Paradiso in Iloilo
The temperature hit 33 degrees in North Iloilo and people were hiding from the obnoxious sun rays that could curtail the dreams of Americans in attaining a fair complexion. Yet no matter how hot the day was, the fact that summer is meant for escapades, my family decided to try island hopping in what I deem the most beautiful place at the world’s end- Isla Higante. It is even more beautiful and virgin than Boracay which I think is not worthwhile for an urban getaway.
The place was a couple of hours from mainland Carles in the northern tip of Iloilo, where you would be welcomed by white sand beaches and boobies perching on huge boulders. The view of Sicogon Island alone could make you jump from the motor boat and savor the grandiosity where it had once been known as the haven of God. As we neared the place of Higante Norte, we disembarked and immersed in cool crystalline waters that either refreshed my soul or healed my longing to be in union with nature. The sand was fine as silk which was fascinating for a mortal like me to experience. The place was indeed holy for the natives for most of them owe their lives to the abundance of the sea. And upon docking at the island, one would be mesmerized by gigantic sea walls engineered by divine hands themselves. You wouldn’t believe that this place exists in a parochial and bucolic place in Iloilo. Ahhh!, I say, “there is nothing more beautiful in life than to experience beauty itself! And this place is divine beauty!”
The place was extraordinary and the experience would not have been complete unless you explored its rocky mountains. My brother and my cousins trekked the rock mountain of barangay Granada for two and a half hours. And when we reached the top, Lo! The UP flag was there signifying that UP students had conquered this place before. Had I brought my marker, I would write “Uno ka? 100 Ako.” The beauty became more exhilarating when we started to sing the “Top of the World.”
But as a curious man, I didn’t limit myself in mere experience for I always wanted to know. And so I roamed the community and asked the people about the place, its origin and myth. The place was indeed fascinating as every island has its story to tell, yet people were more enamored by the tale of Higantes.
Higantes Islands are two big islands endowed with rich natural beauty. On the north, lies the panoramic barangay Granada and barangay Asluman as the fishing drop point of the island. In Asluman, you would find the most satisfying shells like scallops, diwal, oysters, budyong¸ and tuklap-tuklap which are gathered for exportation. On the south, barangay Gabi stands majestically with its wide span of white sand beach (Antonea) and barangay Lantangan on the other end which is very mysterious because of its rock formations that exactly looks like Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings. Some folks claimed that this was once a fortress or a castle of engkantados where they have sporadically seen a golden boat docking. It had a multitude of caves and a blue lagoon inside known as Tangke. Also, there are said to be sea portals in the place where you will be transported to Masbate and Aklan. According to the natives, the caves and portals were beautiful window drapes and Turkish doors long time ago. But as time progresses and human civilization advances, the beauty of a place regresses. This only means that the ascent of human knowledge is also the death of myths.
But why Higante? When you look at the two islands from a distance, you would see forms of two sleeping giants The one is called Babayi, which is located in the south (Sur) and the other Lalaki in the north (Norte). In the between the two islands were two big boulders which were called Higantuna and Higantillo, also known as children of the giants. In short this is a family group of islands, exactly suitable for families who like worthwhile adventures. In this life, we only have a lifetime to spend, and it is just beautiful to experience a paradise right here, right now way ahead our own deaths. If Dante’s Paradiso exists, it can be found in Higantes.
P.S. If you like to evade this boisterous world, come to Higante Islands and not to Boracay. You’ll be surprised how Boracay can be more urban compared to some cities in the Philippines. Higante is completely opposite because instead of hanging with people and wasting your pocket to zero you will be partying with nature itself – crows, boobies and hawks; crabs, lobsters, shrimps; scallops, oysters and other shells; monkeys and wild cats; sea snakes and eels; rays and tunas; corals and urchins. And believe it, we only spent a quarter of our total expense in Boracay!