Traveling to Boracay, Getting to Boracay, Driving to Boracay, Boracay by road. Best route to Boracay. How to get to Boracay from Iloilo. Boracay by automobile. Scenic route.
From Iloilo City to Boracay by road, by automobile, via Antique Province — our recommendations and narrative.
There are two road routes from Iloilo City to Boracay. The almost universally used route is through Passi City and Kalibo to Caticlan. The second is west across the mountains to San Jose, Antique Province and then up the Antique coast to Caticlan. Almost all Boracay-bound road traffic takes the Passi route. It’s about 30 KM shorter and, from the perspective of the transport companies, it travels through a much more populated region offering much better prospects for more passengers than the thinly populated Antique route. This narrative is from the perspective of travel by private car but should also be of interest to those traveling this route by bus or van to Caticlan (Boracay) through Antique Province.
Since private cars are banned on Boracay Island itself, almost all travel to Boracay is by air (over 200 flights per week to the small Caticlan airport alone), by bus or by the dozens of air-con vans that ply the Iloilo City-Caticlan route. All of these use the Passi route.For travelers with their own vehicle, the Antique route is far preferable. With the exception of a rough section of road crossing the Cordillera on the Iloilo-Antique border, the roads are much better. But even more attractive are the natural beauty and enchantment and the many historical sites of Antique Province itself. You’ll travel on good roads with little traffic through a unspoiled, idyllic landscape of undeveloped seashore, bright green rice fields with soaring mountains in the background. You’ll pass through pretty, quiet, small towns with well-kept plazas, churches and schools. There will be almost no tourist facilities because this area sees so few tourists. If you stop at one of the towns to buy snacks the Antiqueños will be happy to see you. You probably will not get away until they know where you are from, where you are going, how many children you have and every other detail of your life!
Leaving Iloilo City heading west on the National Highway, you’ll pass through the wonderful small towns of Oton, Tigbauan, Guimbal, Miagao and San Joaquin. These are covered in other sections of this site. Beyond San Joaquin proper you’ll come to pretty Tiolas (about milepost 60 KM) where there’s an intersection. Take the right fork leading toward San Jose, Antique. (The left fork begins a wonderful but rough road along the coast to Anini-y, Nogas Island and eventually to San Jose, Antique. This a great trip in itself, if you have the time.)
After taking the right fork at Tiolas, the road begins its climb over the mountains almost immediately. There are stretches of rough and rocky road. During the first half of the trip over the cordillera, you’ll see trucks parked on your left, dining at a “Kandingan” roadside restaurant whose specialty is goat. Toward the top, you’ll pass the San Bernadino Mountain House.While the road is rough you’ll find this is a well-populated area with villages and schools. The residents enjoy a cooler climate, pretty mountain views and cleaner mountain water.
By the time you reach the Iloilo-Antique border (11.8 KM from Tiolas) the road is good and continues to be good all the way to Caticlan. Near the border is Telegrafo Hill, a Japanese position during World War II. There are supposed to be good views from the hill, but we could not find a sign or trail. A small parking area, sign and trail would be a good amenity for tourism. From the border it’s all downhill to the intersection with the National Highway in Hamtic Antique.
At the intersection of the National Highway turn right toward San Jose, the capital of Antique Province. You may wish to pause at a historic site commemorating (according to local legend) the landing in the 13th century of settlers from Borneo, said to be the Malays to arrive in the Philippines. The annual Binirayan Festival celebrates the landing on the third weekend in April.
The park seemed a bit neglected. Time Magazine article on the 1984 murder of Harvard-educated Javier at the Antique Provincial Capital: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,960710,00.html
San Jose itself, a nice enough small city, has the curse of most smaller Philippine cities. It’s choked with tricycles, giving its downtown considerable traffic congestion, a constant din, and polluted air.
Since we were traveling at a leisurely, lazy pace, exploring as we went, we decided to stay overnight in San Jose. We stayed at the Centillion House. We paid P1,000 for our basic, but clean and spacious air-conditioned room with hot water. It seemed very secure. There was a parking area for guests and a security guard at night. We were worried that our pride and joy Toyota Innova be safe at night! A very basic breakfast (toast, juice, coffee) was included. The hotel faces on two busy roads. Also there was a small mall on the first floor so it was a little noisy, but we were not really bothered by the noise. We stayed in room 208 which is toward the center of the hotel, as far away as possible from the traffic.
