First-time in Malalison Island
Lush, breathtaking hills one end and exquisite sand bar on the other. This is the beauty of Malalison Island, or more often referred to by the locals as Mararison Island. With only 55 hectares in land area, Malalison is a piece of paradise located in the municipality of Culasi in Antique, Philippines.
After it has been ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in 2013, the island has slowly recovered and is now a traveler’s delight because of its natural beauty. Add to this, in my personal experience, the warm and hospitable ambiance by its local community composed of about 700 or so persons from 145 households.
Coming from Bacolod, we crossed the sea to Iloilo and took a road trip from there, stopping for a night in Tibiao, before we proceeded to Culasi’s main town. But for those coming from Manila or Cebu or other parts of the country or outside of the Philippines, you can fly to three point of entries in Panay Island: Iloilo City; Caticlan or Kalibo. The closest though is Caticlan, which is an hour and a half away. Kalibo is two hours away while Iloilo is about 5 to 6 hours away.
From Iloilo, Caticlan or Kalibo, take a van or bus that will pass by Culasi. When you arrive in the main part of the town, you can take a tricycle or you can walk towards the Tourism Information Center at the back of the Municipal Hall. If you are bringing a car, you can park at the open area/basketball court in front of the Municipal Hall. There’s also a parking fee that can be paid at the Tourism Information Center.
Pay the fees and book your boat, which can accommodate from five to 10 persons. It will only take 10 to 15 minutes to cross the port of Culasi towards Malalison Island. Since it was windy when we crossed the sea, we were assisted by Culasi’s Information Officer/Tourism Officer John John Sumanting and drove us to Malacanang, Culasi where we boarded the boat to the island.
Staying in the Island
While you can opt for just a day trip to Malalison Island, it is best to enjoy it for two days and one night. For those who prefer to just stay for a day, there are cottages by the beach that you can rent.
However, you can fully feel the vibe of the island when you spend about 24 hours here. One, you will fully enjoy being part of the community and two, you will take pleasure in the natural beauty that Malalison can offer.
Finding a place to stay is not a problem. Mr. Sumanting referred us to his staff on the ground in Malalison, Mario Fuenteblanca, who helped us get an accommodation based on our requirements and standards.
If you want to be with locals, you can choose from the 41 trained homestays in the island. Some homestays is like living with the families while there are others where you get the much needed privacy you want. If you prefer to have your own toilet and bath and other amenities, you can choose for an inn or a private resort. There are also seven service providers that were organized in Malalison, so you have plenty to choose.
For the three of us, we chose Aloma Island Inn. It is just behind Blue Lagoon Resort, a high-end resort that opened during the day we arrived. Aloma Island Inn is a bit of a walk from the beach front but it is private and its caretaker, Ron Ron, was very much helpful as he assisted us in all our needs, including cooking for us.
One thing that you must take note: ELECTRICITY in the island is only available from 6:00pm to 10:00pm. Thus, charge all your needed gadgets by this time and take your dinner early while the lights are on.
Dining in the Island
You can have the locals cook for you. Just be sure to pay a cooking fee or give a tip should the fee is not included in your meals. Since we arrived at around noon, Ron Ron took us to Nanay Cristy Carenderia, the only eatery in the island. It is right at the heart of the community and they also offer homestays.
For our dinner and lunch, Ron Ron cooked for us. He bought fresh fish as some boats docked by the shoreline, to be our viands. We also asked our boatmen to catch some sea urchins for us. Well, we found out that it is hard work cleaning the sea urchins and for each piece, we would only get a tiny piece to feast on. Plus, the taste is acquired. Sea urchins abound in the island but locals do not pay much attention to them as they are found everywhere there.
In between meals, you can buy some biscuits and snacks from local stores. Of course, you can bring your own food as well, but, hey, why not go local and try the delicacies that the island has to offer.
Things to Do in Malalison
When in Malalison, relax and enjoy the sun, the sand and the sea. Our trip was quite interesting because the sun shone at certain times of the day while it also rained in the afternoon. The good part though, a rainbow appeared before sundown to make our short vacation more colorful.
Swim. You can enjoy the pristine waters and the fine sand at the sand bar, found at the eastern part of Malalison, facing mainland Panay. From there, you can roll on the sand and bathe under the sun or sit back and enjoy the breathtaking view of Madja-as (some of the waterfalls are even visible from Malalison). I also enjoyed a swim, despite the drizzle at the Gui-ob Beach where the shoreline is covered with colorful rocks.
Hike. The western part of the island is elevated and the rolling hills are spectacular. My fellow travel blogger and Negros Bloggger member, Jojo Vito, and I trekked to the hills and was able to enjoy the view of the sea from above, including the magnificent scenery of the hills overlooking Nablag Islet. We didn’t venture to the highest point as it was already windy. There are also plenty of pitcher plants growing wild on these hills. When we got to the middle of our hike, it rained but it was still a wonderful experience. Just be careful when you hike. Wear proper gear and never go without a guide. The guides are found near the sand bar and you can avail for one as they are rotated by number to give equal opportunity to them all.
Cave Exploration. At Gui-ob Beach, we found a small cave. One or two persons can fit the cavity but we didn’t try to get inside since it was raining and there’s a danger of soil erosion or caving in. There are plenty of stones on this beach which were carved and decorated artfully by nature.
Snorkeling or scuba diving. If weather would have permitted us, I would love to go for some snorkel activities. The surrounding waters of the island is filled with beautiful marine life, as the local said, and are ideal to explore through snorkeling or scuba diving.
Island Tour or boating. You can tour the entire island for a few minutes. You can opt to do a few stops at certain points of the island to enjoy it further. Since it was raining in the afternoon of the day we arrived, we scheduled our boating expedition the morning after as we left the island before we proceeded back to the main town of Culasi.
When we returned to the Culasi Municipal Hall, the local government gave each one of us a Certificate of Appreciation for our help in promoting the island, with no less than Culasi Mayor John Jeffrey Lomugdang as the one who awarded us our certificates.
Here are some of the costs we spent for our trip to Malalison Island. Exchange rate at this time of writing is USD1=Php49.65.
|Expenses||Cost per person|
|Terminal Fee (to be paid at the information center)||Php 10.00|
|Environment al fee (to be paid upon registration at the Tourism Information Center)||20.00|
|Boat for 5 persons that will take you to Malalison and back to Culasi (additional Php 150.00 per head for excess of 5 persons) = Php 750||250.00|
|Lunch at Nanay Cristy||110.00|
|Accommodation at Aloma Island Inn = Php 1,500 per room per night||500.00|
|Dinner and breakfast, which include ingredients and cooking fee. Cooking fee is at Php 75 but you can give an extra tip.||120.00|
|Guide (can take up to four hikers) = P150||75.00|
|Boat from Gui-ob Beach to the sand bar||50.00|
Bus or van from Iloilo
|Bus or van from Caticlan||100.00|
|Bus or van from Kalibo||120.00|
Culasi Tourism Office
John John Sumanting
+63 36-2778077 or +63 916-3245068
Culasi Tourism Staff in Malalison Island
+63 975-4839983 or +63 919-5520526
Aloma Island Inn
(complete list at the Culasi Information Office)
Nanay Cristy Carenderia
This story is part of my Road Trip to South Iloilo to Antique.