San Jose de Buenavista (Antique)

On our way back to Iloilo, we entered the Antique provincial capitol of San Jose de Buenavista to drop off Leah at her residence.  Along the highway, as we were about to enter the town proper, we passed by the ruins of the old San Pedro Church.

San Jose de Buenavista

San Jose de Buenavista

San Pedro Church Ruins

San Pedro Church Ruins

Locally called Lumang Simbahan (“old church”), it was built by Augustinian friars during the Spanish era. This 77 m. long and 14 m. wide, Latin cross-shaped church has 3 gates.  According to legend, the church was burned by the pet monkey  of a priest.  The church  remains unrestored to this day.

Provincial Capitol

Provincial Capitol

Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park

Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park

We soon entered the capitol proper and made a short stopover there.  In front of the Antique Provincial Capitol building is the EBJ Freedom Park, named in honor of the late Gov. Evelio B. Javier who was assassinated on February 11, 1986 by an unknown assassin. A marker here marks the spot of his assassination.

Museo Antiqueno (Old Provincial Capitol Building)

Museo Antiqueno (Old Provincial Capitol Building)

Nearby is the old, American-era Provincial Capitol building, now the Museo Antiqueno.Operated by the Binirayan Foundation, Inc. (BFI) and was inaugurated on April 27, 2007, this museum houses the Lola Masing Center for Culture and Peace, a multimedia resource facility that provides learning and instructional materials and services on culture, gender and peace studies, as well as  the memorabilia of the late governor Evelio B. Javier at the EBJ Gallery.

How to Get There: San Jose de Buenavista is located 97 kms. (a 2.5-hr. drive) from Iloilo City.

Dinner at Ucoy Beach Resort (Libertad, Antique)

After watching the sunset at Pucio Point, we boarded the big motorized outrigger boat bound for the 45-min. trip to the charming, 3-star Ucoy Beach Resort, along Libertad Bay.  Our boat landed at the beige sand Sulu Beach in front of the resort. At a picnic shed along this beach, the LGU of Libertad treated us to a dinner of tinolang manok, beef steak tagalog, grilled talakitok with vignarette and chicken afritada.

Dinner by the beach

Dinner by the beach

The resort is a popular choice amongst business travelers and tourists in Antique, whether they’re exploring or just passing through.  Its patio has views of Libertad Bay, the garden, swimming pool or lake.

The fire hoop performance

The fire hoop performance

After dinner, we were treated to a fire performance show, a very dangerous but popular fire-oriented performance art that involves manipulation of objects on fire.  Avic Magsipoc and Joon Dejuan Alonsagay, both performers at Boracay’s West Cove, regaled us with the fire hoop, swinging flaming tethered weights through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns.

Watching the performance up close

Bravely watching the performance dangerously up close

Its performance in the dark, choreographed to music, produced a dramatic effect that enthralled us, as well as the Libertadnon crowd and resort guests present.  Clelia and I, as well as some resort guests, even watched it performed up close, with the flaming hoops just inches from our faces. They also did fakir skills such as body burning and fire breathing.  After this performance, we said goodbye to and thanked our Libertadnon hosts, boarded our van and returned to Pandan Beach Resort for a well-deserved rest.

Members of media with resort owner

Members of media with resort owner Ms. Lucia D. Schotz

Ucoy Beach Resort: Brgy. Union, Libertad 5710, Antique.  Tel: (036) 278-1681. Mobile number: (0907) 640-2418 and (0919) 594-9451. E-mail: info@ucoybeachresort.com. Website: www.ucoybeachresort.com.  It is located 19.5-kms. (a 1 hr. drive) from Brgy. Caticlan (Malay), and 52.8 kms. (a 2-hr. drive) from Kalibo, both in Aklan.