The Adelaide Pensionne was across the road from the Centillion, so we decided to take a look at it. It is a quieter location, down an alley from the main road. We were shown a “VIP room”. There were smaller and cheaper rooms and bigger and fancier ones. The VIP room was P850 without breakfast, with AC and HW. It is smaller than our room at Centillion, but likely quieter. A full breakfast at the Adelaide is P130 per person. Both are very good options. Here’s a link to the Adelaide.
Based on a recommendation in the Lonely Planet Philippines guidebook, we had our dinner at Regina’s Restaurant. I had shrimp satay which turned out to be more or less BBQ shrimp on a skewer. Carol had lengua — beef tongue. We especially liked the achara made of young bamboo which was served as a side dish with my satay. Achara is a pickled salad which is usually made with grated green papaya or green mango. It was delicious made with young bamboo. With drinks our meal was P268 or the two of us. Regina’s can be a little hard to find. Just watch for the Chow King restaurant. Regina’s is in a small mall immediately adjacent to Chow King on T.A. Fornier Street. It’s walking distance from Centillion or Adelaide.
Friends highly recommended the Private Property Restaurant, about eight kilometers out of San Jose. Call Jen Lotilla for information. 0906-726-8355.
After breakfast we continued on our way north toward Sibalom — or so we thought. Actually we took the wrong road out of San Jose and ended up on a very pretty, but long and rough back road to Sibalom. The countryside was exquisitely beautiful, but since we thought we were irretrievably lost, we did not stop to savor or photograph it. We had to stop and ask for directions several times but finally made it back to the National Highway and Sibalom proper. As we crossed the Sibalom River there was evidence everywhere of the damage done to the area by Typhoon Frank (Fengshen).
Sibalom and San Remigio, Antique, are mountain and agricultural communities of tremendous natural beauty. Exploring the backcountry of these places will be a challenge to most foreign tourists and will likely require a local guide to navigate the unmarked roads and trails. My Tagalog-speaking wife struggled to communicate with rural residents.
San Remigio is on our list for future exploration. The official San Remigio municipal website tantalizes us with the following attractions: Igbaclag Cave, the perfect cave in the “Little Baguio of Antique”, Bato Cueva, Kanyugan Cave, Magpungay Cave; the crystal clear ice water falling from Pula Falls, Timbaban Falls and Batuan Falls, the lakes of Maylumboy and Danao; the legendary stone of Datu Sumakwel, Bato Bintana and White Castle Stone and the mountain ranges of San Remigio.
Back on the National Highway, we reached Belison, Antique at KM118.5. (Note that the mile posts on the National Highway are measured from Iloilo City. We are using the same. Some maps, including the official Antique provincial map, show the distance as measured from San Jose.)
Our next stop was Patnongon, Antique. Bob worked 23 years for a historic preservation NGO in rural New York. His eyes light up when he sees old buildings so Patnongon was right up his alley. St. Augustine Academy is the centerpiece of Patnongon. The very helpful Panublion Project of the Ateneo de Manila University informs us that Patanongon was founded as a visita (outlying chapel) of Sibalon in 1761, Patnongon was placed under the patronage of San Agustin. It was made an independent parish in 1762, with Fray Francisco Amperosa as first parish priest but reverted as a visita of Sibalon in 1778. The parish was re-established in 1841 with Fray Joaquin Lopez appointed as parish priest.
The St. Augustine Academy was built as a convent in the late 19th century as part of a larger church complex. While we can regret the loss of other elements of the complex, the convent itself is a classical revival treasure. Hopefully we can return and explore and understand more about the former church complex.
Just beyond St. Augustine’s, is a roofless, abandoned old building, crying out to be explored and explained.
The National Highway and all its 21st century traffic still utilize this old Spanish bridge or culvert in Patnongon.
Between Patnongon and Bugasong a long winding side road leads to the mountain town of Valderrama and the Villa Valderrama Mountain Resort. Is this another Baguio? Valderrama is on our list for future exploration. Evidently, the Valderrama resort was developed by the municipality. A call to the provincial tourism office in San Jose may give advance information on the availability of lodging and meals at Valderrama: Mr. Florentino Egida, Antique Provincial Tourism Office, phone: 036-540-9765, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Again heading north, the next town was BUGASONG (KM 139). We got lost trying to find Estaca Hill in Bugasong, Antique. We have a lot we want to see in Bugasong on our next trip, including the ruins of a c. 1867 Spanish church and convent.
