An overcast skies greeted us on our arrival at the busy Estancia Port in Iloilo after an hour and a half long drive from Roxas City. At the pier, we met our contact, Sir Nick, with him was one of the guides, Jojo, from Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn where we booked our all-in Islas de Gigantes trip. Arriving early gave us ample time to procure our provisions for some snacks and most importantly, drinking water. It also gave us the advantage in choosing our seats as we were to take a passenger boat going to the island.
According to Sir Nick, by way of passenger boat is the cheapest and best option for budget-conscious travelers like us to get to Islas de Gigantes. Evidently enough, before the boat left, around 30%-40% of the passengers were budgetarians too who have booked with other resorts or just ‘walk-ins’ and the rest were locals.
Fifteen minutes past one in the afternoon, our boat left Estancia Port off to our much anticipated destination. The good thing about taking the public transportation was the interaction with the locals as we were able to get some valuable first-hand information and tips from an insider. They fondly shared with us some stories about their place, where we can go, what is it like and so on.
However, one said that we might not find Gigantes Norte which is one of the two major islands and where we were booked to stay, to our liking. She said that it is a rural area with rough roads and not too much to see. On the other hand, she said that our eyes will absolutely have a feast and be in awe of the mesmerizing attractions on the smaller islands nearby on our island hopping tour.
Arrival at Gigantes Norte
It was a two-hour long but bearable boat ride before reaching Gigantes Norte or North Gigantes. After registration we headed to Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn via the island’s main mode of transportation, the habal-habal (motorcycle).
We passed through the narrow road along the western coastal areas into the inner village and traversed to the eastern coast of Barangay Asluman. It was noticeable that there were a lot scallop shells piled up on the side of the streets and along the beach. I wouldn’t say that it was for decorative purposes, rather it was more of excess garbage. It only means that scallops are really abundant in the island and they’re having issues with the disposal of the shells after they’ve been shucked.
Why Was It Called Gigantes Islands?
The locals of Gigantes Norte reckon their place as mystical and enchanted with loads of urban legends surrounding the whole island. One of which is where the island’s name came from. It was believed that giants used to roam the islands when they’ve unearthed 5 wooden coffins or ‘Longon’ with huge human bones in it in one of the caves. The coffins were said to be of pre-Hispanic origin. Jewelries and other artifacts were also found in the coffins and jars. Of the five coffins recovered, two are in the compounds of Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn while the rest have been thrown into the fire by the locals due to their lack of awareness of the its importance to history.
Gigantes Norte Lighthouse
Right around 4:00 PM, our newly assigned guide, Kuya Eddie signaled us to get ready for our first tour. On a habal-habal, we traveled up and down the slopes of the narrow streets of Barangay Asluman.
There were houses on both sides with power lines hanging only a few feet above us as we passed by and if I were any taller, I may have been entangled in one of those wires. The narrow road lead to a wider path with the tip of the lighthouse already in sight. However, it was a bumpy, unfinished road that we were driving on from that point on until we reached the entrance of the lighthouse.
At the entrance of the lighthouse, young locals have gathered offering their hand-made souvenirs, made from scallop shells of course. The century-old keeper’s inn welcomed us as we enter the compound. We went around it towards the front where the new iron lighthouse stands. According to Kuya Eddie, the location of the lighthouse is also the perfect spot to catch the sunrise in Islas de Gigantes with the immense Visayan Sea at the horizon.
Bakwitan Cave of Gigantes Norte
More than the idyllic islands of Cabugao Gamay, Antonia Beach as well as Tangke Lagoon, I was overly excited to go and check out Bakwitan Cave in the mainland Gigantes Norte. Maybe because it was my first time to try spelunking.
Bakwitan Cave is just one of the many caves that Gigantes Islands have been blessed with. Some say there were a total of 57 caves, others say there’s even more but the easiest to reach was Bakwitan Cave, the name was derived from “Evacuate / Evacuation”. Our guide said that the cave was used during the 2nd World War as an Evacuation Area, a haven where they can hide from the Japanese soldiers. It is also used by the townspeople as a shelter whenever there’s a typhoon that wreaks havoc on the island that their houses cannot withstand.
I was like a kid in a candy store when I saw the inside of the cave with those glittering rocks and real live stalactites and stalagmites. But to experience the true essence of spelunking, I must be ready to get down and dirty and crawl between rocks that are just a little over a feet high.
After all the activities that we’ve experienced, I remembered what the woman on the boat told us, that we might not find Gigantes Norte as attractive. The roads we passed on, the pile of scallop shells everywhere, the rural vibe and simplicity of life, and being cut off from the rest of the world maybe some of the reasons why she uttered those words.
I agree with her, what she said about Gigantes Norte was true, it didn’t have the best amenities and infrastructures unlike the popular destinations but it didn’t bother us in any way. In fact, we certainly appreciated its simplicity.
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How about you? Have you been to Gigantes Islands? Have you visited the Gigantes Norte Lighthouse and Bakwitan Cave? Do you mind staying at a place where it cuts you off from the rest of the world? We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts.