Less than a half hour boat ride away from the City of Iloilo is an island known as the country’s mango capital…Guimaras. Here mangoes are almost like religion, and the industry is protected – it’s illegal to carry mango fruits or seeds from other areas into the island.
The journey to Guimaras starts at the port of Iloilo where motorized outrigger boats that ply the Iloilo – Guimaras route dock. From there it takes a little less than half an hour for the boat to reach the jetty at Jordan, Guimaras’ capital. From the jetty one can then either hire a “tricycle” or sidecar that holds 4 people (ideally, but can carry six or more in a crunch), or hire a small jeepney that islanders call the “multicab”.
There is also a tourism desk at the jetty (and it is, literally, a desk) where one can inquire about the various attractions in the island and the tourism staff could handle the arrangements between you and the driver, including the pricing for your planned route.
Since we didn’t have that much time, we only chose two destinations, the Trappist Monastery and the Raymen Beach, and we were quoted 500PHP for the round trip back to the port. Considering there wasn’t too much option (the multicabs were more expensive), we went for it, and we immediately took the road going inland.
We passed by the Jordan town proper on our way to the Trappist Monastery (pronounced “Hordan”). It is Guimaras’ largest municipality, but it’s a small town by any means. The island’s circumferential highway which runs right through it serves as its only main road and artery. There are small scale establishments on both sides of the highway, but nothing resembling a department store or large fast food chain can be found.
The Trappist Monastery
A few minutes past Jordan is a monastery of the Cisterian order, more commonly known as “Trappists”, from the order’s place of origin in Trappe, France. Guimaras, with its quiet and tranquil environment, couldn’t have been better for a monastic life. A portion of the monastery’s grounds is open to the public, and here one can get a sneak peek at the quiet life of monks.
Monks are also known for their sense of industry, and here they have a gift shop that sells produce from the monastery, most notable of which are mango delicacies such as jams, “otaps”, biscocho and mango bars. These delicacies are reason enough to drop by.
Further down the road, a good half to three quarters of an hour from the monastery is Raymen Beach. It has the island’s most comfortable accomodations, or so I’ve read, but it really isn’t much. The resort is reasonably clean, but it’s nothing fancy, and even its restaurant feels canteen-like. The beach though is white and clean. Most of Guimaras’ coastline is made of jagged rocks and cliffs, and Raymen is one of the few places where there’a stretch of white sand suitable for a swim.
Guimaras is one of those places where it feels like time stood still. It’s cliche, I know, but there’s no better way to put it. The island feels relaxed, and I dare say sleepy. Apart from a bit of hustle and bustle near Jordan’s market place, the rest of the island feels like it’s resting, and with such an abundance of time, there’s no reason for people to go chasing it. After all, you can’t rush mangoes to ripeness, can you?
* We went to Guimaras last July 2011. All photos taken with Panasonic Lumix LX5.