Island-hopping in Gigantes Island [2022.09.01-03]

This is Part 1 of 4 of my September trip with my boyfriend, Kevin. Our first stop was Gigantes Island. This was a messy trip, haha! We didn’t really have a lot of time to plan, and we were planning and booking stuff as we go. Toward the end of the trip, I wish we explored Boracay and Romblon instead. I realized that Kevin would have probably enjoyed motorcycling around Tablas. I did not include the rest of the Romblon islands in my itinerary because there were no flights on Cebu Pacific from Tugdan Airport. Due to this, I thought there are no flights at all! After the fact, I found out that while there are no CebuPacific flights, AirSwift has flights to Tugdan Airport. That was such a bummer, but maybe next time.

Since traveling around the Philippines is pretty chill now, there weren’t really any travel requirements to most of the places we went to (except Boracay). I must admit though that traveling to Gigantes Island is quite complicated.

ROXAS TO ESTANCIA

The best way to get to Gigantes Island if you are coming from Manila is via Roxas Airport. While Gigantes Island is part of Iloilo, it is much farther to travel from Iloilo Airport so the best airport to book from is Roxas Airport. From Roxas Airport, take a tricycle from the Roxas City Integrated Transport Terminal. At the airport, there is a tricycle rate board, so ideally, if you are going to the terminal from the airport, it should cost you PHP45 pesos per person. You will need to take one tricycle from the airport to the Roxas City Fountain, and another tricycle from there to the bus terminal.

However, when we got out of the airport, the tricycles outside offer a direct trip to the terminal for PHP300. I guess the advantage is that it is a direct trip, we didn’t have to find the tricycle terminal near the fountain, and we were comfortable inside the tricycle. The tricycle driver also informed us that they pay PHP100 for waiting at the terminal. If that’s true, then that’s too much. That is even more than what the ridesharing apps charge, which is 20%.  The distance between the airport and the terminal is 7-8kms so I don’t know if PHP300 was a decent price to pay for a special trip but that’s that. Also, I have already expected to pay more since I am with a foreigner. I hate it, but that’s just how it is.

From Roxas City Terminal, we took a van going to Bancal Port in Carles, Iloilo because that’s what our accommodation owner suggested. Also, based on my research, while land travel to Bancal Port is a little longer, the boat trip to Gigantes Island is much shorter. I also talked to the kuyas about possibly going directly to Bancal Port when the van stops at Balasan. The kuya misunderstood my request and quoted us PHP1500-PHP2000 I think to rent the entire van.

See, that’s crazy to me. There’s just the two of us, so why the heck would I rent out an entire van for two people. Also, why do that when I can pay so much cheaper for the public van that goes to Balasan. We ended up taking the van to Estancia Port instead because there were no vans that go directly to Bancal Port (Carles). That is fine with us because while going directly is what’s ideal, it is not too bad to get off at Balasan and take another jeepney going to Bancal. The fare from the Roxas terminal to Estancia terminal is PHP150 per person.

But then, it started raining so hard, the roads were flooded and there was no network signal, so that made it complicated for us. I was freaking out in the van coming up with the plan. At that point, it was definitely not a good idea to get off at the Balasan intersection and I couldn’t book Loveres Inn on Agoda because I had no network signal. We asked the van driver if he can take us directly to Estancia Port since it was raining but he wanted to charge us an extra PHP600 pesos for the two of us.

We are definitely not willing to pay this price for a mere 4km ride so we got off at the terminal even if it was raining. It was a good decision though because when we got off at the van terminal, there was also a tricycle terminal. I asked the drivers if they know of any accommodation in Estancia and they suggested Loveres Inn. What a coincidence! We asked how much the tricycle fare will be and they quoted PHP100. See, I would pay that! Not PHP600.