After Bugasong, at KM 152, came Laua-an, Antique. While Laua-an did not seem to have any specific landmarks, it was very impressive for the obvious pride that the residents and their government took in their town. Everything was neat, clean and well-maintained. The immaculate central school was a very visible symbol of the importance that parents, teachers and students place on educating the children of Laua-an.
With only a few exceptions, we found that the communities of Antique Province, which certainly must not be wealthy, were proud of their home towns and kept them them painted, landscaped, neat, clean and free of litter.
The residents of Tibiao, Antique deserve great credit for preserving this historic “Gabaldon” schoolhouse. The school and its meticulously maintained grounds reflect pride in the community and also the importance the community gives to educating its young people. Gabaldon schools were built throughout the Philippines during the commonwealth era. Funding was provided as a result of a bill introduced by Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon of Nueva Ecija which became known as the Gabaldon Act. Many Gabaldon schools have been neglected and have fallen into disrepair. Not so in Tibiao! For more on Gabaldon schools see: http://gabaldon.blogspot.com/search?q=gabaldon
We had our binoculars with us when we had lunch at Neil’s (below) and were able to take a good look at Mararison Island. It looks like a great place to visit with lots of white sand beaches and a considerable settlement on the easterly shore. Unfortunately, it’s also where a cargo ship MV Ocean Papa sank on June 21, 2008 on it’s way from Manila to Iloilo City. While the ship was salvaged, its cargo of sixteen metric tons of toluene di-isocyanate was not. While the vapors of TDI are hazardous to workers, we’re not sure of the impact of the liquid on marine life. Phaidon Resort in Pandan (see below) is said to offer snorkeling trips to Mararison. Also check with Panay Explorers.
Places to dine between San Jose and Boracay are scarce. We stopped at Neil’s Resto Grill twice, going to and coming back from Boaracy. It’s located just beyond milepost 176KM, right on the shore. It offers traditional Filipino fare such as grilled fish, nilaga (boiled pork with cabbage and potato), KBL (kadyos, baboy, langka) boiled pork with beans, and young jackfruit plus rice, beverages and chips. We enjoyed the food. The prices are very reasonable. We paid a total P135 (less than $3) for grilled fish, two other dishes, rice, buko (coconut) juice and coffee. The owner and workers were very friendly. Bob left behind his prized Nike baseball cap. The pretty waitress ran after us to return it. Neil’s is popular with buses traveling the route but this is not a problem. I was surprised that most passengers did not get off the bus when it stopped at Neil’s. There is good parking if you’re driving your own vehicle. There’s a public restroom (CR). It’s basic Filipino — no toilet seat or toilet paper but it’s kept quite clean.
Our next stop was Culasi, Antique (KM 188), a town back-dropped by Panay’s highest mountains and having several islands arrayed offshore.
If you’re interested in diving in the Culasi area contact: Panay Explorers: http://www.panayexplorers.com/index.htm
About five kilometers north of Culasi proper, watch for the turn-off to Lipata port. It a short, pretty drive out to the Point. See /culasi-antique/ From Lipata there are reported to be ferries to and from Manila and perhaps other destinations such as Semirara Island and Mindoro and the Cuyo Islands in Palawan. You might try contacting Mr. Florentino Egida, head of the Antique Provincial Tourism Office, 540-9765, email@example.com for up-to-date information. You might also stop by the Culasi municipal offices as Lipata Port is one of the few ports operated by the municipality rather than the Philippine Ports Authority.
There was a very active anti-Japanese guerrilla movement on Panay Island and elsewhere in the Pacific during WW II. Douglas MacArthur determined to support and supply the guerrillas by way of Operation Spyron through submarine drops (and pickups) of personnel and supplies. Lipata Point was the one site where drops where made. Generally there was excellent cooperation between navy personnel and the Filipino guerillas. Not so on Lipata Point in June, 1944. Here’s an account of the incident from a fascinating online essay, Shadow Warriors - Submarine Special Operations in World War Two . On June 10, 1944 the USS Narwhal left Port Darwin and started her 11th War Patrol. At Lipata Point, Panay, in the Philippines, several representatives of Colonel Peralta’s guerrilla army came aboard the submarine after the proper security signal was given and arranged for the transfer of Narwhal’s cargo to the Filipino bancas. Two guerrilla officers were left to help supervise the operation.
