Friday, March 2, 2018


By Roger Pe
Business Mirror
February 28, 2018

When the word Antique is mentioned, what do you think comes to people’s minds? Most likely, one of these will show on the list. Evelio Javier, Arturo Pacificador, a province so far away, languishing in obscurity. A place some people never even bother to visit. You’ll probably even hear worse than that. But that’s barely scratching the surface. Dig deeper. Go beyond your outdated impression.

People unfamiliar with the place would often associate the province with the definition of “antique’ meaning “ancient” or “old-fashioned”. But for those who value ancient things, the word would mean precious, valuable, and priceless.

If you are still at a loss, you may want to ask why the ten Bornean datus landed in Antique. Datus Puti, Sumakwel, Dumangsil, Bangkaya, Paliburong and the rest of them must have been so enchanted they stayed awhile and eventually settled, right in the heart of the community, which would eventually become the capital town.

According to local folks, the Malay datus met the Ati chieftain Datu Marikudo and his wife Maniwangtiwan and offered the chieftain a ‘salakot’ (wide-brimmed hat believed to be made of pure gold) which included a golden necklace, earrings, bracelets and trinkets they wore when they fled Borneo.
Among other gifts were pearls and fine clothes as a display of respect and to buy the land from them to live. Datu Marikudo responded to the datus' generosity by giving the Malays the lowlands. The Ati tribes moved to the mountains as they are sacred to them. 
The island of Panay was then divided into three ‘sakups’: Hantik, Aklan and Irong-Irong. Aklan became the present-day Aklan andCapiz, Irong-Irong became Iloilo, and Hantik (also called Hamtik or Hamtic) became Antique. Hantik was named for the large black ants found on the island. Datu Sumakwel founded the town of Malandog, considered to be the first Malay settlement in the country. 
During the Spanish colonial period, the coastal province was vulnerable to attacks by Moro raiders. Under the direction of the Spanish friars, a series of watchtowers, like the 'Old Watchtower' in Libertad and Estaca Hill in Bugasong, were built to guard Antique.
Fast forward, the province of Antique is a paradise province, teeming with fish from the Sulu Sea, bountiful with fruits and vegetables from its rich fertile lands. Here, livestock and poultry grow abundantly. It is endowed by nature with gold, copper, chromite, limestone deposits and gemstones. Recently, an indication of oil deposit has been found in one of its islands. Its waterfalls, rivers, caves, white sandy beaches, caves and other natural attractions are just as spectacular as those in the most hyped of destinations in the Philippines.

But why is it still the most overlooked of all Panay island provinces? 

For one, Antique is isolated from the restbecause of its rugged mountain ranges. The geographical circumstance that also created a language and culture uniquely its own, added to its distance from the mainstream, more pronounced neighbors.

Situated on the western part of the island, the nearest Antique town to bustling Iloilo City is approximately 90 kilometers away. A trip to the capital town would take at least two hours by bus or a rented van. Oftentimes called “the land where mountains meet the sea”, the description continues to pose a challenging reality to its inhabitants.

The province has a total land area of 252, 200 hectares, about 73% of which is upland and 27% lowland. This explains why one has to pass through rugged terrains to reach it. The climate favors the growth of palay, making the province a major rice producer in the region.

Through the years, the province has not figured prominently on the tourism radar. It has always been Boracay, Iloilo, Bacolod and the province of Negros that get top of mind awareness and larger chunk of visitors.
Seemingly, Antique has been relegated to the background, like a younger sibling, a bit coy and scared to be introduced to the public.But the world actually iswaiting, wanting to embrace a gem that is slowly coming out of its cocoon and is emerging.

Ruggedly beautiful

My first time in Antique was in the late 70s. I was a freshman copywriter in advertising, working for a multinational advertising agency. We had to attend a regional raffle draw for a detergent brand promotion.To get to the capital town, we boarded a plane to Bacolod, took a ferry to Iloilo (to coordinate with local radio stations) and then travelled many kilometers to a place I have long forgotten. 

