The province bordered by Aklan, Capiz and Iloilo provinces and facing Sulu Sea, Antique, the seahorse shaped province in the island of Panay is a treasure trove of wonders and a chest full of interesting places biding its time to be uncovered and be visited for its natural beauty.
Antique is one of the few provinces in the Visayas that I have yet to visit. Several accounts have mentioned the province to be a host of a lot of options for adventure and eco-cultural tours. Comparing to its neighboring provinces like Aklan which is frequently visited because it’s a gateway to Boracay, and Iloilo which is rich in history and was once an economic center during the Spanish era, Antique was like sleeping through the course of time.
The origin of the province’s name did not come from the adjective itself. Before the Spaniards came, the place was called Hantik which refers to the black ants found in the island. When it was recorded, the colonizers pronounced it without the letter H, yet it was written as antique. The locals then began to say their province name as antique (än-ti-ké).
This year, I decided to step foot in the province dubbed as the land where the mountains meet the sea.
Geographically, Antique is an elongated stretch of land occupying the western portion of Panay. It has on its eastern section, the rugged central mountains of Panay with the highest peak, Mt. Madja-as lying between the border of Antique and Aklan. The entire western section of the province is facing the Sulu Sea, hence there are portions of the coastal sections that have beaches. The province has also some islands that have white sand beaches and some well-preserved coral reefs that are of interest for scuba divers.
From Iloilo, I hopped into a bus at a terminal in the Molo District, along the Iloilo-Antique Road. San Jose de Buenavista is the provincial capital and is located around 98kms west of Iloilo City. The trip took me 3 hours.
When I travelled to a place for the first time, I often stop and get off at the town center. If I do not know where the bus would stop, I often ask the driver to drop me at the nearest town plaza or church or town hall. Most of the town in the Philippines has retained the Spanish colonial set-up of the town, where the church, presidencia, plaza, school and market are located in one area, often coastal, elevated or beside a river or waterway.
I stepped off the bus at the junction where EBJ Freedom Park is located. This park is located in front of the Antique Provincial Capitol Building. This park was in honor of Evelio B. Javier a former governor of the province who was shot by an unknown killer at the time of election, when the ballots were still being counted.
East of EBJ Freedom Park is the old Capitol Building. It is now used as a museum. Meseo Antiqueño contains the Lola Masing Center for Culture and Peace and the memorabilia of the late Governor Evelio B. Javier (harrybalais.com). It was quite unfortunate that the museum was closed at the time of my visit.
Every December, the town celebrates Binirayan. The festival commemorates the arrival of the ten Malay chieftains in the towns of Antique in the 13th century and the establishment of the first barangays in the the Philippines. Binirayan Festival started in the 1970’s and is constantly gaining popularity.
Another popular celebration is the Tiringbanay Festival. Tiringbanay may have come from two words: Tiringub which means ‘to be together’ and Banay which means ‘family’. From April 30-May 1, People from San Jose de Buenavista would come home and go to their families and friends to celebrate the events and their history as a people and to express their commitment to their patron saint, St. Joseph the Worker to be responsible members of their community.
The province is also featuring the Rafflesia (genus Rafflesia R. Br.) a flower found only in Southeast Asia and is said to be the one of the largest flowers in the world. In the Philippines, the endemic species is the R. speciosa which can be found only in the island of Panay. It was discovered in Mount Porras in Sibalom Natural Park in Antique.
Antique is beginning to promote their rice terraces. It is a 600-hectare living heritage located in the interior part of the town of San Remigio. These rice terraces were built by the indigenous people, the Iraynon Bukidnon.
Taken from other blogsites, the popular recommendation on places to visit and things to do are the following:
1. Anini-y Church – centuries old church made of coral stones in the southern town of Anini-y.
2. Kawa Hot Bath – several pics of travelers sitting on a huge vat (previously used for cooking mascovado or brown sugar) with fire beneath it was taken in the town of Tibiao. Several resorts along the Tibiao river offer this bizarre experience that somehow mimics what ‘aswangs’ or witches do – boil something in a cauldron.
3. Old Church Ruins – in the towns of Hamtic, San Jose de Buenavista and Patnongon. These were mostly got destroyed during World War II.
4. Island Hopping – visit Malalison Island near Culasi for its sand bar and Batbatan Island for diving and snorkeling,or head to Manniquin (Hammerhead) Island or the Nogas Island off Anini-y
5. Tibiao Rapids – The town offers an adventurous ride on the rapids of the Tibiao River, best done on rainy days.
6. Bugtong Bato Falls – said to be a collection of seven water falls at the interior portion of Tibiao.
7. Hot and Cold Springs – Malumpati Cold Springs (Culasi) and Sira-an Hot Springs are local favorites
I took some pics from the town center and had a quick stop at a local coffee shop, just across the EBJ Freedom Park. On my first visit to Antique, it gave me a glimpse of what’s in-store for me the next time I’ll visit. Antique promises a string of wonderful experience. I hope to come back really soon.