We all woke up before the sunrise in order to give ourselves time to prepare for the day’s activities. While Gracey took another shower while waiting for breakfast, Richie and I got our cameras and took pictures of morning scenes at the nearest seaside. It was actually low tide and the water elevation was so low that one can literally walk towards a nearby rocky islet a kilometer away.
That morning, fishermen were hauling in their nets in the distance and bringing to shore the night’s catch. A pack of mangy island dogs were playfully running all around the exposed sea floor and occasionally tailing a fisherman, hoping to be rewarded with a few edible scraps. As I’m afraid of unfamiliar dogs, I wisely kept my distance, but they seemed indifferent to my presence.
There were signs of a drizzle the previous night while we slept. But by the time the sun rose, the skies were already clear and the day looked very promising. Richie had that smug “I told you so” look as we walked back to the resort to have breakfast.
BREAKFAST AND PREPARATION
Breakfast that morning was very Filipino. We were served fried rice, dried fish, fried eggs sunny side up, hotdogs, some vegetable soup (in the morning?) and 3-in-1 coffee. Again, this proved to be very filling and it was as if we weren’t fed at all the previous night. Some part of me was worrying that Joel might have overestimated our budget, but shelved that worry in some corner of my brain as I looked forward to an entire day of island-hopping.
While having breakfast, Joel was explaining to us the route that we would take, the estimated time we’d start and end, as well as where we’ll have lunch. Speaking of lunch, we’d be bringing packed lunch with us, so Ate Anggay was still busy in the kitchen preparing that for us. We were also introduced to Kuya Jingle, who was to be our boatman for the day.
Before long, we’ve changed into our island-hopping attire, we’ve waterproofed our cameras, and packed our lunch. We were ready to go island-hopping.
The route of our island-hopping trip would be from north to south, and then back to Barangay Asluman. So our first destination was the northernmost island in the Gigantes – Uaydahon Island. The video below shows the boat ride going to Uaydahon.
I was actually pointing to the wrong island in the video. Our destination is the one further in the horizon.
Uaydahon is a pleasant little island good for all-day beach bumming and snorkelling. It has a short stretch of white sand beach that’s big enough for a crowd of, say, 20 people; and the waters surrounding the island are teeming with corals where fishes abound. There are beach huts that could be rented for a minimal fee a short distance away from the shore. There’s also a little house that acts as an “administration office” of the caretaker, and it has an outdoor toilet that can be used by visitors.
Since this was just our first stop and we had to visit a number of other spots, we quickly did some snorkeling after taking some pictures. Before long, it was time to go.
BANTIGUE SAND BAR
We had to go southwards for our next destination which is the Bantigue Sand Bar. The sand bar is attached to Bantigue Island, in which a small fishing village is located. Once again, here’s a video (which I urge you to watch with the audio off.):
At the time of our arrival, it was high tide so most of the sandbar was submerged under a couple of feet of water, but its outline can easily be seen when observing it from the farthest end (which is above water).
Like most sand bars, its actual shape varies each day, depending on the tides and the sea current. Since it was still submerged and there wasn’t any form of shelter on the place we docked, we could do nothing more than take photos.
I tried to walk on the submerged part of the sandbar, but when it was already approaching knee-deep, I stopped because at that depth, even a moderate wave could make me lose balance and the current might bear me away.
After we were satisfied that we’ve taken all possible shots with our cameras, it was on to the next island, Cabugao Gamay, which was actually visible in the distance from the sand bar.
CABUGAO GAMAY ISLAND
The word gamay is Bisaya for “small”, so the literal translation of “Cabugao Gamay” is “small Cabugao”. Just a short distance away is Cabugao Dako (“big Cabugao”), but this latter one does not concern us.
Cabugao Gamay is the most charming little island you’ll ever come across in the Gigantes (or anywhere in the Philippines, for that matter.) It has a slightly elongated shape wherein one end is made up of rock formations, the other end is a forested hill, and right in between is a strip of white sand where a few coconut trees grow.
While one side of the island facing the open sea constantly comes in contact with the waves, the other side facing Gigantes Sur is much more tranquil, making it conducive for swimming. Fishermen frequently stop by this island to rest but they confine themselves to the more shaded areas near the forested hill. There is a caretaker who resides in the island and can be requested to pick fresh coconuts as refreshment for a minimal fee.
Aside from the caretaker and the fishermen, the island is also home to a small herd of goats and a few dogs. These two species share an uneasy side-by-side existence wherein the goats mind their own business and the dogs sometimes bully them whenever they feel like it. When we were there, we witnessed some hilarious interactions wherein two male goats would ceremoniously butt heads to settle who gets a scrap of food, only for the dog to crash the party and snatch the food away.
The water looked really inviting and the beach was a lot better than that of Uaydahon Island, but since we already took a dip there, we decided to do something different and went up the nearby rock formation in order to view the island in its entirety.
This is definitely my favorite island and I wish we spent more time here. But since we had an itinerary, we had to reluctantly proceed to the next stop, which is the island of Gigantes Sur.
TANGKE SALTWATER LAGOON
The main attraction of the Gigantes Islands is the Tangke Saltwater Lagoon. As I’ve explained in a previous entry, it appears like a closed pool, but its depth rises and falls with the tides due to an unseen access to the sea.
We were lucky that there were no other people yet when we arrived so we were able to take photos of the lagoon still looking pristine. A few minutes later, people began to arrive and boisterously take a dip in the water. We planned to also take a dip while we were there, but since it was already lunch time, we figured that we’d eat first.
This was harder than planned because there was a lack of flat space and shade in the vicinity of Tangke. So for a time, we ate lunch under the noontime sun (which thankfully hid under the clouds every now and then.) The food was a feast but it’s hard to appreciate any meal when one is in a state of discomfort (in this case, extreme heat) so I didn’t get to eat much.
There were already a lot of people in the lagoon by the time we took a dip, but that’s alright because there was enough room for everyone. It turns out, the lagoon is at its deepest at around noontime. During low tide, the water actually disappears and one can walk on the bed of the lagoon.
One thing that was particularly off-putting about Tangke was the presence of graffiti on the rock formations surrounding Tangke. Obviously, Filipinos in general still have to be thoroughly educated on how to properly appreciate nature and heritage. This is sadly a recurring theme in Gigantes, and it’s something that should appear on top of the list of ideas on how to make the islands more conducive to tourism.
Joel actually acts as a tourism officer for the Carles local government, and he’s told us about plans to clean up Tangke of all its graffiti in order to make it return to as pristine an appearance as possible. I could only hope that this really takes place.
We stayed for around an hour overall at Tangke. Half the day is over and it was time to proceed to another side of the island to start the second leg of our tour.
Next: Pawikan Cave
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This entry is part of the Iloilo & Guimaras series dated March 23-27, 2012:
1. Looking for Travel Buddies
2. Preview: Tangke Saltwater Lagoon
3. Las Islas de Gigantes (prologue)
4. Las Islas de Gigantes (morning)
5. Las Islas de Gigantes (afternoon)
6. Why are they called the “Gigantes Islands” anyway?
7. Gigantes Islands Sample Itinerary & Budget Estimate
8. Gigantes Islands Travel Guide
9. Las Islas de Gigantes (epilogue)
10. Back to the mainland, back to the city
11. Day Trip to Guimaras (morning)
12. Day Trip to Guimaras (afternoon)