Backpacking Eastern Panay Island: Isla de Gigantes

My newly found friend, Mac and I went to Estancia, Iloilo for a boat ride going to Isla de Gigantes after we went to Santa Monica Parochial Church in Panay, Capiz, Philippines. We had not have the chance to take breakfast that day as we thought we could grab something to eat in Santa Monica.

We rode a non-airconditioned Ceres Bus Liner going to Estancia. We left Roxas City Integrated Transport Terminal at around 7:00AM and arrived in Estancia, Iloilo at around 10:00AM. On our way, just a town before Estancia is the town of Balasan where we had a short stop in a terminal. As we are very hungry, I bought a local bibingka or rice cake. It is sold per pack for Php20.00 and there are 4 pieces of small bibingka. If you have tasted the bibingka sold in malls by Bibingkinitan and thought it was the best tasting bibingka in the country ever, wait till you taste the bibingka in Balasan. I was really happy to have tasted their bibingka. I was not aware that this is highly recommended by most bloggers to taste until I went back to Manila and search for it.

Balasan bibingkas are sold in 4-piece pack for only Php20.00.

Balasan bibingkas are sold in 4-piece pack for only Php20.00.

Balasan, Iloilo Bibingka

The mouth-watering Balasan bibingkas in Iloilo. A must-try for travelers.

From the bus terminal in Estancia, we took our brunch at the nearby carinderia or eatery. The attendant at the eatery assisted us in getting a tricycle to take us to the Port of Estancia where passenger slash cargo motor boats are stationed. We’ve been told that the motor boat will leave at 12:00PM but we leave at around 1:00PM. We arrive in Arjan Beach Resort, Isla de Gigantes Norte at around 3:00PM. Please read my review on our stay and experience with Arjan Beach Resort and what resort I recommend based on the feedback of their guest and personal experience with them.

When we arrived at the port of Estancia, we immediately registered in Passenger Terminal. We were asked by the attendant which motor boat should we ride. We told the attendant that we are going to Rosewood Resort. At that time, I thought that Rosewood Resort is located in Isla de Gigantes Norte based on what I have read online. So I told the attendant that we are going to Isla de Gigantes Norte. She told us that the motor boat traveling to Isla de Gigantes Norte is owned by Arjan Beach Resort. When I check the log sheet, I found 2 travelers from Taguig City, Metro Manila. I told Mac that we will just ride that motor boat and we will make friends with the 2 travelers.

Estancia Bus Terminal

Bus terminal in Estancia.

Eateries at Estancia Bus Terminal

Eateries or carenderias at Estancia bus terminal.

Port of Estancia

Port of Estancia marker. The motor boat docking station is just right beside it.

Passenger Terminal at Port of Estancia

Passenger terminal at Port of Estancia. Passengers can stay here while waiting to board their motor boat.

We were at the passenger boat at around 11:30AM and waiting for the boat to leave the port. However, unloading and loading of cargoes are not done yet. I spotted 2 travelers in the boat and I can tell that these 2 travelers are the travelers from Taguig City. I initiated a conversation with them and asked them where are they staying in the island. We learned that they are married couples, their names are Emil and Paula. They told us that they are staying in Antonia Beach Resort. I recommended Rosewood Resort as they offer affordable accommodation. They told us that they had already made an arrangement but still open for possibilities. During our travel, the conductor of the passenger slash cargo boat told us that we might be interested to stay in Arjan Beach Resort. He said that if we have not booked our accommodation yet, we should see it ourselves and then decide. We agreed and later on we stayed in Arjan Beach Resort. More of Arjan Beach Resort on my review.

Meeting new friends! Groupie with Emil, Paula and Mac. Photo grabbed from Paula's Facebook.

Meeting new friends! Groupie with Emil, Paula and Mac. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

Another groupie!

Another groupie!

Upon arrival were offered an island tour while preparing our dinner. We hired the habal-habal that drove us from the dock to the resort. The roads in the island are already paved but only motorbikes can pass through as the width is just about 2 to 3 meters. I was surprised to learn that there are many people living there. They have schools for primary and secondary in both main islands. Only Isla de Gigantes Norte have electricity but it is only until 11:00PM. However, major resorts / accommodation have power generators that they used for the convenience of its guests.

