Thursday, May 3, 2018

Experiencing Antique for a Day: Where to go, stay, and sample itinerary

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At the mention of Antique, my mind wanders and imagines the mystical things told to me as a child for bedtime (or I-don’t-want-to-sleep-in-the-afternoon) stories.  At the same time, it ignited a curiosity that seeks to be in the center of an imagined mystical universe.  Admittedly, Antique is not in my top-of-mind when talking about the Visayas region.  Maybe it was just not gaining much attention, or maybe people are unaware how pleasantly surprising it is, or both.  Antique seems like your soon-to-bestfriend who happens to sit at the back of the classroom and won’t talk unless spoken to. Such an enigma that is worth the pursuit.


A recent travel to Panay Island led us to Antique as our first stop.  We came in via Air Asia’s Clark to Iloilo route and from Iloilo traveled by land to Tibiao, Antique for four hours.  Kasa Raya Inn was to be our homebase for the Antique leg of the trip and we were received warmly even after arriving a little after 9 PM.  We had homemade humba for dinner which I thought could have been better if we had more humba oil to use as sauce over our rice.  We settled in and called it a night to prepare for the next day's Antique tour.

Kasa Raya Inn's chief welcoming party, Ascott.
Antique is best experienced for 2 whole days but in our case we only had one day so we had to make the most out of it.  Las Islas Travel and Tours let us experience their Antique day tour that includes  Mararison Island, Malumpati Cold Spring, and Kawa hot bath.

Mararison Island

Just 30 minutes from Kasa Raya Inn is Culasi port which is the jump-off point for a Mararison tour.  Here you can look for available boats you can join for DIY trips or in our case, wait for our boatman while listing our names down in the visitors' log.

Tourist Information Center in Culasi Port, the jump-off point for Mararison Island tour.


When DIY-ing, you need to pay the environmental fees separately.  Arranged tours offered by Las Islas Travel and Tours incorporate these in the package fee so you only need to sign up in the visitors' log while waiting for your boat.
A row of boats at Culasi port awaits their passengers for the day
From Culasi port, it takes another 30 minutes by boat to reach Mararison island.  I can't believe how fast the travel time was and before we knew it, a cascading sand bar that reaches far along into the main beach officially welcomes us to Mararison Island.

Mararison Island.  The sand bar is attached to the main beach giving you the best of both worlds.
Entrance to the main beach where you need to register your name.  Day tour cottages are also available for rent, you just need to ask by the registration table.
Aside from lounging by the beach, you can also do a nature trek to reach a viewing point that gives a 360-degree view of the island.  Our Las Islas guide engaged a local guide for the trek who gave us information about Mararison.  The trek in itself is interesting as you can see pitcher plants along the way and the pines trees make up for a good background to snap pictures.

Working it during the nature trek.

The end of the trek led us to Nablag islet where you can charter a boat for PhP 200 pesos good for 4 people to get you back to the main beach.  Unless you want to trek back the way you came, then this is a good option.  There is also a small store that sells snacks for post-trek refreshments so make sure to bring cash with you before you leave the main beach.  If you can, bring your own water so you stay hydrated under the scorching heat of the sun.

Pebble beach at Nablag islet
As one could expect, our tummies were ready to be filled after almost an hour of walking and we were ready to ravage anything served in front of us.  Lunch was included in the tour package so when we arrived, it was already waiting for us.  A simple but the most amazing fish dish was served to us and all you can hear were ohh's, ahh's, and the occassional OMG.

Fried isdang bato with streamed okra, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.  Don't be deceived by the simplicity of this dish, this remained a favorite topic even after we left Antique.
Post-lunch beach bumming with this view.
We stayed for a quite a bit after lunch to either enjoy the beach or just take pictures.  Alas, we need to leave this beauty to go to the next part of the tour but this is definitely worth coming back to.

Malumpati Cold Spring

The yin to Coron's Maquinit hot spring, Malumpati cold spring is an hour away from Culasi port.  Expect a lot of people swimming in the area especially during summer season as the water temperature is perfect to counter the heat.  For only PhP 40 entrance fee, you can swim your heart out in  Malumpati.  Cottages are available for rent at PhP 500.

Malumpati can get a bit crowded during the summer season
The main attraction at Malumpati is the water tubing activity.  This costs PhP 200 per person inclusive of a lifevest, tube, and a guide.  Another downside of visiting in the summer is that the river dries up so the water tubing was not available when we went there.  Best to enjoy this during the rainy season when the water flows more vigorously adding thrill and excitement.

