La Paz Batchoy (Iloilo City, Iloilo)

Early in the morning of the next day, Easter Sunday, we departed Guimaras for Iloilo City, bringing along a memento of our Guimaras visit – a kaing (bamboo basket)  of delectable Guimaras mangoes.  We were dropped off at Plaza Libertad where we heard mass at the Church of St. Joseph.  

Dining on La Paz batchoy
Later, we were driven to SM Iloilo, in the city’s bustling commercial district, where we all had lunch at Teddy’s La Paz Batchoy. We each had a bowl of the famous La Paz batchoy, Iloilo City’s most popular dish  This soup is made with pork organs (liver, spleen, kidney and heart),  shrimp, vegetables, chicken stock, chicken breast, beef loin and round noodles with soy sauce added and topped crushed pork cracklings (chicharon) and leeks.   After this delicious repast, we still had time to visit the Amusement Center where Jandy and Cheska took a train ride.
Jandy and Cheska

The original SM Iloilo (opened on May 1979), located at the cor. of Delgado and Valeria St., was demolished on February 2, 2004 and a new building was build in the vicinity (inaugurated on December 8 that same year).  In 2007, an annex building was built to complete the shopping center’s redevelopment.

From SM Iloilo, we all left for our afternoon Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight back to Manila.

Daliran Cave and Roca Encantada (Buenavista, Guimaras)

Daliran Cave and Spring

Our next stopover (3:30 PM) was at the Villa Fe Summer Resort, in Brgy. Old Poblacion, Buenavista, a 5-min. hike from the wharf.  Frank and his family, together with a local guide, decided to go spelunking and explore the resort’s  Daliran Cave, the most accessible cave in Guimaras, and its cold fresh water spring and stalactites.  The rest, including me and my family, just waited outside.  Inside, they got down and dirty with guano (bat droppings) as they communed with its denizens of the dark.   Yuck!

Posing outside Roca Encantada

Our final sightseeing stop (5 PM) was Roca Encantada (Enchanted Rock), the summer vacation home of the Lopez family, one of the oldest grand clans of Iloilo and Guimaras. Emily Relucio Lopez was Guimaras’ first governor. We were allowed entry by the caretaker.

The grand balcony of Roca Encantada

The mansion, accessed by a long flight of stairs, was built in 1910 by Presentacion Hofilena-Lopez on a promontory on one of 7 picturesque rock islets of the Siete Pecados (Seven Sins) Islands, in Brgy. Getulio. From its grand, spacious and airy balcony, we got a panoramic view of the beachfront, the Iloilo Strait and the 6 remaining islands. A lighthouse is situated on the largest islet.

Presenting the Siete Pecados

The Trappist Abbey (Jordan, Guimaras)

Trappist Monastery chapel

After lunch at the resort, we all availed of an afternoon sightseeing tour by jeepney.  Our first stop (2 PM) was the Trappist Abbey.  It was founded in 1972 and is the first and only one of its kind in the country and in the Orient.  The Trappist (or Cisterians of the Most Strict Observance) monks, who called Guimaras the “Island of a Happy Man,” follow the rules of St. Benedict and all adhere to a vow of silence. They take care of the Aeta community through the Contemplative Outreach Program, grow Philippine lemon (kalamansi) and pioneer fruit processing in the province.   

The Gift Shop

We dropped by the monastery’s Gift Shop where religious items (crucifixes, prayer books, rosaries, etc.) and excellent processed food products such  as jam, chutney, prunes, wines, marmalade, candies, ginger tea, cookies, piyaya and jelly (all made from mango, cashew, kamias, duhat, kalamansi and guava) are sold.  Grace bought a small crucifix.  We also bought some snacks and soft drinks.  Grace, Jandy, Cheska and I also visited its small but quaint chapel.  At the side of the walkway leading to the chapel are an array of 3 small bells.

An array of small bells

Trappist Abbey: Brgy.  San Miguel, Jordan, Guimaras. Fax: (033) 581-3468.

Windsurfing in Guimaras

Learning the basics ….

Come morning, Frank, Jaja and I took our first lessons in windsurfing from the resort’s lady instructor.  It was a breezy morning but learning to windsurf wasn’t a breeze at all.  In winds stronger than about 8 knots and also depending on the size of sail used, the rig is actually pulled to windward over the sailor. The force of the wind pushed the rig upwards towards a vertical position, increasing the sail area presented to the wind which, in turn, increased the wind force on the sail. 

