After last year’s trip to Capiz and Guimaras, I’ve been having a strong feeling of returning to Panay and visit the only other province I haven’t yet – Antique. Granted, I’ve been here nearly four years ago, when we passed by it on our way to Boracay from Iloilo, but I never got down the van. Only now that I get to explore it.
Antique is a narrow province on the western edge of Panay, separated from the island by a formidable mountain range. This has partly led to the trickle of tourists that visit it compared to crowds that descend upon the three other provinces (Iloilo, Capiz, and Aklan). This also means you’re likely to get the spots all to yourself many times of the year.
Antique has been dubbed as one of the rising adventure spots in the Philippines due to the number of thrilling activities you can do here, such as whitewater rafting . And its proximity to Boracay (which has reopened since late last year) and Iloilo means it won’t be long before the word is out – if it still isn’t.
One of Antique’s most popular spot is Mararison Island (or Malalison in Hiligaynon), a speck of island off the coast of Culasi municipality in northern Antique. It’s been dubbed by a few travel bloggers as the “Batanes of the south” due to the rolling hills reminiscent of those in the Philippines’ northernmost province.
Despite its appearance as a far-flung island, it’s actually home to a thriving community. In fact, Mararison is a baranggay of Culasi with 300 residents mostly living at the foot of the hills. Private guesthouses are available for those staying overnight, although being just 15 minutes by boat from the mainland, most visitors make it here as part of a day trip.
Regardless, Mararison is a pretty place where the golden color of the hills in the dry season contrast with the deep blue shades of the ocean and the early afternoon sky. The trek to the hills is easy (you need a guide, though, who will be readily available in the tourist center as soon as you get off your boat) and takes just 30 minutes. On the way, we pass by the local school and a path lined with pitcher plants.
After reaching one of the peaks, we make our way to the other side of the island and explore a small cave fronting a rocky beach. Then, instead of walking all the way back the same path, I hire a boat that takes me and my guide back to the main beach.