Sunset Viewing at Pucio Point (Libertad, Antique)

From our spelunking tour of Maanghit Cave, we again returned to Libertad town proper on our van but, instead of dropping down, we were just handed bilaos of kakanin and then proceeded on our way to Pucio Point, where, hopefully, we could make it in time to catch the sunset.  The westernmost point of Panay Island, Pucio Point is located at the Libertad-Buruanga (Aklan) border.

Pucio Point

The author at Pucio Point

The 13 km. travel distance seemed short but we would be traveling along a very narrow and dusty barangay road along the coast.  Again, our motorcycle escorts led the way to make sure there wouldn’t be any road delays, and Tony Liakhovetsky hitched a ride with one of them.

The colorful drum and lyre marching band

The colorful drum and lyre marching band

The Flores de Mayo-like parade

The Flores de Mayo-like parade. I noticed the discrepancy in heights

Just the same, unavoidable delays do happen but it came in the form of a delightful Flores de Mayo-like parade of children, the pairs of boys (some shorter than the girls they’re escorting) and girls of which were dressed in barong tagalogs and evening gowns, respectively.  Leading the way was a children’s drum and lyre marching band, all suitably dressed in striking blue and white uniforms.  We waited for them to pass us by before continuing on our way.

The view deck at Pucio Point

The view deck at Pucio Point

An array of kakanin from Brgy. Tinigbas

An array of kakanin from Brgy. Tinigbas. These were brought to Pucio Point

We arrived at the Pucio Point with still some time to spare, giving us enough time to feast on the kakanin which we brought along, washed down with fresh buco juice as well as bottles of ice tea and water. Below us, a large, motorized outrigger boat was moored along the shore. We were in for a beautiful sunset as there were only a few clouds on the horizon to block the view.

The magnificent sunset at Pucio Point

The magnificent sunset at Pucio Point

Flord in a U.P. Oblation pose, sihouetted against the setting sun

Flord in a U.P. Oblation-like pose, sihouetted against the setting sun

Pucio Point has two huge rock formations with the concrete viewing deck built on top of the nearer of the two to the shore.  As such, the second rock formation in front of the view deck provided an interesting foreground subject that complements the beautiful sunset in the background.  Flord made the great effort to climb down the view deck, wade across and then climb up this rock formation just to pose on top, with the setting sun behind his back.

Spelunking at Maanghit Cave (Libertad, Antique)

After our banig making demonstration, we again boarded our van as we headed for Brgy. Union, the jump-off point for our hike to Maanghit Cave, located inland, 4 kms. north of Libertad. The  cave entrance is located near the river.

Trekking the well-trodden trail to Maaghit Cave

Trekking the well-trodden trail to Maaghit Cave

The local word maanghit, meaning “having a foul odor,” comes from the foul smell of the huge deposits of guano (bat droppings) which fall on the cave’s floor and are mined by the townspeople.  That said, we were in for a muddy and slippery tour.

Bungan-Bungan Spring

The blue lagoon at Bungan-Bungan Spring

Series of pools at Bungan-Bungan Spring

Series of crystal clear pools at Bungan-Bungan Spring

Upon arrival, we were all assigned local guides equipped with hard hats and flashlights.   No hard hats for us though. It’s a good thing Jandy and I wore hats to protect our heads.  Just 5 mins. into our hike, along a well-trodden trail through a light forest,we arrived at Bungan-Bungan Spring.  It has a blue lagoon and a series of small pools of crystal clear water walled in with stacks of river rocks.

Entering the low cave entrance

Entering the low cave entrance

Into the recesses of the cave

Into the recesses of the cave

We again proceeded on our trek to the cave, passing as well as hopping over a number of forest trees felled by the fury of Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) which struck the town.  After about 20 mins., we espied the low and wide cave entrance on the rock face which we accessed via carved steps and rope railings.

Flowstone formations

Flowstone formations

Maanghit Cave is not big nor is it deep (just about 250 m. in depth) and it would just take us a few minutes to explore the cave until its terminus.  How I wish we carried Petromax lamps, not the flashlights we brought, to light our way better as well as illuminate the stalactite and stalagmite formations which, somehow, still continuously drip water.