I still remember Antique’s rugged terrains, vast rice fields, ravines, and its signature dish that I still like today, “KBL”. We did not stay in a hotel (there were none) but in a pension house fronting a school where we enjoyed watching a three-man volleyball game.

Antique has come a long way. Today, the capital town is bustling with new businesses, and elsewhere in the province sprout infrastructure projects – resorts, hotels, bridges, cemented arm-to-market roads, renewable energy sources that aim to better the quality of life of Antiquenos.

When an international river kayaking competition was held in Antique in 1997, Antiquenos marched from all points of the province and gathered in Tigbiao town to fully support it. The event was nothing but festive. Joy was written on the faces of everyone. People from all walks of life, young and old, from the government and private sectors, all headed north, up in the mountains where the sparkling waters of Tigbiao River were to delight them.The atmosphere was reminiscent of the days when the province opened their hearts and homes to the ten datus eons of years ago.

Antiquenos are brave warriors like the datus they adopted as sons. They are also people known to always show solidarity for the common good, a trait that dates back long before the Spaniards came to the Philippines. More than that, it is the hospitality that speaks well of them, gracious hosts, giving it all, even way beyond expectations.

The big event that opened with a big bang and ended with the same magnitude in 1997, created bigger excitement ahead, a vehicle to spur more tourism activities in the dreary town. But to the words of FlordCalawag, Director of 2018 Tigbiao River Festival, the next few years were “Kaluluoy” (pitiful). The event was never sustained and almost died without even a whimper in a matter of two years. Aggravated by lack of a planning, tourism was in limbo, a frustrating fact when numerous attractions abound and are just waiting to be discovered, developed and announced to the world.

All of that seems water under the bridge now. Antiquenossad sentiments are beginning to recede from their collective consciousness.Today, one can feel the excitement once again. The province,which used to average only 36,000 visitors annually,registered 1.3 million domestic visitors last year, leap-frogging from the bottom to number two ranking in the entire Western Visayas region.

No less than the energetic Governor RhodoraCadiao confirmed it with pride when she graced the opening of the 2018 Tibiao River Festival, which featured extreme river-tub rafting competition participated in by tourists and trained athletes from all over the Phlippines.

Tibiao River Festival 2018

Dubbed as the eco-adventure capital of Panay Island, the town of Tibiao in Antique is a haven for thrill seekers and nature lovers.Its most popular attraction is Tibiao River, gentle at some point but menacing as it cascades among rocks and boulders. It snakes around the mountains of Antique and considered one of the best whitewater rivers in the country,and a favorite venue for local and international rafters.

Located in Barangay Tuno andjust a 15-minute ride from the highway of Barangay Importante, it rises on the slopes of Mt. Madja-as, the highest point in Panay Island. It then roars down magnificent hills and valleys, with a length of about23 kilometers of navigable water. 

Rafting is a recreational outdoor activity using an inflatable raft to navigate a river or another body of water. This is often done on whitewater or different degrees of rough water, and generally, represents a new and challenging fix for participants. 
Kayaking is an activity using a low-to-the-water canoe in which the paddler sits facing forward, legs in front, using a small boat called a kayak and a double-bladed oar.

Calawag’s Mountain Resort (he operates it together with his brother) offers visitors manyrecreational outdoor activities. For those who prefer Kayaking, here are the courses: Grade 1: Basic kayaking, which introduces first timers to paddling a kayak, Grade 2: For those who want to experience higher levels of skills while navigating rapids and around boulders, Grade3-4: For professionals who want to navigate against strong currents, big boulders and learn difficult maneuvers.

Once a provincial tourism officer, Calawag said, the river activities were designed to revive the festive atmosphere brought by the international river kayaking cup in 1997. Various resorts, like the Blue Wave Traveler’s Inn, Calawag Mountain Resort, Kayak Inn, and La Escapo Lodge, in partnership with the Department of Tourism, Department of Environment Natural Resources, the Provincial Government of Antique, the Local Government Unit of Tibiao, and University of Antique Tario-Lim Memorial Campus joined hands to make the festival generate word-of-mouth awareness and create buzz nationwide.