The Narwhal’s deck log noted the ideal conditions for the unloading of supplies – water calm, no wind and a short run for the boats that would carry the cargo to shore. In the ship’s patrol report, it was noted that the boatmen refused to load [their boats] to capacity, and when the boats were only about 15% loaded, the boatmen complained about the weight of their loads and shoved off for the shore. Arguing with the boatmen did not provide satisfactory loading results and eventually one sailor was placed in each boat to make sure they were loaded to capacity. The two guerrillas in charge of the procedure had no control over the boatmen, who seemed not to care about the cargo. When the small boats returned to the submarine for additional loads, they were filled with sightseers who were left on deck while the boats that brought them returned to shore.
Sometime early in the morning before 0330 hours, the American officer in charge of the operation assigned two Filipino men to each drum of gasoline that was to be unloaded and indicated that they had to swim the drums ashore. Hearing this, the two guerrilla officers left on the first available banca. At this point, almost half of the cargo remained on deck plus the gasoline drums. The patrol report stated, “By 0335 the last boat had been loaded to capacity, about 15 tons, over the strenuous objection of the ‘Patron.’ Most of the shore party was put in the boat but about 20 men would not go willingly. After pushing a dozen or so overboard, the rest got the news and jumped, leaving all equipment behind. Shortly before 0400, the ship’s commanding officer ordered the remaining gasoline drums and boxes of carbines jettisoned as the Narwhal started moving out of the bay. About 30 tons of cargo were lost; the war report writer said it was 15 tons lost.
The Panay incident between Peralta’s guerrillas and the captain and crew of the Narwhal proved to be the exception to the overall successful special missions performed by other submarines involved in the Spyron Operation.
Douglas MacArthur choose to put Commander Chick Parsons in charge of his secret efforts to bolster guerrilla forces in the Philippines. Parsons’ bravery and adventures were recounted in the book, Chick Parsons, America’s master spy in the Philippines, which unfortunately is out of print. Parsons’ son Peter offers a DVD, “Secret War in the Pacific” which is available at a good price at http://www.libros.com.ph/bookdetails.asp?bookid=1100410298. You can read about some of Parsons’ extraordinary adventures HERE.
Now back from Lipata Point to the National Highway and onwards north toward Sebaste and Boracay.
Sebaste, Antique (207KM) is a unprepossessing jewel of a community. While Sebaste is the location of Igpasungaw Falls and certainly other attractions, for me the charm was more pervasive. While the Municipal Building is just off the National Highway, the church and plaza are well off the highway forming a clean, unspoiled and peaceful center to the town. It’s only steps from the church to the sea. The entire tableau was charming. When I was there the church plaza was filled with school children. The streets and plaza were clean and well kept.
Somewhere in Sebaste is Igpasungaw Falls, reported to be a 30-minute hike from the highway. We did not see the trailhead and have not been able to find any online directions. We’ll do further investigation on our next trip. If anyone can give directions, please leave a comment below.
Our next stop is Pandan, Antique (222KM). Pandan is one of those communities which has realized that protecting and publicizing its natural resources and maintaining its attractiveness is a good development strategy. There’s a municipal tourism office in the middle of town. We did not get to visit Malumpati Cold Spring Resort. It appears to be a municipally-owned swimming hole mainly intended for day use, although there may be a cottage available. You should be able to get information at the tourism office.
The Green Park Hotel is located on the National Road in Pandan, Antique. Phone 036-278-96-16. We did not stay here on this trip, but wanted to check it out for future reference. The hotel has beautiful views of the surrounding rice fields. It’s a very convenient location for those traveling from Iloilo to Boracay who get a late start or don’t want do do the trip in one day.
Leandro Fullon, an Antique native, was the commanding general of all Filipino forces in the Visayas during the revolution against Spain and later fought against American invaders. Read a fascinating account of the Philippine-American War at the following site: http://philippineamericanwar.webs.com/thewarinthevisayas.htm
Watch for this monument on your right after you leave Pandan proper. The monument is at the intersection of two main roads. If you go straight you’ll take the main, paved road direct to Caticlan, Aklan, the jumping off point for Boracay Island. If you turn left, you’ll head toward Libertad and a long, dusty or muddy (depending on the season) rough but scenic gravel road that also ends up at Caticlan. We turned left toward Libertad because we planned to stay at the Phaidon Resort, 7 KM down this road. (See the comment below from goILOILO reader Francis on the road from Pandan to Libertad and Malay.)
