Day tour in Antique

We had no idea what to expect of Antique, but it turned out one of the best side trips I’ve ever done.

At 4am, Kinah and I got ready and went for breakfast at the  24-hour convenience store on the ground floor of Robinsons. Then we went to the shuttle terminal, all excited (and majorly sleepy) for Antique.

We should have taken the bus. We waited for two hours before the shuttle left because apparently, they wait for it to be filled up, and Iloilo to Antique at that hour was not a popular route. We were going to disembark at Tibiao fish spa, which was the starting point for Katahum’s eco tour. The plan was to spend 6 hours in Antique, but we ended up doing only 4 because of the delay.

But I can’t even regret it because it was just so…fulfilling. I can’t think of a better way to call it because Antique took me by surprise, in a good way, and looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

From Iloilo to Culasi, Antique, the way was peppered with views of the beautiful sea on my left, and a lot of beaches that made me want to go down the shuttle and swim. On my right were mountains that varied in sizes. It was so picturesque that for the first time in my life, I wished I could just travel for a year on a motorbike and drive across the Philippines, taking pictures everytime I want and explore mountains and beaches that catch my fancy.

Beautiful Antique

I even plotted it out in my mind: how much I should budget for every road trip, where I can sleep, how much comfort I’m willing to give up, my safety as a solo female traveler. But in the end, I put the dream on hold because 1) I cannot give up my beloved job and 2) I need high speed internet every day for work, and that’s not available right now around the country.

When we arrived in Tibiao fish spa, it was already noon. I had been texting with the staff, so they had lunch all laid out for us. It’s part of our package, but I felt bad because there was a lot of food that we couldn’t finish.

Kinah’s “I’m going to stab you, Ja, if you don’t let me eat now” face

They advised us to leave the bulk of our things at the fish spa and just bring the essentials like our camera and any change of clothing. We were driven to our next destination by habal-habal. I thought we were going to the foot of the Bugtong Bato waterfalls already, but it turned out we were going to the jump-off point. When they said there was a thirty-minute trek to the waterfalls, we didn’t expect it was up a mountain. I thought it was thru rice fields! And it will take thirty minutes if you’re fit. Kinah and I were so unprepared, and it took us an hour. Deep inside, Kinah was cursing me for making her hike. Ooops.

After a lot of jokes about my [lack of a] lovelife, we finally made it! Good thing Bugtong Bato waterfalls was beautiful so it soothed Kinah’s nerves. It was her first time to swim in a waterfall, and the experience totally made up for the hike. Whew! We were supposed to go up the waterfalls but we only had an hour and we were afraid we might slip and fall since I kept slipping during the hike.

The water was cold but we quickly got used to it. After the hike, it just felt so good to take a dip! Our guide warned us not to get too close to the falls because it might be too strong for us but we still had a lot of fun swimming.

Beautiful Bugtong Bato waterfalls

The water is very clean but it’s shallow and full of dark rocks, that’s why the water looks brown. Eventually, Kinah discovered something ate Mako and Chichi had seen while we were in Camiguin.

“Ja, your skin is glowing,” Kinah suddenly said. “Like, really glowing.”

“Uhm, yeah. My skin has a tendency to do that when I’m wet and the sun hits my skin,” I said. “One time, I shone so bright, ate Mako and Chichi screamed at me to get out of the sun because I blinded them. And one time, ate Mako freaked out in the pool when I swam past her and she didn’t realize it was me.”

I quickly asked our guide to take a picture because I wanted to see what they see. She sounded so amused while taking pictures.

I hope this isn’t some sort of medical issue. The white light beneath me are my legs.

After an hour, the guide said we had to leave for our kawa bath. Since we had to be back in the fish spa by 5pm to catch the last shuttle back to Iloilo, we had to be careful about the time. I loved our guide. He really made sure that we would still be able to enjoy our package despite the limited time.

We went up the other side of the waterfalls, which was another/easier way going back down to the jump-off point. At the top of the stairs, we were served authentic Antique coffee. There are homestays/inns in Bugtong-bato falls, and they grow their own coffee right on the premises. It was delicious! Kinah, who is a coffee aficionado, wanted to buy some beans to take home because she really loved it. However, they only grow enough for themselves and their guests and they didn’t have any extra beans to sell.

The way down was easier and only took us thirty minutes. There are a lot of inns at the foot of the mountain, and plenty of places that offer kawa bath services. Our kawa bath was ready when we arrived, but the fire had already gone out so we didn’t see how it was prepared. But the water was clean and the staff assured us that it was new.

Our kawa bath was by the road, and right across was the river where you can enjoy white water rafting/kayaking.

The hot bath was so soothing, especially after the hike and the cold waterfalls. Mixed plants and flowers are added to the water while it is being heated, and this fragrant mix really helps you relax. If the water is too hot for you, you have to tell the guide because the point of the kawa bath is to relax, and you won’t be relaxed if you feel like you’re being roasted. They will add more water to the kawa until it reaches the temperature with which you are comfortable.

Kawa bath oven

Kinah and I both drifted off to sleep for several minutes but we soaked in the bath for about thirty minutes. We were the only guests at that time and there was no one around so we felt safe.

After our bath, our guide brought us to the hanging bridge for photo ops. We had the option of going to the river to bathe again, but we were running out of time so Kinah and I skipped that.

I wanted to jump right in and enjoy the clean water
Our legs were shaking as we posed for photos and crossed the bridge

The bridge was literally just a hanging structure and it shook whenever we we walked. The sides were made out thin wire so we kept walking in the middle. It’s the only road that connects the inhabitants of the island to the mainland, so there were times motorcycles would cross too, and Kinah and I would rush to the nearest end because we were afraid to stay on the bridge. I hope the authorities would make sure it’s safe because it didn’t feel safe at all. It needs constant upkeep, with some of the boards looking too worse for wear and some part of the railing already open.

But it was very picturesque and it made me appreciate the rawness of Antique all the more.

Our second to the last stop was the Tibiao bakery, which was the oldest bakery in Tibiao. Their bread was tasty, and we bought some pasalubong for our families. We were surprised when our guide bought something for us to take home. Wow!

Tibiao fish spa

Lastly, we went back to the Tibiao fish spa to change into dry clothes and get our fish foot spa. They had three areas for dipping, depending on the size of the fish. I love getting a foot spa from fish because my feet feels so smooth after, but Kinah didn’t relish the feeling.

Meanwhile, our guide was waiting outside for the bus back to Iloilo because we thought it was too late already for the shuttle. But a van passed by and they still had room for two! Kinah, of course, drifted off to sleep, while I stayed awake the entire two-hour trip. But the surprises from Antique didn’t end with the fish spa.

It was raining so the road back was very foggy and very low visibility. I looked to my right, out to the ocean, and saw that the fog was pink. I thought I was dreaming, I actually shook my head. But nope, it was pink. (I talked to one of my friend’s helpers, who hails from Antique, and she confirmed that the fog does turn pink in Antique when it rains). It was one of the most beautiful rains I’ve ever experienced, and I was very glad I was awake for it. Unfortunately, I was sitting on the other side of the van and couldn’t take a picture. But 10/10 would be glad to go back to Antique when it rains.

Antique was an unexpected delight, and I’m so excited to discover what else it has to offer. It’s not the quickest of places to get to because there are no direct flights, but its raw beauty is worth it. And if you’re thinking of visiting Antique, make sure to try the kawa bath!

 

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