Our island tour comprises of driving around the island, visiting the Bakwitan Cave, photo opportunities in the lighthouse and tasting the spring water in the area. Residents in Isla de Gigantes Sur get their drinking water from here for a small fee of Php1.00 per container.

Our tour guides / habal-habal drivers in the island. Photo grabbed from Paula's Facebook.

Our tour guides / habal-habal drivers in the island. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

Bakwitan Cave. Photo grabbed from Paula Facebook.

Photo opportunity at the Bakwitan Cave. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

The free area where residents can get spring water for drinking.

The free area where residents can get spring water for drinking. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

Close up look of the spring water source.

Close up look of the spring water source. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

Lighthouse in Isla de Gigantes Norte. This is part of the island tour.

Lighthouse in Isla de Gigantes Norte. This is part of the island tour.

Emil with local children selling souvenirs made from seashells. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

Emil with local children selling souvenirs made from seashells. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

After our island tour we went back to our accommodation and took our dinner. While Mac, Emil and Paula went to our air-conditioned room, I stayed couple of hours in the cottage while enjoying the cold breeze. I told them that I will sleep in the cottage but I could not stand the cold and insects outside so I decided to sleep in our room. The reason mainly is that I snore a lot when I am tired and I do not want to make them uncomfortable– laughs!

Cottages in Arjan Beach Resort where we took our meals. This is also a good place to enjoy the sea breeze and go online where you can get a good cellular signal. Photo grabbed from Paula's Facebook.

Cottages in Arjan Beach Resort where we took our meals. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

Meals that were served during our stay in Arjan Beach Resort. Photo grabbed from Paula's Facebook.

Meals that were served during our stay in Arjan Beach Resort. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

The next morning, as storm Egay approaches Cagayan and Isabela in northern Luzon, the waves in Isla de Gigantes becomes unfavorable. We waited until the sun shines and the wind blows softly before we went for island hopping.

It was really a rough ride going to Antonia Beach Resort in Cabugao Gamay, which is part of Isla Gigante Sur. Our boatmen decided not to proceed with the other islands as the waves are high. They said that there is a big chance that our boat will be capsized. Although there is one boat from another resort who went to different islands. We could understand their fears and as a group we have decided to just enjoy our stay in Antonia Beach Resort.

This is where we met newly wed couples from Iloilo. I initially started a conversation with the lady by asking if they will proceed to other islands including the Tangke Lagoon. They also decided not proceed with island hopping.

The very optimistic group readying for island hopping. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

The very optimistic group readying for island hopping. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

The wind blows so hard at Antonia Beach Resort in Cabugao Gamay.

The wind blows so hard at Antonia Beach Resort in Cabugao Gamay, Isla de Gigantes Sur.

After few minutes, we headed back to our accommodation. This time around, the wind blows too hard that water gets to our boat. This has resulted to my non-waterproofed digital camera unusable. I even turned it off and wrapped it in a plastic but failed to remove the battery. As we sails back to our accommodation, it suddenly turned on and it was too late when I noticed it.

There is not much to do in Arjan Beach Resort other that enjoying the sea breeze, surf the internet, taking selfies and eat! Although we can walk around, we decided to just stay in the resort. The next day, we received a news that there is a passenger boat going to the main island. We hurried to the docking station and waited for the boat coming from the other island. We then learned that the boat was hired by Hideaway Tourist Inn and that their guests are the priority.

The boat is overloaded with passenger and some cargoes. Our group decided to just stay in the accommodation near the docking station. It was being managed by Estrella Tiples. They also own a passenger-cargo motor boat. According to her, they are the only accommodation / resort in the whole Isla de Gigantes who are registered in the government. This may be the case, their resort is less appealing compared to other accommodation / resort in the area due to typhoon Yolanda. Because we were pissed with the poor service and inconsiderate owner of Arjan Beach Resort, we decided to stay in one of their nipa huts.

