Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Panay Sojourn, Two Weeks Before Yolanda

Exactly two weeks before Yolanda ravaged Visayas, Malou and I were in the Island of Panay to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. For three years now, it has been our tradition to celebrate this milestone in a place we've never been before. Panay, located in the western part of Visayas, is composed of four provinces: Aklan, Antique, Iloilo and Capiz. It was not exactly our first time in Panay as we've already been to Boracay (part of Malay, Aklan), Antique (where Malou's mom hails) and Iloilo City. For this trip though, we made first time visits to the northeastern part of Iloilo and the Province of Capiz. 

October 25, 2013 (Friday)
From Cagayan de Oro City, we landed in Iloilo International Airport shortly before 4 PM. We then took a shuttle van ride to SM City Iloilo then ride a taxi in going to Tagbak Bus Terminal. From Tagbak, we boarded an airconditioned bus bound for Estancia and Carles and disembarked in the Muncipality of Sara two-and-a-half hours later. From Sara, we took another bus ride in going to the first destination off our list: the coastal town of Concepcion

We arrived in Concepcion at around 8 PM. The town was so quiet and commercial establishments were already closed. Fortunately, a young man driving a motorcycle approached and offered us a ride to Junbee Garilva Recreation Center where we booked our accommodation for the night.

October 26, 2013 (Saturday)
The following morning, we hopped on a boat and visited the beautiful Bulubadiangan Island more popularly known as Sandbar Island. For more than two hours, we frolicked on the island's golden sands and clear blue waters (read my separate post on Sandbar Island Resort HERE). Shortly before noon, we sailed back to mainland Concepcion, ate lunch, freshened up and checked out of the hotel.

Fishermen we passed during our island hopping in Concepcion

A habal-habal ride took us back to Sara where we boarded an ordinary bus bound for Carles. We arrived in Balasan an hour later and there, waited for another bus which will take us to Roxas City. It didn't take long for the bus to arrive and in a short while we crossed over to the Province of Capiz.

San Antonio Resort in Baybay, Roxas City

After passing by the towns of Pilar, Pres. Roxas, Ponteverda and Pan-ay, we finally arrived in Roxas City. Roxas is the capital of Capiz and is also known as the Seafood Capital of the Philippines due to its abundant marine life.

Baybay Beach in Roxas City

We checked in at San Antonio Resort in Baybay where Malou's former officemate Albert earlier booked us. Albert, a resident of Roxas City, used to work with Malou in Bukidnon. The sprawling resort offered both high-end  and budget accommodations. We stayed in their economy room which has a rate of 980.00 and includes free breakfast for 2 persons. The resort is walking distance to Baybay Beach and People's Park.

Seafood galore in Roxas City's Seafood Court at People's Park Plaza

We met Albert and his friends for dinner at Seafood Court in People's Park. We feasted on the freshest seafood including shrimps, squid and talaba while enjoying the breeze. Compared to the other places, the seafood dishes are really fresh and affordable.  After dinner, we then went to a bar near Gaisano in Arnaldo Boulevard. Ice cold Red Horse Beer capped off our first night in Capiz.

Malou with Albert and his friends

October 27, 2013 (Sunday)

The City Hall of Roxas

After checking out of the resort, Malou and I took a tricycle ride to Roxas City Plaza. There, we meet with Albert who would guide us in visiting some interesting places in his hometown. The Plaza is already a tourist attraction in its own. Located nearby are the City Hall, Capiz Provincial Capitol, Bandstand, Immaculate Concepcion Metropolitan Cathedral, Roxas City Fountain and the Old Spanish Bridge.

 Having fun with the giant chessboard

 The lovely Old Spanish Bridge

 Immaculate Concepcion Metropolitan Cathedral

The Provincial Capitol of Capiz

After taking photos of these historical structures, we went to the terminal of vans bound for Ponteverda. Our next destination was the Santa Monica Church in next town Pan-ay.

Santa Monica Church in Pan-ay, Capiz

The Pan-ay old church is famous for the gigantic bell called "Dakong Lingganay" perched above the 5-storey belfry. The bell, which weighs 10.4 tons. was cast in 1884 by melting 70 sacks of gold and silver coins donated by the townsfolk. There are claims that the bell is largest in Asia, though this is highly debatable. Officially, though, it is the largest church bell in the Philippines.

The gigantic church bell locally called Dakong Lingganay

From Pan-ay, we went back to Roxas City and stopped over at the Banica Dried Fish section. Malou bought various kinds of dried fish for pasalubongs. We then ate lunch at a restaurant fronting Gaisano then bought pastries at Panulce. We left Roxas for Ilolilo City at around 2 PM.

We arrived in Iloilo City at 5 in the afternoon then checked in at Iloilo Budget Inn in Jaro. With nothing much to do, we went to SM City, ate dinner and bought some necessities for our trip back home.

October 28, 2013 (Monday)

Our 10 AM flight back to Cagayan de Oro went on as scheduled. It was a sunny day and we did have a smooth flight. We went home not only with pasalubongs and precious photographs but also with happy memories of the places and faces we encountered in our Panay vacatio.

Two week after this trip, Super Typhoon Yolanda landed and destroyed places and lives in Visayas. The Island of Panay was one of those badly hit by the extremely catastrophic typhoon. Yolanda, in fact, made its fifth landfall in Concepcion. Watching the aftermath in television news really made me want to cry. Fortunately, Albert and his family (and I presumed his friends whom we met in Roxas) were all safe. I am also thankful that my aunt and cousin in Tacloban both survived the storm. My prayers goes out to all the victims and  it is my fervent hope that the sooner than later, the affected people would be able to rebuild their lives and be back on their feet once again.

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