Trying my hand at windsurfing
At the same time, the sailor is being pulled to a more upright position to leeward. The whole setup is therefore inherently unstable. During my trial, I did not take any action to counter this and, as a consequence, was pulled over completely to leeward, ending up in the water.  Thus, trying to keep my balance, much less raise the sail, proved to be quite an ordeal.  Only Frank was successful, albeit for a few seconds.  Well better luck next time.

Igang Point Fisheries Research Station (Nueva Valencia, Guimaras)

Island hopping tour
The morning of the next day, Good Friday, was spent on an island-hopping tour.  Some of the islands were the 2.5-hectare Isla Naburot (home to a eco-friendly resort owned by Alice and Ponciano “Pons” Saldana) and the 1,544 sq. m. Tiniguiban Islet (where rare red shrimps make their appearance inside a pool during high tide). Past the latter is the highlight of our tour – the Igang Point Fisheries Research Station in Nueva Valencia, a government-run aquatic fishery center.  
Situated on a coral reef cove, it embraces 4 islands interconnected by floating bridges.  This demonstration and training facility of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) promotes cage farming technology for marginal fishers.  It is home to brood stocks of milkfish (bangus),  giant grouper (lapu-lapu), sea bass, red snappers and other fishes in huge floating cages.   In this cages, fishes mature and spawn spontaneously during the normal breeding seasons.


Today, milkfish cultured in marine cages provides livelihood to 4 Nueva Valencia barangays (Igang, Magamay, San antonio and Sto. Domingo) affected by the major oil spill in 2006. They were given operational capital for the construction of fish cages.  Income from the production runs was given to 5 organizations now operating cages on their own, with the assistance of SEAFDEC who taught villagers integrated culture and alternate day feeding to improve production.

Exploring Guimaras on Foot

After lunch at the resort’s clubhouse, Jandy and I made a 20-min. hike, along well-marked concrete and dirt trails, past fishponds and Villa Igang, to sea-sculpted Igang Cave in Igang Bay.  From a small opening, we waded its cool, crystal-clear and waist-deep waters, and emerged inside a large chamber with a rock platform with a great view of some islets and the western sky, where the sun sets.  Taking a photo of the magnificent sunset and these islets, silhouetted by the cave’s opening, would have been a great shot.  Too bad, I couldn’t wait for it.     

Villa Igang
Jandy at Igang Cave
The late afternoon of the next day, Good Friday, Jandy and I hiked to Sacred Heart Hill (with its huge statue of Jesus Christ) as well as tried the alternative route to Igang Bay via a 30-min. crossing, over the murky waters of a mangrove forest, of a long and winding bamboo bridge where we observed, up close, these huge trees that are so essential for protecting marine life.   

Sacred Heart Hill

Also that day, the town was presenting the Ang Pagtaltal (meaning “to remove”), the Visayan version of the Oberammergau (South Bavaria, Germany) passion play whose final act is the scene where  Jesus is taken off the cross and laid on his Mother’s lap.  Too bad we didn’t watch it.

Puerto del Mar Resort (Nueva Valencia, Guimaras)

Puerto del Mar Resort

Holy Week of 1995 was Layug family reunion time we all opted to spend a 4-day vacation to a place we have never been to or rarely heard of – the 604.65 sq. km., island province of Guimaras.   Me, Grace and our kids, 9-year old Jandy and 4-year old Cheska, as well as my mom Carol, our eldest Frank, together with wife Cherry, daughters Jaja and Sandy and son Franco, and our youngest sister Tellie were joining.  However, my older sister Salve wasn’t able to join us. We left Manila on April 13, Holy Thursday, on the 4:30 AM PAL flight from Manila to Iloilo City arriving at the Mandurriao airport by 6:30 AM.  At the airport, we were picked up by a shuttle which brought us to the city’s Muelle Loney Wharf near the Post Office.  

On our way to Guimaras Island

Directly offshore from Muelle Loney, separated by the 1.5-nautical mile wide Iloilo Strait, is Guimaras Island.  Here we boarded a big outrigger boat which brought us to our destination – the Class “A” Puerto del Mar Resort, along Alubijod Bay in Brgy.  Sta. Ana, Nueva Valencia, arriving at the resort  by 8:30 AM.  Breakfast was already being served at its restaurant and we had our first taste of the island’s famous mangoes (8,000 hectares or about 20% of the province is mango orchards). 

Dinner at the resort’s restaurant

We were billeted at 3 of the resort’s non-airconditioned native-style beachfront cottages with bath.   The resort also has a private beige sand beach, picnic coves, an aqua sports club (windsurfing and snorkeling), pavilion, bamboo bridge and serves as a training center for a local maritime school. 

Cheska enjoying her hammock along the beach