Our nipa hut at Ate Estrella's accommodation.

Our nipa hut at Ate Estrella’s accommodation for an overnight stay. They also own a passenger-cargo motor banca called “Gerell”.

Celebrating Paula's birthday. Thanks to Mcs brilliant idea.

Celebrating Paula’s birthday. Thanks to Mac’s brilliant idea!

Earlier that day while we were waiting for the motor boat going to the mainland, which went back to Isla Gigantes because of high waves, we met the newlywed couples again. This time, Emil had a long conversation with the guy. We learned that the couples’ names are Michael John and Angel Rose. Michael invited us for a get-together dinner at their accommodation in Hideaway Tourist Inn. Since we have nothing to do for the rest of the day, we decided to go to their place.

We first stayed in a place where they called “call center” because this is the place where you can get a very good cellular signal. We ordered a pancit canton in one of the sari-sari store in the area and have it cooked for us. Few minutes after, Paula and Emil need to go back to our accommodation. Mac and I headed to Michael John and Angel Rose’s accommodation. We have chatted for couple of hours telling stories about our adventures. Few more minutes, Emil and Paula arrived.

Killing time in one of sari-sari stores near Hideaway Tourist Inn. Photo grabbed from Paula's Facebook.

Killing time in one of sari-sari stores near Hideaway Tourist Inn. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

While waiting for our pancit canton to be served. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

While waiting for our pancit canton to be served. Photo grabbed from Paula’s Facebook.

The dinner was served at around 7:00PM. We had bountiful dinner and enjoyed the conversation over meals. Michael asked his guide if we can use one of their videoke. We were all surprised that the owner of the resort / accommodation has allowed us to use it for free and the couples was just asked to pay for an extra Php300.00 for bountiful dinner that was served to us. I have no words but wonderful things to say to Hideaway Tourist Inn services and warm hospitality. Be sure to read my review on Arjan Beach Resort and my recommendation on where to stay in Isla de Gigantes.

Mike and Angels accommodation in Hideaway Tourist Inn. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

Mike and Angels accommodation in Hideaway Tourist Inn. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

Dinner as hosted by Mike and Angel at Hideaway Tourist Inn. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

Dinner as hosted by Mike and Angel at Hideaway Tourist Inn. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

Amidst by not-so-perfect travel brought about by typhoon Egay is a new friendship that was formed. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

Amidst by not-so-perfect travel brought about by typhoon Egay is a new friendship that was formed. Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

Dinner hosted by lovely and generous couple from Iloilo--Mike and Angel. Thank you for having us! Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

Dinner hosted by lovely and generous couple from Iloilo–Mike and Angel. Thank you for having us! Photo grabbed from Paulas Facebook.

The next morning, we boarded the passenger-cargo motor boat going to the main island. The waves were still high and we literally praying for our safety. There were times that our boat will ride big waves and drop us, it was really an intense experience. Our worries increased when our outrigger broke. We were asked to stay in our place and not to panic. With the help of God and a skillful captain, we safely reached the main island.

Read my blog about the accident by a group of six people where their motor boat was capsized in the middle of the ocean on their way to Isla de Gigantes Norte.

To give you an idea how strong the winds were in Isla de Gigantes, here is quick video I took in Antonia Beach Resort in Cabugao Gamay, Isla de Gigantes Sur.

For travel itinerary, please click here.

For travel expenses, please click here.

This is one of the destinations of my BORACAYKALIBOROXASCARLES, ILOILOILOILO CITYGUIMARAS trip with travel dates from 30th of June, 2015 to 8th of July, 2015.

By | 2017-02-26T12:27:27+00:00 November 5th, 2015|Local Travels|0 Comments

About the Author:

Elpi Garcia is a travel enthusiast who go for an adventure whenever his budget and time allow it. He is more into sight seeing for a nature-packed experience and city / town tour to understand the history and culture of the places he visit. Aside from travel, he is also interested in alternative medicine, business opportunities, website design and information technology. He maintains websites related to alternative medicine, business opportunities like eLoad Matrix and Payday Loan; and website design services.

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