He said, this year’s festival was aimed attraining people in Barangay Tuno on water safety and rescue operations, as well as extreme river tubing techniques, showcase the culinary, natural, cultural, and historical heritage of Tibiao as well as promote and understand its huge tourism potentials.

The 1st Karay-a Food Cooking Challenge (open to all staff of resorts and restaurants in Tibiao) and Tree-Planting at the river bank of Tibiao were also held while the first TibiaoNational Extreme River Tubing Competition opened with four event categories: Trained tubers, male tourists, female tourists and LGBT tourists.

San Jose Airport improvement

When the upgraded San Jose airport is finished, visitors to Antique won’t have to pass by Iloilo and Caticlan airports to reach the town. Renovation of Evelio Javier Airport is undergoing and resumption of commercial flights between Manila and Antique is expected within two years.

The project involves lengthening of the runaway to accommodate bigger planes, expansion of passenger terminal buildings and installation of runway lights for evening flights. Commercial flights to Antique began in April 2003 bus stopped on June 30, 2006.
The airport temporarily opened when President Rodrigo Duterte opened the annual PalarongPambansa on April 23, 2017. 

Marketable destination

Is Antique marketable? Western Visayas Tourism Regional Director Helen Catalbas said Antique is young when it comes to being a preferred destination. “Antique is for rugged travelers who want to experience extreme adventure like what Tibiao River offers. It has rugged terrains fit for those who seek something different than the usual sun, sea and surf,” she said.

“Because it has successfully hosted the PalarongPambansa, national SCUAA (State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association) meets and other national and international kayaking competitions, we are positioning the province as a sports tourism destination,” she said during an interview.

Catalbas reiterated that in order to market well, people must experience their own backyard well, know its locale well, from the municipal down to barangay level. “It must be marketable to its own residents, so to speak,” she emphasized.

What are the biggest challenges her region is facing today? She mentioned infrastructure as number one, the Boracay sewage problem and planning congestion, as well as one city being referred to as the “most shabulized.”

“We do not really worry about it. If we work hard, things will change and we will keep the industry afloat,inspite of name-calling. The attractions of this region are not the politicians,” she said.

She however stressed not to market destinations that are not ready. “We do not want disappointed visitors. We should do our own product development first and that refers to accessibility and accommodation,” Catalbas said.
Catalbas is optimistic that Western Visayas would reach its tourist arrival target of 6.1 million this year inspite of the challenges the region is facing. She said it is achievable as individual provinces are not stopping their own promotion efforts.

What does she think of Governor Rhodora Cadiao’s tourism program? She said the governor is much aligned with DOT’s implementation and comprehensive planning and the province is starting on the right foot. She describes the governor as “the only rose among the thorns, very unlike some governors who do their own way because of their own interests. As chairperson of Western Visayas Regional Development Council, I could say that she has a better grasp of the picture,” she said.

Side by side with Farm and Faith tourism, Catalbas stressed that these two have significant roles in making tourism in general grow big in Western Visayas. “Agriculture tourism, for instance, does not mean flowers and vegetables alone. It means feeding tourists with our own produce, food grown and harvested locally, not imported from abroad or other regions,” she said.

New wonder of Western Visayas

Antique is not Iloilo. Antique is not Boracay. Nor it is a combination of what western Visayas has to offer. Antique is Antique and it is unique.
As has been written in many articles and blogs, Antique province is quite special because of its natural beauty and diversity, according to, for example. “It is nature lover’s paradise! I’ve already traveled to the province many times, but I keep discovering new reasons to come back,” blogger Mr. Detourista says.

Here are a number of reasons why Antique should be on your bucket list this summer.

Binirayan Festival. A 29-day festival when all towns in the province compete in the capital to commemorate the arrival of the ten Borneandatus. It has a permanent theme: “Retracing Roots, Celebrating Culture and Greatness.”

