First-time in Tibiao, Antique
We were just entering the winding roads towards the mountains during the time we crossed the border of Iloilo province to Antique province. This is going through the southern to the western part of Panay Island, located in the Visayas area of the Philippines. Although the change of scenery was not abrupt, I noticed that we were passing by several rice fields as we drove in the Antique part of Panay, heading to Tibiao town, where we would spend the night.
I knew that my father’s roots can be traced in Antique province but I had no idea of the details. It was only after the trip when I learned that my paternal grandmother’s family is from Tibiao. It was a long drive from Iloilo to Tibiao, getting through several towns in the province.
Origins of Antique
The first town that greeted us in Antique is Hamtic. It is said that the province’s name originated from hantik, which refers to the large ants that are found in the area. It seems that Antique, the province, and Hamtic, the town, are both derived from this word.
It is in Hamtic where we saw the Landmark of the First Malay Settlement, wherein lore abounds about the Malay datus, headed by Datu Puti, who landed in this part of the Philippines (although that time the country is not yet a political entity). Because the Malays gave offerings to the local chieftain in Panay, who heads the Ati or Negrito tribe, the locals then gave in return the lowlands to the immigrants and moved towards the mountains. This is said to be part of the Confederation of Madja-as. Though no written documents are found to support these claims, the lore has been passed on from one generation to another.
After Hamtic, we got to the capital, which is San Jose de Buenavista. The place is more commercialized, although one can still feel the laidback setting in the provincial capital. We had lunch there but since it was the 2nd of January and the locals are still in a holiday mode, finding a place to eat was a bit of a challenge. We continued with our journey after our short break and went onwards to Belison and the succeeding towns.
The Ruins in Patnongon
As we got to Patnongon town, we passed by some very old structures. The St. Augustine’s Convent and the ruins of the church, which were built in 1879, is now part of a school. But the remnants of its walls were still remarkable and eye-catching. A stone’s throw away from the school is the ruins of Patnongon’s old municipal building. These structures were said to be destroyed during the World War and there are moves to revive the municipal building.
It would have been a delight to explore each towns along the way but the afternoon is getting late, so we just zoomed past Bugasong, Laua-an and Barbaza.
A Night in Tibiao
Bright colored gigantic letters of Tibiao were visible from the highway. Several tourists were having their pictures taken in this marker. Then, a few meters away, the Tibiao Fish Spa came into view. A large kayak marks its walls.
We checked-in at the Kawa Inn, which is found inside the spa compound. Kawa Inn has a six-bedroom tourist inn facility. There we met Antique Province Tourism Office OIC Flord Calawag, whose sister, Julie Fate Calawag-Pineda, owns the place.
Our room is made of local materials and elevated from the ground by stilts like the native huts. Outside our room, a green rice field surrounds us. Sounds of ducks, cows and frogs in the field were our bedroom music. Hot water with instant coffee are provided in the room, along with beddings, towels, soaps and shampoo. The room is also air-conditioned and has a TV set as well as a private bath and toilet. After putting our things in our Banga Room (“Banga” is a local word for jar), we went to the open space, which seemed like a courtyard between Kawa Inn and Tibiao Fish Spa.
Flord shared with us the many exciting attractions in his town (which we will experience when we go back there), and he had us taste some local Bugnay Wine by Alowihaw Hills. Enjoying the rich taste of this homemade drink, Flord offered to introduce us to the makers of the wine.
It was already dark as we drove towards the residence of Dr. Miguel Labrague and his wife Leonor, the couple behind the Alowihaw Hills wine, but they welcomed us into their abode. They lived in the US for several decades, practicing in the medical field, before they decided to settle back in Tibiao. They also had us taste their Passion Fruit Wine and Bika-Bika Wine or Wild Grape Wine. We listened intently to the stories that the couple shared with us over a few glasses of wine before we finally bid adieu.
Still, the night was young and we still had to fill our tummies with some solid food. Flord took us to the Mammamia Italian Restaurant, which is just along the highway and also by the seaside. Though it was cloudy and dark, we could hear the waves rolling and feel the ambiance of the beach. The restaurant make their own authentic Italian pizza so we ordered one, along with a seafood pasta.
Sated by our dinner, we returned to Tibiao Fish Spa for a much-needed relaxation. We first had our feet massaged at the spa by the Therafish, which is Flord’s thesis when he was a student in the University of the Philippines-Visayas Miagao Campus. The first few minutes were filled with laughter as the fishes tickled our feet. As they were feasting on our dead skin cells, we took the opportunity to connect to the wifi, which is available inside the resort, and busied ourselves browsing and posting on our social media.
Before we called it a night, we had a rejuvenating dip at the kawa, or the large local vats that were used for making muscovado or a type of native sugar. Antique is known for this industry but as sugar-making has modernized, some of these vats are now used for tourism purposes. We soaked ourselves in the warm water that was heated by fire using wood. After being lulled by the warmth of the liquid surrounding our body, we were served with a hot tea to complete this relaxing night.
We rested to prepare for our next journey the day after, which was towards Malalison Island. It was a satisfying night in Tibiao and I definitely look forward to visiting it again and exploring the place of my ancestors.
Tibiao Fish Spa and Kawa Inn Information and Rates
- Aircon – Php1,600 for two with breakfast; Php1,300 for two without breakfast
- Fan – Php 1,400 for two with breakfast; Php1,100 for two without breakfast
Family Fan Room
- 2 persons – Php 1,200
- 4 persons – Php 1,600
- 8 persons – Php 3,200
Aircon Family Room
- 4 persons – Php 2,200
- 8 persons – Php 4,400
Therafish Massage Packages
- reFrISH Me (a half-hour fish spa with 5-min foot massage) – Php 119
- Massage Me (a half-hour foot or half-body massage) – Php 199
- Rejuvenate Me (reFrISH Me + half-hour upper-body massage) – Php 249
- Enhance me (reFrISH Me + half-hour foot massage) – Php 249
- Relax me (one-hour full-body therapeutic massage) – Php 349
Kawa – range from Php 300 for 30-minute hot bath experience.
Tibiao-Barbaza Road, Purok 12, Brgy. Malabor, Tibiao, Antique, Philippines
FB messenger: @tibiaofishspa
Mobile: +63 919 813 9893 | +63 917 450 3121
Exchange rate at this time of writing is USD1=Php49.65. This story is part of my Road Trip to South Iloilo to Antique.