From the southwest of Guimaras, we were to travel up to its northernmost tip to visit a church that is reputedly the oldest in the island. Along the way though, we would pass by the provincial capital of Jordan to look around and possibly buy more stuff that catches our fancy.
I’m not an expert on the topography of Guimaras, but from what I observed, it seemed like the town of Jordan is either on a very expansive plateau, or the entire island is. Every now and then, the road would find itself near the edge of the cliff and you would see the distant shore from a high vantage point, just like this one:
Anyway, Jordan. I couldn’t remember if we visited during the weekend, but I found Jordan to be a very sleepy provincial capital. Maybe it was because of the time of the day too (very early afternoon) and everybody was indoors. We went to this souvenir/gift shop located near the capitol to look around, but we found that most of the items sold there were also being sold in the Trappist monastery. So I didn’t see the need to buy more stuff from here. (Gracey might have bought some trinkets though.)
Even if you’ve never been to Guimaras and know next to nothing about it, surely you’ve at least heard about the fact that Guimaras produces the best mangoes in the Philippines, and probably the world. So we intended to buy some to see (and taste) for ourselves if this is true. Our tricycle driver knew just the place where we could buy them.
So we drove off towards some roadside stalls that sold a lot of fruits, but mostly mangoes. I was expecting this place to be packed by tourists. Luckily, there were very few, and the shopkeepers got to focus on us the entire time we were shopping.
The shopkeepers were very helpful to us tourists, telling us to buy the pre-ripe ones if we were going to transport the mangoes back to Manila. They also assisted us in buying the good ones from their own stock, educating us on how to spot a bump (not good), and differentiate it from a mere resin stain (okay). I guess they had the luxury of doing that because they had such a huge stockpile of mangoes. They could afford to tell us not to buy the mangoes of lesser quality from their stock and still make money.
As an added “service”, they even allowed us to do a taste test of a random mango from their stock. So yes, we bought a few kilos, which were packaged in their specially made boxes. As a “commission” to our tricycle driver for bringing us to their shop, they also gave him a couple of ripe mangoes. Later on, he also gave these same mangoes to us, telling us that he’s eaten all the mangoes he could eat in his lifetime that he’d rather give them away too.
With the mangoes purchased, it was time to proceed to our last destination for the day.
Earlier in the day, when we were still at the tourism booth being assisted by the provincial tourism officer, were were given some suggestions as to which spots we can visit in an 8-hour period. Most of the suggested spots were in the municipalities of Jordan and Nueva Valencia, with the sole exception being the Navalas Church in the municipality of Buenavista. The only reason why it was suggested to us is because I said that we wanted to also see some places of historical significance, and the Navalas Church seemed to be a good place for that.
There is scant historical record regarding this church, and whatever information on its past can be gleaned from the historical marker on its facade which indicates that it was built in 1880, making it the oldest stone building in the entire province. San Isidro Labrador was chosen as its patron saint. According to the municipal website, the honor of choosing the patron saint fell on Don Miguel Jayme and his wife, for being the primary benefactors of the church.
One thing unique about the Navalas Church is that it’s belfry. Instead of being attached to the church or erected nearby on its side, it actually serves as an entrance arch that leads into the front yard of the church.
While these pictures show Spanish-era masonry that give the impression that the church is well-preserved, they hide the unfortunate fact that same facade is probably the only thing left from the original structure. The rest of the church behind it is in many ways a modern structure that no longer has the original masonry.
A historical anecdote about the church relates that, similar to other old Philippine churches, their church bell was used to warn people of invading Muslim slave raiders. During one such raid, the this bell – measuring 1 meter in diameter and which was supposedly made of an alloy that included gold and silver – was taken as booty. However, the bell proved to be too heavy and was soon thrown away to the sea, in the vicinity of the Siete Pecados islet group, off the coast of Buenavista.
Barangay Navalas is quite far from the busy town center of Buenavista and the church itself is surrounded by agricultural land. Being near the coast, Navalas enjoys a fresh breeze and also is home to a lot of avian wildlife, most notably crows.
Speaking of crows, that was probably the first time I’ve seen a lot of crows in the wild anywhere in the Philippines. Prior to this, the last time I saw them was in the Blue Mountains in Australia (and I wasn’t even sure if they were really crows.) I also learned why the Tagalog name for crows is uwak. Apparently, the name is onomatopoeic, because the caw-ing of crows really sound like a distinct vocalization of the word “uwak”.
Barangay Navalas was our final stop in Guimaras, and from there, we made our way to the Jordan wharf for the trip back to Iloilo City. Like that morning but going the opposite direction, it didn’t take long for the Iloilo-bound boat to leave as there were still a lot of people going to Iloilo at past 4pm. There were still a couple of hours of daylight when we disembarked in Iloilo city, but we chose to just rest and take things easy on our final night in the city.
We actually missed our flight back to Manila the next day due to some unfortunate mistake, and had an excruciatingly hard time buying new tickets so we could leave that same day. It was a learning experience that I’d rather not go into in detail. But suffice to say, overall, it was the only stain in an otherwise well-planned and well-executed trip to Iloilo and Guimaras.
Iloilo and Guimaras have a lot more to offer than what we’ve seen so far. On my next trip, I’ll make it a point to visit the old churches on the southern half of the province, and staying longer in Guimaras is also worth planning.
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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)