Mararison Sandbar, Culasi. If you hate crowded beaches, Mararison is the reason for you to come to Antique. Here you can experience a peaceful island life and be amazed by an abundance of pitcher plant gardens in the town, easily accessible, either from Iloilo or Boracay.

Seco Island, Tibiao. One of the Philippines’ most beautiful sandbars, a must-visit spot in Antique. Start your trip at break of dawn. Out in the sea, you might be able to spot dolphins that frequently follow boats headed to this stunningly beautiful beach paradise.There are no sophisticated resorts in this remote sandbar, but you can look forward to an expansive white sand beach and turquoise waters.

Bugtong Bato Falls. A multitiered waterfalls, which flows directly to Tibiao River, it has a natural pool formed by cascading waters, a favorite place for locals who love river rafting adventure and chasing the rapids.

Kawa Hot Bath and Fish Spa, Tibiao. After swimming in Tibiao River’s invigorating waters, take a relaxing hot bath in a giant wok. The water is heated by a fire underneath and is often infused with various herbal aromatics. Although it feels like you are being cooked in a giant ‘kawa’ (cauldron), it is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities worth checking out in Antique. They are located right beside the riverbank making the gentle stream lulls you to relaxation. After that, there’s Kayak Inn where you can find basic rooms and huts alongside with these giant baths.

Mamammia Italian and Filipino Restaurant

Unpretentious, this seaside joint is where you can enjoy one of the best pizza and pasta dishes in Antique.
Antique Rice Terraces, San Remigio

Move over Benguet, you have competition. Antique’s rice terraces is a 600-hectare wonder located in remote barangay of General Fullon, San Remigio. Getting there takes at least 3 to 5 hours on foot from the nearest village. According to, the areas surrounding the Antique Rice Terraces only get two hours of electricity each day. Perfect if you are going on a retreat from the digital age.
Bagtason Weavers, Bugasong
High-quality products, vibrant multi-colored shawls and scarves are among the itemshandwoven here. The weavers sell beautiful textiles made in traditional pataydong fashion. 
PatnongonChurch and Convent Ruins

There are a number of Spanish-colonial heritage sites in town that are worth visiting including the old municipal hall. 

Rafflesia, World’s biggest flower, San Remigio
Borneo, Indonesia and Malaysia are not the only places where you can find this extraordinary plant. They also thrive in Antique and Iloilo. The Rafflesia blooming site in Barangay Aningalan is very easy to reach, thanks to recently paved roads. The hike from the road takes less than 5 minutes
Igbaclag Cave And Stone Castle
Located in San Remigio is known as the “summer capital of Antique” because the weather is cool all-year round. This place has a lot of potentials to be Panay’s next big thing in tourism. You can also find gem stores in San Remigio and Sibalom that sell gemstone crafts.
Igpasungaw Falls, Sebaste
The trek to this multi-level curtain falls takes around 30 minutes to 1-hour along an easy trail. Keep an eye out for the rare Amorphophallus, a carnivorous plant known for having the tallest flower bloom in the world.

Naranjo Water Park, Pandan
A new dining and adventure destination if you are on your way to Malumpati Spring.
Bugang River
This is a haven for those who love nature, many-times awarded as the greenest and cleanest river in the Philippines where Naranjo Water Park is located.
With Antique’s amazing rugged beauty and DOT’s all-out support to promote its attractions to the world, the country hopes to achieve its tourist arrival target this year. Let’s join our hands in supporting Antique and the rest of Western Visayas.
How to get to Antique: Accessible from north by Roll-On, Roll-Off (RORO) from Manila via Caticlan. From Kalibo, Aklan buses ply the route to Pandan and San Jose de Buenavista. Buses and vans to and from Iloilo take two main roads: the mountain and the coastal road networks. There are two major seaports in the province, the Lipata seaport in Culasi and San Jose. Tricycles are numerous in all towns of Antique while buses and jeepneys provide service for inter-town travel.