ACCOMMODATION: LOVERES INN

Going to Gigantes Island would always require you to stay one night either in Roxas, Bancal or Estancia, depending on what your plans are. If you will stay for one night in Roxas, the suggestion of our accommodation owner is to leave at 4am, because the boat going to Gigantes Island leaves at 9am. We didn’t want to do this because we can’t really predict what time vans leave from the terminal. They normally leave when it is full. So, our plan was to stay one night either from Bancal or Estancia. Since Bancal is closer to Gigantes Island, our Plan A was to stay one night in Bancal so we can take the early boat ride to Gigantes Island. However, due to the rain, we went with Plan B and stayed one night in Estancia. The boat going to Gigantes Island leaves at noon.

We got the last room in Loveres Inn, it was PHP800 for an AC room. It was still raining so hard so we stayed in. It was a double room, with a private bathroom. would say that it was okay. We were tired and ended up sleeping until midnight without dinner. Good thing we had some snacks and Kevin had breads brought from France. Breakfast is not until morning, so we had no choice but to wait for this. The accommodation serves breakfast so that was really convenient. I introduced Kevin to corned beef and he really liked it!

WALKING AROUND ESTANCIA

After breakfast, we walked to the port to ask about the boat that leaves at noon. Once we have confirmed the time, we paid the terminal fee and signed the passenger’s manifest. After going to the port, we bought some groceries at Gaisano. In fairness, may Gaisano sa Estancia! And then, we walked for about an hour in Estancia, with really no destination in mind, under the sun. We already stayed in for the whole afternoon until evening the day before, so we wanted to explore the town a bit before leaving for Gigantes Island.

ESTANCIA TO GIGANTES ISLAND

Boat schedule:
Bancal Port to Langub Port – 9am
Estancia Port to Langub Port – 12nn

The boat left on time, but I think it took us almost 2 hours to travel from Estancia Port to Langub Port in Gigantes Norte. It was really nice seeing all the other islands from the boat though. The boat passes by Gigantes Sur for a bit to drop off passengers, and then the final stop is Gigantes Norte, which is our destination. The boat fare is PHP150.

Upon arriving at the port, someone approached us to take us to Jesa Beach Resort. Turns out, she works with Miss Sally, who owns the resort we’re staying at. Kuya Ilmar helped us a lot during our 3-days stay on Gigantes Island.

ACCOMMODATION: JESA BEACH RESORT

After going through different accommodations, I decided to book with Jesa Beach Resort. I read some really terrible reviews even from the ones that were popular on blogs. I read good reviews about Jesa Beach Resort, so I messaged them via Facebook and booked instantly. Some of the other resorts are also too expensive for what it is. Like, some of them cost more than PHP1200-PHP1500 per night for two people.

Jesa Beach Resort is located in Gigantes Norte. We booked a fan room for two nights for PHP600/night. They also have an AC room, which is PHP1000/night. These rooms are the ones for 3 people, but they also have rooms for a bigger room that can fit 5 people and they have a dorm as well. The room is pretty basic, but I mean it is not expensive. We have two beds, one double and one single bed, and then a private bathroom. The resort also had these cute gazebos between the rooms and the restaurant. The resort is also beachfront, however, the beach is not really clean.

The idea is when you book with them, they take care of all your needs for your entire stay. Miss Sally, the owner, arranges everything for the guests, from transportation to trips to food. They also offer free coffee in the morning, and there was one time there were boiled saba bananas, which Kevin tried for the first time. I laughed so hard when he said “I have never had bananas that are hot.” HAHAHA. If you prefer to have all your meals at the resort, they can cook for you. We went out for lunch and dinner during our stay, but had breakfast with them.

This is the photo Miss Sally sent me

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN GIGANTES ISLAND:

Ok, I think I will divide this into two parts: land travel within Gigantes Norte and the island hopping tour.

When we arrived in the afternoon, we rented a motorcycle just for a few hours to go around the island, but it is really not easy because there are no signs at all. Also, since there is no mobile network, you cant really use Google Maps. My tip is to download an offline map of Gigantes Island before. I thought about this too late, but we still can view the map and GPS so at least I know when we are close to it. After doing one round, we decided to tell Miss Sally and got Kuya Ilmar to take us to the Bakwitan Cave and tour us around. The cave is open only until 5pm, but we were able to do a quick tour of the cave.

