Carles, Iloilo--When travelling to Panay Island in the Visayas region, the first travel destination that will come to mind is Boracay Island, the most popular beach and travel destination in the Philippines. But a few kilomiters from Aklan, somewhere off the cost of Iloilo is a hidden, pristine, and unspoiled group of islands called Isla De Gigantes, or Gigantes/Higantes Island.
I first learned about the islands and islets of Gigantes Sur and Gigantes Norte, collectively known as Islas de Gigantes, when someone asked me if i wanted to go to Roxas. I said something like, "Sure, why not? What is there to see in Roxas?" This someone said, "go google 'Estancia.'" I did and, several keywords and links after, Google images of sugary white sand, azure waters, and breathtaking landscapes popped up.
Islas De Gigantes is actually part of Carles, Iloilo but Estancia, which is around two hours away via public bus transport from Roxas City, Capiz, is the jump-off point going to the islands.
According to our guide, the island was named Gigantes or Higantes Island due to some stories that "giants" once lived on the islands. This is most likely untrue (just a story that guides from Gigantes Hideaway tell their guests for entertainment) but the inn where I stayed at actually has an unusually large coffin on display which, I was told, was found inside the caves of the Gigantes Norte. And whether or not the stories are true, the enormous thing on display does looks like a coffin fit for a giant. According to local folklore, the giants who once inhabited the island were destroying the environment that a fairy (diwata) or some other mythical being cursed them and prophesied that the next generation of the island's inhabitants or their descendants will no longer be of great size and force. Since then, all that can be seen on Gigantes island are people with normal or average human height. Yippee!
Gigantes Hideaway was fully booked on my first night so I had to camp out, but I did get a room the following morning. Electricity in the island is limited and there is no phone signal. But If you want a place to relax at, away from other tourists, like if you literally want to get away from it all, Gigantes Island is for you. There is no nightlife. No TV. Food is mostly seafood. This island is also the scallop capital of the Philippines. If you don’t know scallop, look at the shell logo – that is scallop. But besides scallop, the island is also rich in other sea life and thus offer a variety of seafood that comes fresh from the sea surrounding the island.
Aside from the must do swimming, snorkeling, walking or bumming on powdery white sand beaches, there are lots of things one can do while on Isla De Gigantes. You can climb on top of a lighthouse, take a dip on a hidden lagoon, or crawl, walk, climb, and do all sorts of maneuver inside a cave.
Below is my itinerary, I will write an article for each of the places I have visited on Isla De Gigantes.
If you are planning to go to Isla De Gigantes, make sure to allot at least three days for the travel. Two days will be consumed by the actual travel, and one night to explore Gigantes Island. I would recommended though that you stay at least 3 days and 2 nights to be able to relax and fully enjoy the beauty of the islands.
Day 1 –
5:20 AM - Flight to Roxas City
6:30 AM – Arrival to Roxas, quick snack. Take a tricyle to Ceres bus station
7:30 AM – Board bus bound to Estancia Iloilo
9:30 AM – Arrival to Ceres Bus Station Estancia / bathroom break / stretch
*Take a trike going to Paon Beach Club*
9:45 AM – Paon Beach Club – Lunch, relax, picture taking
12:30 PM – Leave Paon Beach Club, take tricycle going to Estancia Port
12:45 Pm – Arrive at Estancia Port, buy supplies, snacks, medicines, toiletries. Water is provided by the resort, no need to buy mineral or bottled water
1:00 PM- 2:00 Pm – Boarding – St. Michael’s passenger ferry. Located at the right side of the Estancia Port
2:00 PM – Depart estancia Port – only one schedule per day. Make sure to be at the port before 2:00 PM
4:00 PM – Arrival at Gigantes Norte. Take habal habal going to Gigantes Island Hideaway (only resort in the island. Note the resort is not beachfront (sort-off).
Day 2 –
7:00 8:00 AM – Breakfast
12 PM – Travel and explore Pawikan Cave
3PM – Swimming, island and beach bumming
6:00 Pm – Return to the Inn
5:00 Am – Wake up
5:30 Am – Exercise, walking galore going to lighthouse
6:30 Am – arrival at the lighthouse in Brgy Asluman, Gigantes Norte / photo –op (should only be 20 mins walking, but we are so damn slow!!)
7:30 Am – walk back to Inn
8:30 AM – breakfast
10:00 AM – start of island hopping
11:00 AM – Tangke Lagoon
12:30 Am – Cabugao Gamay Island - lunch
2:00 Pm – Bantigue Sandbar- beach bumming
3:30 PM – Antonia – swim with the fishes snorkeling
5:00 PM – return to Inn
6:00 Am – sunrise watching
7:00 Am – breakfast
8:30 – check out Inn
9:00 Am – Board St. Michaels for Estancia – only one service boat
11:00 Am – Arrive port of estancia, take tricyle going to Ceres Bus station
11:30 Am – board bus going to Iloilo
2:30 Pm- arrive at Iloilo / have lunch
3:00 Pm – Iloilo Church tour (Molo, Jaro, Miagao)
6:00 Pm – travel to airport
7:00 Pm – check in
8:30 Pm – flight to manila
How to get there:
2 ways to reach Gigantes Island from Manila – via Iloilo or Roxas.
If you choose Roxas City ( I did), take the earliest flight and note that you need to allot at least
2 hours to reach Estancia via Ceres Liner bus ride.
Upon reaching Ceres Bus Station Estancia, you can go directly to Estacia Port by taking a tricycle ride, or you can rest a bit(bathroom/snack/lunch break) at Paon Beach Club also by taking a tricycle ride before heading to Estancia Port via another trike ride.
Now if coming from Iloilo City, take the Ceres Liner bus to Estancia at the Tagbak Bus Terminal in Jaro District. This will probably take around 4 hours of travel which is the main reason I chose Roxas City.
Remember, there is only one service ferry scheduled for Gigantes Island and that is at 2pm.
You need to be at Estancia Port before 2PM.
Isla de Gigantes Inn
Isla De Gigantes Inn will provide accommodations at P200/head per night. Fan room only and they don't have airconditioned room. Electricity runs from 3:00pm-12:00 midnight only. The inn will turn on their generator at 12mn-6:00am.
The inn can provide lighthouse, cave, and island hopping tours. You can also request for your meals through them. They will only charge for the market cost of the ingredients. Cooking charges is on-tip basis (when you checked-out).
Also, when you arrived at the Inn, they will assign (1) one exclusive tour guide for your group who will accompany, assist, take pictures, prepare meals for you, etc. Romnick was our tour guide. If ever you get a chance to visit, please tell Joel that you are requesting for Romnick as a guide. We had so much fun with his company. He takes good pictures, he is (unintentionally) funny, and took care of us during our stay. Tell him the "two pretty ladies from Manila" said Hi:)
Enjoy the trip!