Several times I came to notice about how different life is for each island in the Philippines. I mean, yes, I’ve been to 39 different provinces (81 total) for years now, but whenever I’m on a new island or perhaps a new town, I’m still astounded as to what local can offer and how they live. The standard of living differs in every aspect, there’s lower than expected, but there exist expensive towns that I somewhat struggled to live by frugally.
This year, one of the highlights was my visit to one of the Islas de Gigantes – which is the Gigantes Norte. Islas de Gigantes has a total of 10 islands with 2 largest named as Norte and Sur, I came to stay in Gigantes Norte. Islas de Gigantes is located in the northernmost part of Iloilo province.
I sure of stunned with the 5 islands I visited out of 10, but what struck me most, is the lives of the local, their way of living, their upbringing and their hospitality.
It’s no question how hospitable people are in this place, it’s been proven to a majority of Filipinos. Their way of living, from fishing, a massive harvest of scallops and local hammer shell named “wasay-wasay” is their main source of income. Another growing business is the tourism, as heaps of curious travelers want to see the beauty of this haven. Tourism has also helped local ignite their income as there are few house owners who at times offer Homestay for about PHP 200.00 each person, but, not all the time they can receive guests for there are various licensed tour operators who already arranged this type of service to the increasing business of resorts both in Norte and Sur. And only residents can be tour guides here. Nevertheless, the varied growth of tourism is still a good way to help the people for their livelihood.
The tremendous harvest of scallops from boatmen and fishermen will give a tourist an experience on how these trawlers dive into the sea to capture these shells at different sites. Unfortunately for me, it was not the best time to experience with these settlers when I visit since it was monsoon season, where huge waves are visible during this time. But more so, if you get the chance to visit Gigantes, try to inquire and negotiate with locals so you can experience how they reap scallops and “wasay-wasay”, it will be an interesting activity.
What do they do with scallops?
They sell it to other places on a minimal cost, either with the meat or it’s inner part or no shells at all. The price depends on the weight of a scallop regardless if it has it’s shell or not. Few of the local also have contacts to different islands nearby like Cebu, Negros, Boracay and Palawan where they transport the empty shell parts for decoration or handcraft businesses which these companies exported to other countries. This is the same with the “wasay-wasay” – dive into the sea, sprawl those hammer shells, cracked and do business after. Anyhow, I am delighted when we arrived at this island, for there are hefty empty shells scattered at the entry point, which by the way were piled like a high mountain.
Apart from their fascinating life, the food is luscious and abundant. I marvel at how reliable people are since they have limited time of transportation to the mainland (once a day boat schedule to & from Estancia Iloilo) but most of what we need to cook for food are available. There were “sari-sari” stores (mini grocery in a village) are open (even on the farthest part of the island, there’s a mini grocery) so food is not a dilemma, although a bit pricey but helping them would not harm our pockets, right? The great amount of food that cost Php 150.00/each person per meal provide us packed belly the whole time. I’m not exaggerating, or, perhaps at least the place where we stayed cater us positive service at a low-cost reasonable price, we (with 2 of my friends) stayed at Beny’s Bed and Breakfast. They cook different scallop cuisine each meal that’s why we weren’t even fed up and mind you, it’s genuinely delectable.
You’d asked how about the water consumption and electric power?
Tap water is accessible, however, I advise you to bring an enormous supply of drinking water, in our case we brought 12 liters for 2 nights stay (our water consumption is honestly high, we were 3 by the way), although there are available bottled water in the area, we prefer to bring some with us.
It’s scheduled every 3 pm till 12midnight sometimes it changes, but in Beny’s they have their own generator, so it was convenient to us. And be fully informed that in Asluman village, there’s sporadic signal of phones, only in Granada has a better connection.
One of the sites that I unquestionably cherished is the sunrise & sunset, we witnessed the beautiful sunrise facing the Asluman village of Gigantes Norte, although we were told that it’s better to see sunrise at the northern part of the island, particularly at the Lighthouse, which is an hour by walk or a 10 minutes motorbike ride, we didn’t bother to do such for we spot on the beautiful sunrise closer to where we were staying. On the other side of the location, named as Granada Barangay (village) is where the sunset can be perfectly captured.
Most of the tourists or guests of Gigantes Norte prefer to take the motorcycle ride to tour the whole island, but we go for hiking which took us 3 hours as we want to meet and have good relations with the residents.
Another excursion is exploring the cave of this island, which most of the people we meet there, including visitors, recommended us to tour the cave, we decided not to check the place as we fancy associating with the local by wandering the whole peninsula. If you like caves, try to delve into this activity. You certainly need to know what you want so you could decide first hand.
The primary activity of visiting the Gigantes is to explore the stunning islands, as I’ve mentioned we visited 5 – Tangke (located at the back of the Gigantes Sur island), Antonia, Cabugay Gamay, Bantique and Gigantes Norte.
However, though there are various coral reefs of this mentioned islands, I am not blown away with the marine sanctuary, but please don’t get me wrong for I only snorkel Antonia, Cabugay Gamay, and Bantique, there might be other sites that possibly could amaze you that I haven’t dived into, you have the choice.
New to Gigantes? I hope this will help you decide what you should be doing.
Note: Schedule of Boat going to Gigantes Norte is every 1 pm in the afternoon and Every 8 am in the morning from the island to the Iloilo mainland.
Author: Ferna Mae
Ferna is from the Philippines who travel spontaneously. Thrives to be more independent in her own skin. She first traveled The Philippines before she embarked to other countries. She believes that by traveling, her undying crave for learning excites her in a more profound way. Her flexibility had proven her that time is genuine. As a former tour guide in the Philippines, she hopes that her travel experiences will give value to the aspiring travelers. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org,