, I’d grown to know on Panglao who called it her home. I flew into Iloilo, her hometown to reunite, but it wasn’t long before the adventure began.
Heading straight for the docks, we caught a ferry over to Bacolod for the night. Masskara festival would be in full swing in a few hours. The streets became filled with people, stalls, food and drink. Exaggerated masks and flamboyant costumes paraded down the streets. We made our way to one of the many stages around the area to a performance that lasted long into the night. As little as I know about the Masskara festival, it was a night to remember through the fog of copious amounts of Red Horse.
Too early of a wakeup call and back to the ferry to Western Visayas to really get off the beaten path. Tibiao bound to her Auntie’s home. Following the coast to the western side of the island it was a long day of rough roads. Settling in to a home cooked Filipino meal and a walk around the neighbourhood, it wasn’t long before I found my way back to bed.
An extended day in transit is best followed by a day of utter relaxation. Just off the coast sits Malilison Island. Quaint and absolutely stunning scenery for such a small outcrop of land. Primarily visited by local day trippers, only a 15 minute boat ride, it was a quiet haven. An oasis on the side of paradise. No internet and power limited to a few hours a day, it was an escape from today’s world. We set up shop in a beach hut and watched time slip away.
5 am, the sky was just starting to brighten. Our local guide came knocking for a short sunrise hike to the top of the island. The views were nothing short of amazing as the sun breached the horizon. In a mere couple hours we had traversed this island gem and were on our way back to the mainland.
This time headed inland, into the lush mountains that rose up away from the coast. I wasn’t sure where she was taking me. She mentioned ‘kawa’, but to my knowledge that could mean sacrificial ceremony and to be honest it almost looked like it. Luckily, it was more of a spa. A large cauldron of sorts, filled with herbal infused water and heated by fire underneath. A tropical hot tub sounded good any day of the week, especially after a waterfall trek.
While our kawa was prepared, we hiked up to Bugtong Bato waterfall. Three tiers of fast flowing water and one of the largest I had the joy of swimming under. Walking back to Blue Kawa, I couldn’t wait to submerge myself in this herbal bath. Perfect bath temperature, it wasn’t long before I nodded off with the scent of lemongrass and flowers. Waking with that surreal feeling of not quite knowing where I was, we made our way back to her Auntie’s home. Another home cooked meal before a very late or early (depending on how you look at it), bus back to Iloilo for my last day on Western Visayas.
Knowing I wanted a tattoo that I meant to get my first time in the Philippines, Melasel set me up with an artist in Iloilo. A small ‘shop’ or actually the living room of his house, he got the ink and gun ready. A short job after translating a word from English to Tagalog to Alibata, the old script of the Philippines, I walked away with the thrill of fresh ink. Tattoos definitely are addicting and I’ve been hooked on getting them as I travel.
With an afternoon to kill, we jumped on a jeepney and headed for Miagao. I figured I couldn’t be this close to a UNESCO site and not check it out. One of four of the Baroque style churches throughout the country. It was a building of architectural magnificence.
Sadly, my time here was coming to an end. It was incredible to have such an amazing local experience. Before I had to make my way to the airport, I was invited to a family dinner and birthday celebration, driving home the point of how unbelievable the Filipino hospitality really was. I hope only to return to Iloilo again soon to visit. Thanks for everything Melasel!
Have you ever been to the Western Visayas?