A stalactite and stalagmite bout to meet (in a million years) to form a column

A stalactite and stalagmite about to meet (in a million years) to form a column

Though largely unseen, the sounds of bats congregating on the ceiling could easily be heard. Near the cave entrance are two small sinkholes where, when lighted, you hear and see running water, evidence of a small underground river within the cave itself.

A sinkhole with flowing water underneath

A sinkhole with flowing water underneath

After our spelunking tour of Maanghit Cave, we made our back to Bungan-Bungan Spring where we washed off the guano and its smell from our bodies. We then continued on our way back to Brgy. Union where we again boarded our van for the trip back to town.

The Banig Weavers of Libertad (Antique)

From Mayor Raymundo’s house, we moved on to the town proper where we were to watch a demonstration on how banig mats are made. The brown, handwoven banig mats, made of drift bariw leaves, are commonly used as beds in bamboo floored houses where its cooling effect to the body makes old-fashioned folks choose it over modern mattresses. Others use it to cover their wooden beds or even the cushioned ones in their sleeping quarters.

Banig products

Banig products

A woman's terno made with banig

A woman’s terno made with banig

The versatile bariw (Pandanus copelandii) plant, indigenous to this mountain and coastal town, is a close relative of pandan plant that some Filipinos use to make their cooked rice more fragrant.  Its longer blades contain durable fibers that can be extracted by pounding and scraping.  The banig is the main product of the municipality and the importance of banig (bariw) weaving as a major means of livelihood of the Libertadnons is celebrated during the Banigan Festival held from March 14 to 16.

Beating dried bariw leaves with a wooden club (pagpalpag)

Beating dried bariw leaves with a wooden club (pagpalpag)

The leaves are tightly rolled (paglikid)

The dried bariw leaves are tightly rolled (paglikid)

It seems that the whole town was present at the plaza when we arrived.  On display were various export-quality products produced from banig including place mats, hats, coasters, bags, purses and other home accessories plus, uniquely, a woman’s terno.  All these products are sought by local and foreign markets because of their unique and complex designs.

Unwinding to straighten the spiraled bariw leaves (pagbuntay)

Unwinding to straighten the spiraled bariw leaves (pagbuntay)

Shredding of bariw leaves (pagkulhad)

Shredding of bariw leaves (pagkulhad)

Prior to the demonstration, the extracted fibers were first sun or air-dried (pagbulad) to give it a shiny brown tone as well as to strengthen it, then the leaves are beaten with a wooden club (sampok) against a flat stone until they become soft and pliable (pagpalpag).  Next, it is tightly rolled one after the other, in a round form, to sustain its softness and elasticity (paglikid), then unwound to straighten the spiraled bariw leaves (pagbuntay).

The bariw strands are folded into halves (pagkyupis)

The bariw strands are folded into halves (pagkyupis)

The actual weaving begins ....

The actual weaving begins ….

Prior to the arduous and very tedious process of weaving by the manugbanig, the dried bariw leaves are shredded through a wooden-based kurulhadan (splicer or shredder) to form long twines of different thicknesses (pagkulhad). Then, the bariw strands are folded into halves (pagkyupis).  After that, the four strands are folded together in pairs; horizontally and vertically, with the glossy brown color in the outer surface.

The finished banig mat

The finished banig mat

Media with the banig weavers

Media with the banig weavers

Then, the weaving begins with the taytay, the framework of the entire mat. During this stage, the size and the length of the mat is already assured while the dimensions of the width are determined by weaving with the sides forward.  Then, edge-lines (sapay) are made on both sides of the mat, followed by the folding (hurip) of the remaining strands on the sides (or edge-line) to keep the weave tightly locked in place. Finally, unwanted and excess strands in the mat are cut (gutab).

