I hitched on a green pick-up by the side of the highway across our house in Pilar, Capiz. Inside the pick-up were Ruel Asis on the front seat, his sister Lezel Javillo, his sister’s husband Jorly Javillo, and the couple’s 20-year-old daughter, Gladys Faith.
Ruel is the man behind Asis Food Garden, a catering services establishment that serves clients from all through out the province of Capiz from Jamindan to Pilar, Capiz. (Contact him at 0939-425-1100.)
Ruel and I met during the Roxas City tour I did in 2013. I was with Phillip Kimpo Jr. who was then one of the editors of a tourism blog. Ruel and the Capiz Provincial Tourism Office were gracious to provide us with a van, supply us with itinerary to tour the whole province for 5 days. We did not only visit places, we also tasted the food Capiz had to offer. One of those food was prepared by Ruel in his Asis Food Garden. Since then, I would drop by his house in Roxas City. He also visited me in Manila.
Behind us was Ruel’s light truck that carried the rest of his team.
He and his team were going island hopping in Carles, Iloilo (Panay island, Visayas, Philippines). The group of islands is called Isla Gigantes. The place was recently featured by Noli de Castro in his special segment in TV Patrol called KSP for Kabayan Special Patrol.
When we arrived at the port, first thing I noticed was the public utility bus, Ceres, parked outside the port. The bus makes going to the island accessible. We were required to register and pay an environmental fee of P75 each and to rent a boat. For guests numbering 10 and below, the boat costs P3,500, while for guests numbering 20 and below but not less than 11, the boat costs P5,500. For an overnight tour of the islands, the boat operators ask for an additional P1,000.
After an hour boat ride, we reached Tangke, a cavity in the mountain, where sea water enter during high tide. Like children eager to be part of something beautiful, we swam in the clear and cool waters inside Tangke. It was nearing low tide. The deepest portion was neck deep. The men explored the edges of the cavity, and climbed the stones that formed into stalactites.
From Tangke, we moved to another island called Cabugaw Gamay. The sign in black paint on yellow background shouts: Welcome!!! Maruja Flora’s Island Paradise Resort, etc. etc. On one end of the island is a small mountain that overlooks at the whole island. It’s almost cliche to have a picture taken here but they say you have not gone to Maruja’s island if you don’t have a picture here.
We went for a shade in a nipa hut where Maruja, the owner of the resort, was sitting on a chair by the table. She is from Estancia, a coastal town next to Carles. I asked for a piece of her property, 1,000 square meters, I said. She wouldn’t give me. I volunteered to be her adopted son so that I can inherit the island. She still refused. Finally, I asked for a photo instead, to which Maruja obliged.
Shells sell for P1 a piece. The resort also sells buko, kinilaw na tanguige for P500 a kilo, bottled water, etc.
We ate our lunch there: crispy pata, chicken adobo, the shells and the fish we ordered, and the kinilaw na tanguige.
After lunch, we proceeded to another island. Since it was low tide already, a long sandbar formed towards the hut inward the island. When our boat docked, Ruel declared a contest. Those who can run and arrive in the hut first shall win P100. I joined and won (wink-wink).
Since Maruja refused to give me a piece of her island, we checked another small island to build our resort in. It will have a restaurant, a swimming pool, a gazebo, and all amenities of a first class resort. We docked on the said island, explored the same, took some pictures and made a mental plan: dredge the sea to expand the land, put a breakwater, etc. etc. Erect the resort on top of the boulder on the highest portion of the island. Put a wooden bridge across boulders. Offer snorkeling as an attraction, as well as string fishing, and driving.
It was past 3 pm, when we decided to go home. It will be another 30 minutes or so in a boat ride back to Carles port. On the way, I remembered a long movie directed by James Cameron. It was set on a ship, the biggest at that time. Jack, the character played by Leonardo de Caprio, stood on the edge of the bow and shouted, “I’m the king of the world!” I stood up and asked Ruel to take a photo of me as I also stood on the bow. He wouldn’t click the shutter though because my fingers were spread. Keep them together he said. So, I did as he pleased and history was captured in a photograph.
When we all stepped off the boat onto the port, I asked for a group photo, the first group photo of the group all throughout this excursion. It would take another day before I felt the sun burn on my back.