In a country littered with thousands of islands, it is is no surprise that there are still several that are undiscovered and unspoiled. Malalison Island in Culasi, in the province of Antique, is one of those.
Unique from other island destinations, Malalison does not only offer huge stretches of white sand and sparkling seawater, it is even more hailed for its spectacular vast fields of greens. And for someone like me who loves the beach as much as the mountains, this was the perfect destination.
How to get there:
From Iloilo City, we had an early start at 3 AM. We went to the terminal in Molo to catch a van to Culasi, Antique. This wasn't a very good idea though. When we got to the terminal at 3:30 AM, the van was still empty and we were the first passengers on board. There were five of us, and the van could sit around 10 to 14 people. The driver waited for more passengers to arrive. We ended up leaving at 4:30 AM.
It was a 4 to 5 hour trip from Iloilo City to Antique. And it cost us Php 200 per person. The vans were comfortable and the driver was fairly accommodating. He made sure to drop us off the wharf area because he knew that we were not familiar with the place.
Upon arrival, we were asked to go to their tourism office to register our names and pay the following fees indicated in the photo below:
What I liked about their Tourism office was that the officials were polite and efficient. The office itself was clean and organized. The comfort rooms were well maintained and the place was not crowded, unlike other tourist destinations that I've been to in other parts of the Philippines. Their fees were also reasonable and affordable.
For this trip, we weren't planning on staying overnight. So, these were the only fees that we paid for:
- Terminal Fee - Php 10.00 per person
- Environmental Fee - Php 20.00 per person
- Pump Boat (to take us to Malalison Island) - Php 750.00 for the whole boat
Culasi is a municipality of the Antique province, not far from its capital, San Jose de Buenavista. There were busy small stalls lined along the side of the park, where a lot of people were engaged in various trades.
It was a Sunday when we visited the place. The locals just got out of early morning church when we arrived. The park along the seaside were filled with people enjoying the beautiful day. From afar, we could see the famous Malalison Island.
The little that I got to see of the place was enough to impress me. The town was clearly not a very big one, but the people looked contended and happy. It was clean even if there was an empty carnival alongside the road.
Where to Eat:
I might not be the best judge on this topic because we didn't really get to spend a lot of time in Culasi. However, when we arrived, we had to eat breakfast before going to our final destination. The locals were pretty helpful in pointing us to the direction of the nearest place we could eat.
We ate at Food Trip. The dishes weren't astounding but really affordable. It was just the right kind of fuel that we needed to jumpstart our adventure for the day.
A 15-minute boat ride took us to the beautiful island of Malalison. It is home to a population of 700 people and 154 houses. Vulnerable to storms, the residents built jackstone-like stars around the area to keep the sand in place even during strong typhoons, like the most recent one, Yolanda or otherwise known as Typhoon Haiyan. It amazed me about how quick-thinking and creative the people were to adapt to the changes in their environment. They were able to ensure the safety of their lives, despite the circumstances of living practically in the middle of the sea.
We couldn't stop ourselves from taking a few pictures of the beautiful sand bar that stretched infinitely in front of us as we went down the boat.
The soft sand complimented the breathtaking view of the mountain backdrop. The clouds that kissed the tips told the story of the perfect marriage between land and sky. The weather made it look even more spectacular.
The first thing we did upon arrival was to hire a guide, who could take us to the top of the Malalison mountains. They charge at Php 250 per trip. Our guide was pretty helpful and had a really good eye for photography. Numerous TV shows have already featured the island. In fact, there was one famous host, who was there at the same time we were visiting as well. It felt amazing to finally be in one of those picturesque places that most could only be seen on television.
We started our trek slow. The trail was clear and pretty straightforward. Thankfully, we were all wearing our rubber shoes to aid us on this activity. We had no idea that we were in for such a treat in a few minutes.