How To Get There: Libertad is located 143 kms. (a 4-hr. drive) from San Jose de Buenavista and 77 (a 1.5-hr. drive) kms. from Kalibo (Aklan).

A Warm Libertad Welcome (Antique)

After merienda at Le Palme Beach Resort in Pandan, we said goodbye to our host Ms. Gigi Bautista, who had to fly back to Manila, and return to our van for the 12-km. drive to the next  town of Libertad where we were to have lunch at the residence of Mayor Norberto P. Raymundo Jr..

Our motorcycle escort

Our motorcycle escort

As we entered the poblacion, welcome banners and a motorcycle escorts, with tour guides on board to accompany our van, greeted us.  They first accompanied us to the Municipal Tourist Information Center before proceeding to the mayor’s residence.  This town really pulled out all the stops to welcome us.

The banig welcome banner.  A nice touch

The banig welcome banner. A nice touch

Libertad is noted for its banig weaving and another sign, this time made with banig, welcomed us at the mayor’s residence.  After introducing ourselves to Mayor Raymundo, another feast awaited us for lunch – grilled tuna, adobong pusit, freshwater shrimps, etc., plus dessert of ripe mangoes.  The eating goes on and on.

Adobong pusit

Adobong pusit

Freshwater shrimps

Freshwater shrimps

Grilled tuna

Grilled tuna

Standing out among the guests was, aside from Clelia, was another foreigner – the bearded and thin Tony Liakhovetsky, an Israeli from Haifa.  This hardcore guy, who speaks 6 languages, has literally hitchhiked his way around the region.  Checking on his Facebook account, he came from Japan and Taiwan before entering the Philippines and exploring Luzon and the Visayas.  Korea is next in his itinerary.

The hitchhiking Tony Liakhovetsky (photo from his Facebook page)

The hitchhiking Tony Liakhovetsky (photo from his Facebook page)

We were invited to observe an actual banig making demonstration, explore Maanghit Cave and watch the sunset at Pucio Point, but before all that, I had to buy a pair of trekking sandals to backup my damaged pair.  A policeman brought me to the town’s market on his motorcycle but, as there were none available, I had to settle for rubber flipflops.

Media group with Mayor Raymundo (center, in red)

Media group with Mayor Raymundo (center, in red)

How To Get There: Libertad is located 143 kms. (a 4-hr. drive) from San Jose de Buenavista and 77 (a 1.5-hr. drive) kms. from Kalibo (Aklan).

A Leisurely and Fast-Paced Cruise of the Bugang River (Pandan, Antique)

We had barely caught our breath, upon our return to Malumpati Spring, when we were told to assemble at the dam area.  Here, three bamboo rafts awaited us, to quietly cruise, downstream, the 3 to 4-km. length of the Bugang River. Unique modes of transportation here, these rafts, only assembled when needed, were manned by 3 BCBTO polemen to steer the raft – one standing in front and two at the rear.

The bamboo rafts waiting for us at the dam

The bamboo rafts waiting for us at the dam

Cruising a quiet stretch of the Bugang River

Cruising a quiet stretch of the Bugang River

Jandy, Eman and I rode in one raft.  Through this scenic cruise, we appreciated this river’s rich ecosystem of diverse and lush flora and fauna as we snake along the clear, emerald green waters of the river.  The hour-long raft trip took us along a surreal landscape of decades-old trees (some of them gnarled), mangroves, coconut trees, bamboo groves and nipa palms that lined the banks all along the turquoise water’s edge. Some of the trees were felled by the fury of Typhoon Yolanda International name: Haiyan) which also struck the town.

The colorful rocks underneath the clear waters

The colorful rocks underneath the clear waters

Negotiating a bamboo fish trap

Negotiating a bamboo fish trap

We sometimes had to duck to avoid hitting overhanging tree branches along the way but, altogether, the river cruise produced a calming effect on me.  Where the water level was shallow and the current slow, we could clearly see, right through the bottom, the colorful stones and rock formations underneath. Dipping my feet at the river’s cool waters was an extreme delight.