We opted instead to do the trek which is the same path going up to the river tubing activity.  The trek is PhP 150 good for 5 persons with 1 guide.  As you may notice by now, we were never anywhere without a Las Islas tour guide or a local guide in Antique.  This speaks on how tourism is regulated and safety is ensured for maximum enjoyment of the visitors and benefit of the local community.  

Don’t be fooled by the surreal beauty of Malumpati Cold Spring. It is colder than your ex’s heart. 
The trek itself was not a long one but the views can easily distract you to stop and breathe in the fresh air or take pictures.  It was like a scene from a movie where river fairies would just magically appear and rain down star-shaped flowers.  Parts of it are shallow where you can swim but make sure to ask your guide first before jumping in.

The blue lagoon marks the end of the trek.  Only pictures are allowed here since much of what is underneath is still unexplored.
Before leaving make sure to drop by Tampisaw, a small restaurant overlooking the main pool and try their pancit bihon.  It was gone a few seconds after it landed our table hence, no picture.

Kawa Hot Bath

The last part of our Antique adventure tour was the famed Kawa hot bath.  A big cauldron filled with water, medicinal roots, leaves, and flowers was set into a quick fire to make a warm bath.  For Php 200 good for 30 minutes, it was a pleasant end to a day full of swimming, walking and sitting.  

Not all kawas are created equal.  Make sure yours have no rust and the bath is prepared traditionally by booking with trusted tour operators like Las Islas Travel and Tours.
There are more or less 10 kawas available for use, some of which can fit 6 people but trust me you would rather have your own as the water is very soothing.  The Tibiao river at the background makes for a charming sight that adds to the calming effect of the bath.  

Benches are available for resting that overlooks Tibiao river.
While you're at it, take your very own kawa glam shot.  Photo by Franco Ayson.
30 minutes is more than enough to spend here and by this time your body would have shifted to an otherworldly state ready for bed.  Good thing our homebase is just 30 minutes away so by 6 PM we are back and ready for dinner by 7 PM. Yes, eating again.  And yes, the extra 2 cups of rice is so worth it. By 8 PM, we activated our inner titas of Manila and called it a night. 

Sample Itinerary

While one can certainly DIY, booking adventure tours with DOT-accredited tour operators like Las Islas Travel and Tours certainly has it perks.  A member of the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), Las Islas ensures that you get the best value for your money by providing travel insurance; trained and professional tour guides; big, licensed MARINA-registered boats; and complete first aid and emergency kit for every tour.  Tour packages are readily available but they are flexible to customize depending on your budget and the number of days you can spend in the tour.  A day tour like ours is not actually that bad so you can also do a similar one.


6:00 AM - 7:00 AM:   Breakfast at Kasa Raya Inn
7:30 AM - 12:30 PM: Mararison Island tour with lunch
12:30 PM - 1:00 PM:  Sea travel to mainland Culasi port
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM:    Land travel to  Malumpati Cold Spring in Pandan, Antique
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM:    Malumpati Cold Spring tour and river tubing (if available)
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM:    Land travel to Kawa Hot Bath
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM:    Kawa Hot Bath
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM:    Dinner at Kasa Raya Inn

Where to stay

Kasa Raya Inn facade with its resident cuties, Ascott and Ritz.
Our room was good for 4 but there are couple rooms available as well.
Kasa Raya Inn is a charming stilthouse reminiscent of your grandparents' (or somebody else's grandparents') house in the province.  It is a bed and breakfast in Tibiao, Antique conveniently located by the national highway.  It is impossible to miss since the landmark is the Petron station at Brgy. Importante junction.  For just PhP 500 a night per person inclusive of breakfast, you are right smack dab in the middle of a good jump-off point for your Antique tour.

A morning view with no buildings is always a welcome change.

Rice paddies for an endless green view

Reception area.  They also have WI-FI available at the inn.

Dining area at Kasa Raya Inn
Our trip was made possible by a number of partners who ensured we had the best Western Visayas experience: Air Asia for our Clark-Iloilo and vice versa flights, Atty. Helen Catalbas of DOT Region 6 for our transportation during the Panay loop tour, and Aph Cruz and Alex Española of Las Islas Travel and Tours.

For bookings, contact:

Punta Dulog, Pueblo de Panay, Roxas City, Capiz 
(just right across the Roxas City Terminal)
(G) 0917-709-3856 / (S) 0939-534-0828 / (L) 036-521-0725

Km 172 Iloilo-Antique Road
Tibiao, Antique, Philippines
0917 524 7875


About the Author

Beng Fontiveros works as an analyst for a global bank.  She bonds with Excel from day to night so she loves spending her free time traveling, practicing yoga, or just at home to Netflix and chill. 
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