I initially didn’t want a guided tour of Guimaras. When I booked that flight ten months ago, all I wanted to do was to sit by the beach with a beer (or two) and a book, while the sound of the waves keep me company.
Things suddenly changed, though, while talking to that tricycle driver named Gerald who took us to our accommodation in San Lorenzo that Wednesday afternoon.
I must admit I was sales talked into buying his tour service, with the promise that we would go to all the tourist spots of Guimaras even if it would take us the whole day and night.
We agreed to do the tour Thursday after lunch so we wouldn’t have to rush. It was also a good decision because it was low tide when we arrived that afternoon at The Clara Beach. As much as we liked to beach bum that first night, we weren’t able to because the resort was fronting a mangrove and being low tide and near twilight, the mangrove area looked scary.
We were told it’s best to swim in the morning during high tide so my cousin and I just settled to passing the night at the small pool in front of our hut, and eventually with some bottles of beer and talking while staring out at the dark sea.
Being a very light sleeper, the sound of a rooster (over the slow hum of the aircon) woke me up at around 5 AM. The sun was already shining that early as I could see through the window curtains. And the whooshing of the waves joined in by the singing of birds and other insects was a very good sound to wake up to.
Two cups of coffee later, my cousin was already up, as well as the tide which got us very excited to go swimming.
We had the beach to ourselves. No other tourist, not even a local, was around while we walk far from the mangrove to search for the best spot to swim.
For an introvert, it was pure bliss to have the whole stretch of beach to yourself.
We were picked up by the tricycle driver that we arranged the tour with at 12:30 PM. He was one hour earlier than arranged, and I eventually thought I knew why.
We were first brought to the wind farm lookout point. Yes, in the middle of the day.
The San Lorenzo wind farm serves as a source of renewable energy in the Western Visayas, and a tourist spot at the same time.
From this point on, the tour guide would (almost forcibly) take my DSLR in every tourist spot we went to so that he could take pictures of me and my cousin. I don’t normally take a lot of photos of myself during trips. One photo per spot would be nice. With our tour guide, though, I ended up with gazillion photos of myself in my SD card. He would even tell me how to pose. It was so awkward, like when he told me to point at the horizon or pose like I was leaning at the wind mill… I couldn’t say no. Perhaps because I was subconsciously giving an extra effort to be nice. I was always taught by my mother to be extra polite whenever I’m in another place, and I have always followed that.
So the pictures included in this post (aside from the ones in Guisi beach) were all taken using my iPhone.
After the wind mills, the guide took us pasalubong shopping. Variety of mango products were presented to us. I bought none. I get mouth sores with fruits.
Guimaras is famous for its mangoes, and processing the fruit is one of its major industries.
The province has 50,000+ mango trees, producing one of the sweetest mangoes in the world, thus, getting the nickname Mango Capital of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the tour guide was given free mangoes by one store owner for bringing tourists in.
Then we were brought to the Guimaras capitol to have photos taken at the large sign that spells the name of the province with a giant mango beside it. Mister and Miss Guimaras State University were having a shoot by the time we arrived so we had to wait for like ten to fifteen minutes for our turn.
I was surprised by our next destination – a fastfood which was far (in my taste) from being a tourist spot. Also, tour guide didn’t even ask us if we wanted to eat. He just brought us there, he himself gave us the menus, and ordered with us. I was sure he was actually the one hungry, not us.
After eating, we went to the mango plantation inside the Bureau of Plant Industry. A television series some years back was said to have been shot there.
Nothing much to see here, though, aside from mango trees. But, of course.
And then we went to Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery or Trappist Abbey. It was the only Trappist monastery in the country.
The place was so serene I enjoyed walking in the vicinity. There was also a handsome St. Bernard that rested on either door of the church. When I entered the main door, he stood up from his spot at the side of the door, perhaps not wanting to be disturbed. Walking around, I eventually saw him resting by the other door at the back of the church.
Founded in 1972, the Trappist Abbey is home to 35 monks (called Trappists) from the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (OCSO: Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae), a Catholic religious order of cloistered contemplative monastics who follow the Rule of St. Benedict.
The monks in Guimaras produce products like pineapple and mango jams under the brand Trappist Monastic Products which can be found in local stores and at their shop, which we were not able to visit.
The tour guide was already complaining about how late it was and hinting about not completing the tour anymore.
I was being nice but was really at the brink of asking what happened to his no-matter-how-long-it-takes-we’d-go-to-every-spot tour that he promised the day before.
In the end, I just made sure we’d be able to go to Alubihod and Guisi beaches to catch the sunset.
The guide chose the Raymen resort for us to see the Alubihod beach in Nueva Valencia. The resort was busy with local and foreign tourists that Thursday afternoon. I wondered what it would be like on weekends.
The beach was nice, indeed. Powdery sand and clear waters. But I would choose the deserted brown sand of San Lorenzo anytime over the crowded Alubihod.
The entrance to the Guisi lighthouse was very near the path towards Guisi beach. So we had a quick visit of the lighthouse first before we went down the path leading to the beach to wait for sunset.
The Guisi beach was deserted aside from a threesome very far from us. The sand was pale brown and there was a rocky patch between the sand and the water. I guess the water goes up to cover those rocks during high tide.
My phone ran out of batt at the Guisi beach. Good thing the DSLR was with me at that time. The guide chose not to go down with us to the beach because he had to look after his tricycle.
I love sunsets. The last time I sat down to watch it was a day after my birthday last January in Lingayen.
I cannot say that the Guimaras sunset is more beautiful than the other sunsets I had seen, because each sunset is captivating in itself, each time emitting different colors, creating different moods.
Well, sunrise has a beauty of its own, too, but sunset appeals more to me – it’s more romantic, being the prelude to the night; watching the sun goes down the horizon somehow tells me to reflect on life, if it has been as colorful or as dull, depending on the weather; and just like the sun that will come out again the next day, sunset gives me hope that goodbyes are not forever.
It was a little before 7 PM when we arrived back at the resort. It was our last night in Guimaras. I knew I would miss the laid back atmosphere of San Lorenzo, especially the quiet of its nights when I get back to Manila.
For the last time, we let the cool sea air embrace us by hanging out by the beach that night. We just sat there looking out at the dark sea and the night sky. And we lightly talked about our Guimaras experience, up until we were already in bed, waiting to fall asleep.
Being away from your daily routine, even just for a while, is recharging. Traveling widens your experiences, takes away stress, and gives you a more positive outlook about life. It also makes you more enthusiastic in facing your daily tasks, and in facing life in general.
Our Guimaras experience was short, but sweet. As sweet, perhaps, as the world-famous mangoes that grow there.
My comparison was baseless, though, as I wasn’t able to taste their mangoes.