A gnarled tree along the river bank

A gnarled tree along the river bank

A grotesque tangle of tree roots

A grotesque tangle of tree roots

At some part of the river, some rapids would form, something our expert polemen could negotiate with ease and precision. At the other parts of the river, we passed under a number of bamboo or wooden bridges and encountered small islands, a number of grazing carabaos along the river bank and some unsightly bamboo fish traps.

A river bank spectator

A river bank spectator

Banks lined with nipa palms

Banks lined with nipa palms

On our arrival at Manlonggong Point, beneath the Guia Bridge, we alighted from our bamboo rafts and transferred to smaller bancas manned by one boatman each. I only had time to rub some suntan lotion before boarding my banca.  Jandy rode on another one.

Transferring to small bancas at Manlonggong Point

Transferring to small bancas at Manlonggong Point

Racing towards the sea on my banca

Racing towards the sea on my banca

This time, we were to paddle, the rest of the river’s length, out towards the Bugang Estuary facing Pandan Bay. Pandan riverfolk waved and cheered us along the river bank as Jandy and I, as well as the others, paddled furiously towards this finish line.

Merienda at Cocco Beach Bar & Restaurant

Merienda at Cocco Beach Bar & Restaurant

Our boat race ended at the Bugang River Estuary Fishport and, from there, we again boarded the van for the short drive to Le Palme Beach Resort.  Here, we were to have a merienda of kakanin, bibingka and buko juice at its Cocco Beach Bar and Restaurant facing the white sand beach of Pandan Bay.

Le Palme Beach Resort: Brgy. Zaldivar, Pandan, Antique. Tel: (036) 278-9037. Mobile number: (0912) 335-5293.  E-mail: support@lepalmebeachresort.com  and lepalmebeachresort@yahoo.com.  Website: www.lepalmebeachresort.com.

Trekking Along the Bugang River (Pandan, Antique)

We all awoke by 7 AM and had breakfast at Pandan Beach Resort.  After breakfast, the others boarded the van while Clelia and I joined resort owner Gigi Bautista in her car bound for Malumpati Spring, the main source of the Bugang River. I had been here twice before (the second time for Jandy) and the place still looks the same, save for the new zipline facility and wall climbing and rappelling tower of Pandan Adventure Boot Camp.

Bamboo rafting at Malumpati Spring

Bamboo rafting at Malumpati Spring

One of the cleanest inland bodies of water in the country, the Bugang River stretches from Brgys. Guia to Sto. Rosario and ends at Brgy. Zaldivar.  Here, we were to experience a real sense of adventure on the river – trekking, rafting and paddle boating.

The Bugang River

The Bugang River

The river, ranked first among the cleanest inland bodies of water in the region for three consecutive years,  has also won 3 awards – the “Dangal Ng Ilog” Award during the 1st National Summit on the State of Philippine Rivers in 2005; the “Hiyas ng Turismo” Award from the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapiligiran on December 6, 2006 (Iloilo City); and the “International Green Apple Environmental Award for Environmental Best Practice, Local Authorities and Ecotourism Category” from the Green Organization (an independent, non-political and non-profit UK ecology group) in the United Kingdom in 2011.

Start of the trek along the river's edge

Start of the trek along the river’s edge

The local government of Pandan, in an effort to preserve and protect the Bugang River while promoting it as a tourist attraction, has established the Bugang Community Based Eco-Tourism Organization (BCBTO). They spearheaded the Bugang River Cultural, Nature and Adventure Tour to help visitors foster an appreciation for the beauty of nature and develop better understanding of the locals’ practices through activities like rafting and paddle boating along the Bugang River. In 2006, the International Green Apple Environment Awards for Environmental Best Practice awarded this initiative with the Gold Winner in the Local Authorities and Ecotourism Category.

