Experience Antique: Guide to 7 adventures from the mountains to the sea
The province of Antique has often been eclipsed by its more popular neighbors. When tourists go to Panay Island, they would inevitably choose Aklan for the beaches, Iloilo for the churches, and Capiz for the seafood (and the largest church bell in Asia).
What most tourists don’t know is that there are many things to do in Antique; nature lovers can spend days there basking in pristine beaches and less populated tourist spots – including a cluster of rice terraces that had previously been hidden for years from outsiders – and lots of water sports for all ages.
If you have a few days to explore Antique, choose from any of these activities.
Hike to the Hidden Rice Terraces (San Remigio, Antique)
Did you know that Antique has its own rice terraces? Located in San Remigio, it was “discovered” by University of the Philippines-Visayas instructor Emmanuel Lerona, in 2014.
Lerona had been looking at Google Maps of the area and found what he suspected to be some terraces. After months of trying to find someone who knew where the terraces were, Lerona, with the help of Flord Calawag, owner of Tibiao-based Katahum Tours, established contact with the Iraynon Bukidnon community in the area.
The hike up to Brgy. Gen. Fullon in San Remigio takes approximately 3.5 to 4 hours, at a relatively brisk pace. The first part of the trek is an easy uphill walk through rice fields and rivers, but the latter part consists of trails that go up and down the mountains.
When you arrive there, head off the fatigue and ask the guide to take you not only to the viewpoint where you can see the best of the rice terraces, but also to some of the waterfalls, including Kawa-kawa.
If you’re lucky, you can also see a Rafflesia in bloom, too, considered the biggest flower in the world. Just ask your guide to show you where the “stinky” flower is! If you can’t find one in bloom (they die 3-5 days after blooming), you can try to find more Rafflesia in Brgy. Aningalan, just ask tourism officer Charity Sanchez at (+63 908) 566-3379.
Where to stay: There are homestays in Brgy. Gen. Fullon. To arrange for a guide, food, and accommodation, contact KatahumToursAntique@gmail.com. They have a good hilot there, too, who does home service.
Free climb the karst cliffs at Igbaclag Cave (San Remigio, Antique)
Also in San Remigio, you can find the Igbaclag Cave, a karst cave that invites free climbing up to the peak. The climb is not for the faint of heart; there are no ropes and no harnesses in place. All that’s needed is a lot of guts and steady footing. The view from the top is very much worth any scrapes you might get from the climb.
Igbaclag Cave is managed by the Aningalan community-based tourism organization.
Contact Charity Sanchez if you want to go there (+63 908) 566-3379.
Slide down the Igpasungaw waterfalls (Sebaste, Antique)
In the town of Sebaste, you can find the beautiful Igpasungaw Waterfalls, less than an hour’s trek from the poblacion. The trail is wide and well-established, and the pace easy. There are a few log bridges to cross, but otherwise, it’s a straightforward walk.
The main falls of Igpasungaw has a pool around two meters deep, but there are more than nine cascades to try out. In some of them, you can even slide down the rock to the pools.
To visit, contact tourism officer Jessie Estolloso, (+63 912) 498-8994.
Go whitewater river kayaking at Tibiao River (Tibiao, Antique)
I have gone kayaking in Puerto Galera and Palawan, but whitewater river kayaking is a completely different experience. Tribal Adventures offers such an opportunity along Tibiao River, at different grades of difficulty.
From Kayak Inn, you walk a few hundred meters upstream to where the river is calm. You will be taught how to paddle there, and you will quickly learn the difference between sea kayaking and whitewater river kayaking. Afterwards, on you go to take on the rapids and navigate between boulders.
Where to stay: Contact Kayak Inn in Tibiao at email@example.com.
Enjoy stand-up paddleboarding at Bugang River (Pandan, Antique)
In the municipality of Pandan, you will find Bugang River, a Hall of Famer for the cleanest river in the Philippines. It is wide and long, and the water is fairly flat with not much current.
You can go kayaking at Naranjo Water Park (without the rapids), as well as experience stand-up paddle-boarding, paddle-boating, and river cruising. After you’ve burned off a few hundred calories, have lunch at the water park’s restaurant. There’s crocodile and ostrich meat for the adventurous palate.
If you don't want to swim in the river but want to cool off, head to the Malumpati health spring. The water is cool and there are huts available for rent.
Where to stay: Pandan Beach Resort, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hear the children sing at Mararison Island (Culasi, Antique)
Called either Mararison or Malalison, this hook-shaped island has gained popularity in the past couple of years. When I first went there in early 2014, there were only a couple of homestays and hiring a boat was done through local contacts. There wasn’t even a pier in the mainland.
Nowadays, the Culasi local tourism has an office across the road from the pier, and the process for visitors has been systematized. From just a couple of homestays, there are now 41 households accepting guests. The schoolchildren have formed a choir too, serenading visitors with popular songs and locally-translated ditties every weekend or when they don’t have classes.
While it’s hard to believe how quickly Mararison has become popular among local and foreign beach-loving tourists, it’s very much understandable. Its selling points – the white sand beaches, hook-shaped sandbar, the short climb up a hill that provides killer views of the coastline and the rolling hills, and the hundreds of pitcher plants of varying sizes lining the trail – all make sure guests would want to go back there again and again.
Where to stay: Arjee’s Homestay (+63 915) 308-3111, Sally’s Balay Darayunan (+63 909) 841-0185, or ask at the tourism office. For those who would like to stay overnight in Culasi, stay at Anna Sophie Hostel, (+63 920) 476-2508.
Go kite surfing in Seco Island (Tibiao, Antique)
Named after the Kinaray, a word for ‘elbow’ because of its shape, Seco is an uninhabited island that’s also steadily gaining popularity. It’s not huge; at only 1.5 km long, its main attraction is its beaches and clear blue water.
A small reef atoll, Seco Island is a Marine Protected Area. It is actually Tibiao’s biggest marine resource and fish breeding ground. Aside from swimming (snorkeling isn’t good here), it is mostly popular for kite surfing, with most kite surfers coming from Boracay.
The biggest challenge about Seco Island is that it’s a bit hard to get to. Travel by big boats takes 2.5 to 3 hours, and there are no facilities on the island. There’s a small hut (basically just a roof, no walls) and nothing else.
Where to stay: For tours to Seco Island and for accommodation in Tibiao, contact Kawa Inn at (+63 917) 450-3121. They also have kawa bath and fish spa available.
Antique is indeed gearing up to be the ecotourism destination in the region. Visit now while it’s still not overrun by tourists.
Aleah Taboclaon is the travel blogger behind SolitaryWanderer.com. She loves being location independent and funds her travels with freelance editing and writing work. Aleah has been to 25 countries in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.