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The West Panay Jaunt roundup

Ati-ati dancer in Ibajay

There’s more to the western part of Panay than Boracay. In fact, there are many interesting places in the provinces of Aklan, Antique and western Iloilo that just amazes without driving all the way to Caticlan. Ruins, churches, food and rowdy festivals are there waiting. I confess, six days in West Panay is not enough. There’s so much to see, places to go to and experience and food to taste. It’s never enough but despite my time constraint, I was able to visit different places in Aklan, Antique and Iloilo.

Learning the ropes
The main reason that I was in Aklan, in the first place, was to witness, finally, Ibajay’s Ati-ati as I missed Kalibo’s bigger Ati-atihan festivities. But Ibajay is something that one has to experience. Smaller in scale but lively. A genuine expression of faith in the Sto. Nino with a mix of paganistic rituals that are subtle, a result of syncretism across hundreds of years. And the street dancing is rowdy but fun!

January was also the time for the Boracay International Funboard Cup. I first wrote about this one in CNN Go, got invited last year and a few months ago, I just visited the event for a few hours to meet with the organizer, Nenette.

Being in Kalibo was also an opportunity to visit its beautiful Bakhawan Eco Park, a world showcase of community forest development. The mangrove forest was just awesome and walking its bamboo path gives quite time for reflection. But the most unforgettable experience in this place was eating tamilok (woodworm) for the first time! And speaking of seafood, I was craving for crabs but didn’t find any in restaurants but was given a fat one at Eden’s where I stayed.

Beautiful Kalibo Cathedral late in the afternoon

Imposing at Kalibo’s center is the Kalibo Cathedral. It’s walls are thick and devotees come here to pay homage to the Sto. Nino, the town’s patron saint. Aklan is also a top producer of piña fiber products with many Aklanons engaged in this key industry.

Ceres bus lines bound for Antique
In nearby Tangalan municipality which I also visited, can be found the beautiful simple old church built in 1889. A kilometer or so from the town center, in barrio Afga, are beautiful waverock formations. Think of layers of puff pastry by the sea!

After four days in Kalibo, it was time for me to leave for Antique. It was my second time to visit this province but because I only intended to be here overnight, I decided to skip the touristic activities in Pandan and Sibalom but concentrated instead on the religious heritage of the province.

Hamtic Church
Antique, a sliver of mountainous land at the west of Panay has only one intact but beautiful old Spanish colonial era church in Anini-y. But lo and behold, I was so surprised with its ruins in Patnongon and San Pedro in San Jose de Buenavista. Hamtic, a municipality farther down south of San Jose even has a quaint and beautiful cemetery chapel. The town is also the site of the first Malay settlement in 1200 AD.

After an overnight stay, I went to Iloilo, passing Miag-ao’s ruined cemetery chapel and dropped by Molo Church to have my Rizal passport stamped. Not much to do here but just met a friend for dinner and retired as the following day was my flight back to Manila.

I will be going back to Antique again to better experience the place.

Ang Langyaw’s Panay Island trip made possible by Airphilexpress, the fastest growing budget airline in the Philippines!

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