The rope ferry

The bamboo raft

Upon arrival at the spring, some of us, including Jandy, took a dip at the bracingly cold waters of the spring, others went rafting and some went shopping for souvenirs.  The arrival of Mr. Reynaldo Perez, the Malumpati Safety Officer and Operations Manager of the Pandan Adventure Boot Camp, signaled the start of exploration of the head waters of the river which are actually a pair of deep springs, one of which is the major source of the municipality’s water supply.  He assigned to us BCBTO guides Ria Dondon and Jomar Dionela and, together with Ms. Gigi, our tour narrator, we started our hike from the spring, across the bridge and past the Pandan Water District pumping station, into the dense forest.

Crossing a bamboo bridge

Laurie crossing a bamboo bridge

The trek, along the river’s edge, was not too difficult, but we did have to ford a stream as well as cross a bamboo bridge. Clelia and Leah also tried riding a bamboo raft moored along the river.

The smaller, still unfathomed spring

The smaller, still unfathomed spring

The river truly lived up to its reputation as the cleanest river in the country as you can actually see the marine plants, said by marine biologists to be endemic to the river, underneath the clear, turquoise waters.  There were, however, also a number of unsightly bamboo fish traps on the river. The end of the trek brought us, after 45 mins., to the smaller of the 2 springs which has been measured, by British divers, to a depth of nearly a hundred feet (30 m. or more) without finding the bottom. However, swimming wasn’t allowed here.

Crossing a swinging bridge on the return trek

Crossing a swinging bridge on the return trek

We returned to Malumpati Spring via a different route, passing through small settlements, a marker of the Kyoto Gyosei High School (who did reforestation along the Malumpati Watershed for 10 years) as well as crossing a much longer and swinging bamboo bridge.

R&R at Pandan Beach Resort (Antique)

From Sebaste, we boarded our van for the short, 14-km. drive to Pandan town.  Here, we were going to stay at the upscale Pandan Beach Resort, our home for the 2 remaining days of our Antique Tour.  On hand to welcome us was Ms. Gigi Bautista, the resort’s owner and Gen. Manager.  Too bad we arrived late to catch the sunset.

Pandan Beach Resort

Pandan Beach Resort

Upon our arrival, Gigi booked all of us in single, twin and triple-sharing suites complete with all the modern conveniences hotel rooms in the city carry – airconditioning; combinations of queen, double and single beds; private bathrooms with hot and cold showers; and flat-screen cable TVs.  Some have refrigerators.

DSC_0895

DSC_0906

DSC_0909

All 7 rooms were named after the 5 Antique (Culasi, Libertad, Pandan, Sebaste and Tibiao) and 2 Aklan (Buruanga and Malay) towns that comprise the Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park.  Outside each suite was a tastefully furnished sitting area.  Jandy and I stayed at the Sebaste Suite which had 1 queen-size and 2 single beds, actually good for 4 persons.

Sebaste Suite

Sebaste Suite

A sitting area outside the suites

A sitting area outside the suites

Marquesa’s Bistro Bar & Restaurant

Marquesa’s Bistro Bar & Restaurant

After checking in, what awaited us at Marquesa’s Bistro Bar & Restaurant was an array of Filipino dishes, prepared by house chef Leo de Guzman, for dinner – binabak, freshwater river shrimps (patuyaw) pounded and then steamed with onions, ginger and buko (tender young coconut meat); inubarang manok, a hearty mix of native chicken and chopped ubud (core of a banana stalk); buttered shrimps; grilled marlin; and adobong pusit (squid) plus a dessert of pinais (cassava suman).

Adobong pusit

Adobong pusit

Binaba (freshwater shrimps)

Buttered freshwater shrimps

Grilled marlin

Grilled marlin

The bar offers a wide selection of cocktails, beer, mixes and wines.  After dinner, we had an audience with young Pandan Mayor Jonathan D. Tan who gave us an overview on what Pandan town has to offer to tourists – trekking, bamboo rafting along the Bugang River, one of the cleanest inland bodies of water in the Philippines; swimming at Malumpati Spring; beachcombing on Antique’s only stretch of white sand beach on the mainland and, now, scuba diving.