The Bugang River is said to be similar to Bohol’s Loboc River, a pristine stream traversing unspoiled tropical woodlands. Cruises on the river are reportedly available through the Bugang Community-Based Eco-Tourism Organization. Check with the Pandan Tourism Office or the Phaidon Resort. Also see this link.
The Northwest Panay Peninsula west of Pandan, has received considerable attention from international conservationists. It evidently differs from much of the rest of other Panay mountains, being a limestone karst region with considerable remaining forest areas and a diversity of wildlife. See the website of the Philippine Endemic Species Conservation Project for a storehouse of information on this area, including a teriffic page of links on Philippine conservation resources. PESCP says that “the last significant stands of primary, low elevation rainforest in the biogeographic region of the West Visayas, located on the northwestern peninsula of Panay, is habitat of a range of highly endangered, partly endemic species of reptiles, birds and mammals. It is one of the areas with highest conservation priorities in the world, both in terms of the number of endangered animals per unit area, and the degree of threat these species confront.” They welcome support for their efforts.
We spent the night at the Phaidon Beach Resort. To get there, turn off the main highway and go about seven kilometers in the direction of Libertad. The road is rough but scenic. We stayed in the cheapest available accommodation at Phaidon, one of the air-con cottages shown above. The cottage cost P2400 including a basic breakfast. The resort was very beautiful. The design, landscaping and maintenance of was top-notch, exquisite really, but corners were cut in our “economy” cottage. The cottage itself was pretty but the furniture and especially the bedding were skimpy. The dim lighting made reading difficult. This is a common problem in Philippine hotels. In the future we’re going to bring our own reading light when we travel. This is one of the many luxuries of traveling in your own vehicle.
I have one more complaint or perhaps it’s a suggestion. It’s a problem that we have seen at other resorts with air conditioned cottages. The windows in the cottages are sealed so when they are vacant they get no fresh air and end up being damp and musty. There are no screens so you can’t turn off the air-con and open the windows, so you are forced to use the air con even if you’d prefer to open the windows and enjoy the sea breezes, saving the resort owner money and being a bit more “green”.
We were delighted with our dinner at Phaidon. Some resorts gouge captive guests on meal prices, but our dinner at Phaidon was excellent and reasonably priced. Carol had beef caldereta and Bob a German specialty.
In the morning we had breakfast at Phaidon, also excellent, and returned to the main highway at Pandan and headed toward Caticlan.
Phaidon Resort may arrange outings to various destinations such as Igpasungaw Falls and the Bugang River, snorkeling at Mararison Island and perhaps other destinations.
This image is the perfect place for a link to a charming short YouTube video about the joys of life in the provinces. The photos are of Antique Province and the lyric sung in Kinaray-a, a local dialect. I can’t understand a word of Kinaray-a, but this video practically brings tears of happiness to my romantic kano eyes. Click —>> Pangabuhi sa Uma (Life on the Farm)
You can travel to and from Caticlan via these ferries. The ferry from Caticlan lands you in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro. You can take your own vehicle or use one of the buses plying this route. Here’s a link to Montenegro Shipping Lines I found this site a bit buggy but finally got it to work. From Roxas you can drive to Calapan, Mindoro and take another RORO ferry to Batangas on Luzon, opening up a host of further travel opportunities. Or you could drive from Calapan to Puerto Galera. We’re not sure about the condition of the Calapan to Puerto Galera so if you you are, please leave a comment. Further information on the Nautical Highway System here – but it may or may not be updated.
If you drive to Caticlan (Boracay) you can leave your vehicle in a secure parking area. These two parking areas are just a short distance to the Caticlan (Boracay) jetty port parking lot. We used the Salido lot. Most of their parking is under cover (but not ours), an advantage. They charged us P100 per day.
We were quite spoiled. We arranged to stay at the Tirol and Tirol Resort in Boracay. The resort had a helpful employee waiting for us at Caticlan. He handled our luggage, paid our fees, obtained a tricycle for us when we got to Boracay. There are hundreds of places to stay on Boracay. We like the Hotels Combined service which aggregates several reservation services. Even if you’re on your own, this relatively new jetty port makes transport to Boracay Island quite painless. You’ll pay your “environment fee”, port fee and fare and get on the next pumpboat to Boracay Island. After a 15-minute ride to the Cagban jetty on Boracay Island, you can take a tricycle anywhere on the island. We’ll continue the Boracay part of our narrative here.