When I told my colleagues I was going to Kalibo, Aklan for a vacation, the immediate reaction was, “Oooh, you’re going to Boracay?”
Guys, there is more to Aklan than the abused island of Boracay.
Don’t get me wrong – I did think of going to Boracay, but I wanted to maximize this trip by experiencing more of this underrated province in the South.
Our first stop was the nearby Bakhawan Ecopark in New Buswang, Kalibo. This 220-hectare mangrove forest serves as a sanctuary to bakhawan trees, birds, crabs and other marine life. It is sliced in the middle by a 1km long wooden trail connected by a makeshift bridge crossing over a portion of the scenic Aklan river. At the end of the trail is a viewing deck overlooking the river that extends toward the Sibuyan Sea.
For only P300, we got a demo on how tamilok (woodworm) is harvested from the crevices of dying wood. The harvested mollusk (it’s not worm as others would think – surprise, surprise!) is then cleaned and bathed in vinegar for us to taste. It tastes just like talaba, which is why it is best taken with ice cold beer.
For dinner, we headed out to Bgy. Tambak, New Washington, for the talabahan (eating places for fresh oysters). There is a line of restaurants and diners that offer this delicacy along the coastal road that leads all the way to Iloilo. If you’re resourceful enough, you can get a kilo of boiled talaba for as low as P50! Those who want to have a serving of grilled seafood must get to the area before 7pm, though, because they run out fast. Since we went there for the oysters, though, grilled liempo did just fine with the meal.
The following day, we set out to see the wind farm up in Pawa, Nabas. Fine, we weren’t able to make it all the way up because the sedan we were riding couldn’t even make it halfway up the rough road. I know it’s not a smart thing to do, but it was worth a try at that moment. All we could do was take pictures of the tiny view of the 36-MW wind farm. The project has been supplying renewable energy to the Western Visayas grid, including Boracay Island.
Speaking of which, there is no sense going to the home of world-famous Boracay without touching the sandy beach, right? Well, we did the next best thing, which is to head over for a day’s dip at the crystal clear waters of Jawili beach in Tangalan. Again, we were resourceful enough to choose the one where there is no entrance fee. Of course, when you are as cheap as our group, you can’t expect comfortable shower rooms or even rooms for accommodation.
The neighboring beach had better facilities, though, so those who are iffy about shower facilities would be better off going there. Again, this is not Boracay where there is an over-supply of dainty hotels and inns, but the beach itself is like the Boracay from 10 years ago.
By mid-afternoon, we were off to the nearby Jawili Falls – well, mini-falls, actually. I didn’t get to reach the 100-ft apex (I was suffering from a groin injury), but I got to trek a few hundred meters, which is enough to see about four of the seven basins. A few teenagers were jumping over the edges down toward the basins, which proved how deep they are.
I had wanted to explore more places, but because of my injury (plus we were with my 75-year old mother), we had to take shorter trips. Aklan is definitely one place that every nature tripper should explore. It also works as a great side trip for those who prefer chilling in Boracay. I would especially love to go up Manduyog Hill, accessible through Aklan State University. Although there are 14 stations of the cross along the way, some say there is an eerie mysticism about the place as you ascend all the way to the top. It is said that if you take pictures in certain spots up the hill, the pictures would come out blurry for strange reasons.
I am definitely going back to revisit Aklan and get better, deeper acquaintance with its magnificence. It deserves better appreciation than mere words and lazy photographs.