It was a challenging mix of uphills and downhills as we made our ways to the top. One of my favorite parts was when we went past this place they fondly called as "Little Baguio". This was because of the huge pine trees that tastefully lined the path. Though, it was a smoldering hot day, the beautiful trees made it cool enough for us to comfortably follow our guide through the woods.
On our way up, there were several interesting things around. There were rocks piled up on the beach side. I wasn't able to ask the significance of these arrangements though, but I'm thinking that they have meanings because there were several piles around. Even at the top of the mountain, there were still these kinds of formations.
When we finally reached the near tops of the island's mountains, we were astounded to behold the sight before us. It's actually very difficult to put into words how beautiful the scenery was. It was an ultimate showcase of nature's best assets.
My favorite interesting find here is the Pitcher Plant. This is my first time to see an actual carnivorous plant in the Philippines. They were all around the area - big and small. They're known to eat different kinds of insects that fall trapped into the "pitcher"-like part. I wanted to see it in action but we were running on limited time. I had to content myself with just taking a few snapshots of these fascinating little things.
After around an hour of trekking, our eyes were filled with the most beautiful stretch of greenery we have ever beheld in our entire lives. The infinite fields of beauty spread out invitingly in front of us. We were all scrambling to get out our phones and capture the most awe-inspiring display of nature. No words can ever encapsulate how breathtaking it was. Dubbed as their "Little Batanes", it did not fail to knock us off our feet. Though, the sun was shining mercilessly down at us, we still felt like we had our own little slices of heaven.
After we had our fill of photographing every nook and cranny we could find from this view, we moved on to another peak with a different scene. Armed with our long dresses and rubbers shoes, we trekked in a more difficult trail. The path was filled with rocks, which made it harder to climb because of the lose soil. We had to be careful not to slide down as we made our way up. The tall grasses and malts made it challenging too, because they were gently scratching our legs and the tips of our dresses. However, every blister was worth it when we saw another spectacular play of hues of blues and greens.
We were supposed to check out the islet on the other side of the island, but we were all tired from the scorching heat of the sun and the grueling path to our previous stop. Because of this, we decided to snap a few shots of a closer view of the islet, and then head on back to the beach area.
It was supposed to be another 30-minute hike back to the beach area, but all of us were thirsty and hungry already. We decided to ride a small boat or bangka. It cost us Php 50 per person, but it was a fun thing to all squeeze in inside the small boat. The sea was very calm though, so we were back in our beach cottage in just a few minutes.
All of us were ravished with hunger and thirst by the time we got back to our Php-300 cottage. We had a good view of the sand bar, the beach, and the mountains from where we sat.
We were really happy with our lunch. The fish was grilled to perfection and was fresh to the crisp. It came from the local fishermen's fresh catch. The pork was cooked deliciously, as well. The rice served smelled amazing and we welcomed bottles and bottles of mineral water that were served. For all these, we only paid Php 670.
We concluded our trip with a few swigs of alcohol and a short swim in their beach. Collected our last fill of photos and cleaned ourselves with their Php25-gallon of water in their make-shift comfort rooms.
I have to commend the locals for being very friendly, extremely helpful, and enchantingly cheerful all the while that we were there. They were all used to having visitors in the island and they treated everyone equally, foreigners or not.
When the sun started to set, we packed up our things and made our way back to the boat that will take us back to Culasi. We had to catch the 5:00 PM trip back to Iloilo city.
All in all, it was a truly amazing experience. Being with equally adventurous people made the day even more fun. Our common need to freeze the memories through photographs made me enjoy everything even more.
Even if our time was spent more in enjoying the greenery, we still left the island with more love for nature,both the sea and the mountains. After these kinds of trips, my passion for taking part in protecting nature is even more ignited. Through sharing my dance with Mother Earth, I hope to inspire others to do their parts in preserving this beauty so that future generations will still be able to witness this brilliance. I am forever thankful to have been given this opportunity to see all these in my lifetime. And I hope to impart the same kind of love to everyone who gets to read my blog. 🙂