Gigi Bautista with Pandan Mayor Jonathan D. Tan

Gigi Bautista with Pandan Mayor Jonathan D. Tan

After dining, some of us, including me, squeezed in a little work on our blogs (the resort provides wi-fi internet access) while others just opted to relax their tired muscles with a delightful and soothing massage at the gazebo.

The gazebo

The gazebo

A garden setting

A garden setting

Regine tries out the cozy and colorful hammock

Regine tries out the cozy and colorful hammock

The private beach area

The private beach area

Pandan Beach Resort: Brgy. Dionela, Pandan, Antique. Tel: (036) 278-9379.  Mobile numbers: (0922) 812-7906 and (0917) 580-9648.  E-mail: info@pandanbeachresort.com and pbrpandan@gmail.com.  Website: www.pandanbeachresort.com.

How To Get There: Pandan is located 123.7 kms. from San Jose de Buenavista, 35 kms. from Brgy. Lipata (Culasi), 30 kms. (a 45-min. drive) from Brgy. Caticlan (Malay, Aklan), 55 kms, (a 1.5-hr. drive) from Kalibo (Aklan), 65 kms. (a 1.75-hr. drive) from Dumaguit Port (Aklan) and 223 kms. from Iloilo City (Iloilo). About 3 kms. north of the town, a road forks, one to Libertad and the other to Kalibo (Aklan).

The Church of St. Blaise (Sebaste, Antique)

From Culasi, we all boarded our van for the 19-km. drive to the next town of Sebaste where we paid a courtesy call on Mayor Jose Christopher A. Varona at the town’s municipal hall.  After our courtesy call, we again boarded our van and made a stopover at the nearby Church of St. Blaise, a pilgrimage site.  There is nothing outstanding about the church, which is of modern design. It’s what’s inside that matters – the venerated image of St. Blaise (locally called Señor San Blas).

The Church of St. Blaise

The Church of St. Blaise

The church altar

The church altar

The statue was sent as a gift to Fr. Mariano Vicente Zapanta, then the assigned parish priest of Pandan, by his mother Doña Matilde Zapanta, wife of the Duke of Seville. When Fr. Zapanta was transferred to Ipayo (the former name of Sebaste), he brought along with him the statue of St. Blaise and installed him in the church. Not long after, St. Blaise was made the patron saint of Ipayo and the town’s name was changed to Sebaste to honor the town, somewhere in Armenia or Capadoccia, where St. Blaise, then a bishop, had a see.

The widely venerated statue of St. Blaise

The widely venerated statue of St. Blaise

Jandy placing his head underneath the statue

Jandy placing his head underneath the statue

Aside from being a bishop, St. Blaise was also a Doctor of Medicine and a throat specialist. Miracles, attributed to him, claim that he not only prevented calamities, but also healed the sick. The news of his miracles spread throughout the length and breadth of the region. Thus, every 3rd of February, his feast day, countless number of people from Antique, Aklan, Iloilo, Capiz, Negros, Mindanao, Mindoro and many other places, visit the church for healing.

The prayer to St. Blaise

The prayer to St. Blaise

The statue of St. Blaise is carried over to touch the head, the back and up to the ankle of devotees, from different places and from all walks of life, but especially the poor and the simple, who flock to the church and line up, seeking the miracle of healing or his intercession.  Though it was already past his feast day, we were given the privilege to do just that, albeit in a shorter queue.  I prayed to him for healing, not just for myself, but also for my autistic son Jandy. We also recited the prayer to the saint.

How To Get There: Sebaste is located 108.9 kms. from San Jose de Buenavista, 206 kms. from Iloilo City (Iloilo) and 69 kms. from Kalibo (Aklan).