After the cave tour, we tried looking for the Gigantes Lighthouse again and I was able to spot it this time around. Just go slow when the GPS tells you you’re close to it so you don’t miss it.

BAKWITAN CAVE

Bakwitan Cave is one of the two tourist attractions you can visit in Gigantes Norte. They call it Bakwitan Cave because this is where the locals evacuate during typhoons. You cannot rely on the pin on Google Maps because there is no way to get there if you rely on the pin. The way it was described to us is that is in the Asluman area, but I think it would still be really hard to know when to turn if you do not have a tour guide.

GIGANTES NORTE LIGHTHOUSE

The lighthouse was so so, but the house next to it was so freaking beautiful. The view from here is also to die for, especially since we were here during sunset. The lighthouse was apparently built in the 18th century, and I’m really curious if the house was built at the same time. I wish they can re-open the house and turn it into something else.

The next day, our island hopping was arranged by Miss Sally, and we were introduced to our tour guide for the day, John. We only visited 3 places because Tangke Saltwater Lagoon was closed (they literally just closed the lagoon on Sept 1, we did our island hopping tour on Sept 2) and Tinagong Dagat was not very clean, because of the weather, so we just went to look from the boat but did not dock. I don’t know why we didn’t go to Pulupandan Islet instead, I forgot about this at the time, so I wasn’t able to ask.

ANTONIA ISLAND

Ok, this place is really beautiful because you have a long beach on both sides. I only went swimming on one side because the waves were just too strong. We rent a snorkelling mask here so Kevin could snorkel but he wasn’t very happy with what he saw, or what he didn’t see. I think this is the most beautiful among the spots we visited that day though. We also went here very early, it was a our first destination so we had the whole island all to ourselves.

BANTIGUE SANDBAR

So thankful to our guide for taking us here early and while the sandbar was still very visible. The visitors who arrived after us didn’t really experience the sandbar because it was high tide by noon. It’s super chill here and there were times when we were the only people because people just came and then went their way after taking photos. We spent a few hours and this is where we also had our seafood lunch. Also, there’s mobile network here, but specific to just a few tables. LOL.

CABUGAO GAMAY ISLAND

It is definitely the most famous, and most photographed out of all the islands and it is easy to see why. When I think of Gigantes, this island is the first thing that comes to mind.

As I’ve mentioned, we visited Tinagong Dagat very briefly and that was actually a good decision. Because it started raining as soon as we arrived at the resort. If we docked and decided to go down to the small beach, we would have gone home wet from the rain.

RESTAURANTS:

Well, we only went to just one restaurant – Thalassa. The restaurant was suggested by Kuya Ilmar, because they are famous for their scallop burgers. Of course, we had to try it. We went here for dinner for two nights, because we really enjoyed the scallop burgers. They have meal sets so you can pair your burger with pancit, mami, lumpia, kikiam, etc. Since we couldn’t rely on Google Maps, we got lost both times going here, but like I said, you can always ask the locals for directions and they will even take you and show you where to turn.

While waiting for your meal, you can also connect to the piso wifi located right behind the restaurant. You will also notice a mountain of scallop shells here, since people prepare the scallops to make the burger. Pretty much, Gigantes is super abundant in scallops. I totally recommend this place if ever you find yourself in Gigantes Island. Those scallop burgers are a must-try!

GIGANTES ISLAND TO ROXAS

The following morning, we, along with other guests at the resort, took Miss Sally’s boat to Bancal Port. It really is the shorter route because it only took us an hour. If you are taking the public boat, the boat to Estancia is at 8am and the one going to Bancal Port is at 11am.

From Bancal Port, we took the tricycle (Kuya Ilmar came with us, he’s so nice!) to the Ceres Bus Terminal in Carles, but there were no buses, so they took us to the jeepney terminal. For reference, you can take the bus going to Iloilo or take the jeepney to Estancia, and then get off at Ceres Balasan Terminal. This takes around 30 minutes. This is where you can take a van going to Roxas. It takes around 1.5 hours to get to Roxas City Integrated Transport Terminal.

Next stop: Roxas.

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