Panay Road Trip

PART 3 – PANAY ISLAND, RP – 8 – 14 October 2023
I’m in an outrigger with seating for 35, and there’s 38 people and so much luggage that it’s way overloaded.  The trip from to the main island will take an hour, and thoughts of Gilligan’s Island are going through my mind.  The islands that I thought I’d be able to swim to a week ago, were looking a lot further away on this trip!

Needless to say it was a relief to finally reach the port! Once we’d made land after our boat trip from Gigantes, we were on our way to Suhot Cave and Spring.  There were two caves in this part of Panay, a small-ish one and one a lot bigger, both with streamways in them.  It took a couple of hours for us to arrive at our accommodation at Suhot and we checked in before doing a little exploring.

The grounds were well looked after, just near our accommodation was this grotto.

This is the cave we’d explore later on in the afternoon, note the water level. It also looks muddy, but that was because there had been rain the day before, ordinarily, we’d been told, the water was clear and blue.

From a bridge further downstream, looking up to where the spring comes out of the ground (at the end of the creek that you can see in the distance).

Once we were settled in, we decided on a trip into the smaller of the two caves.  We were able to keep dry for the first half of the cave, and then we got to a section that we couldn’t scramble around, so we had to take to the streamway. I have to say I wasn’t all that keen on this part of the cave!

Further on we were back in the streamway, lots of formations.

The end of the road, Anna was determined to see if it went any further, she swam to the end and confirmed it was a no go. We believe that the water flows into this part of the cave from another streamway but the locals don’t know where that streamway is.

All the formations were brown, and there was flood debris way high in the cave.  My thoughts are that 400 – 300 years ago, before the Spaniards arrived and introduced intensive farming (like rice paddys and coconut plantations), the formations would have been more what we’re used to, white.  Once clearing of the land began up above the influx, the run off would have been massive (as you can see from the muddiness of the water), and dirt was calcited over, turning all the formations brown.  Because of the run off too, there would have been more flooding that before the clearing of the land, and you can see with an increase of flooding, that a lot of the formations were broken off and worn down.

We found a lovely restaurant nearby which served vegetables, so Anna, our vegan was very happy!

The air conditioning stopped around 3am, so it was pretty hot and sweatty when we got up, apparently they’d run out of diesel for the generator.  We had a leisurely breakfast out by the spring, under one of the shelters, it was raining a bit, but not enough to force us to go inside. The electricity came back on around 9.30am, at about the same time that the rain started with a vengeance, a veritable downpour.  So we all headed back inside.

We didn’t have WiFi in our room, so I had to use what the “locals” use, a funny looking slot machine. I’d seen these in other villages but could never figure out how they work. You simply put P5 (A$0.14) in the slot and connect to the WiFi, gives you around 3 hours connection.

Around 11am when I went down to put P5 into the WiFi machine, I discovered that the water was gushing out of the cave we’d been in the day before, and had risen about 2m where the spring comes out of the ground, very impressive.  No caving for us today!

Looking downstream towards the village.  The run off from the rain was also exacerbated by clearing of the land near the “resort”, there was a massive amount of water coming down the tared road, and there ha been a lot of new development where a swamp used to be.

From early in the morning, until 2.30pm a couple of the staff had been decorating this table (for cake) and the next one down. Anna and I found this very entertaining (what else could you do with all the rain). There was to be a 1st year birthday party for one of the children from the village across the creek. This design was created using pins, Anna was enthralled and wanted to take it home, sadly though, once you took it off the table it would have fallen apart.

The other table. The rain did not let up when it came to 3pm and the villagers were supposed to be there for the party (and bringing the food along). When we looked down at around 4pm, there were only a dozen or so people, so I’m guessing that a lot stayed away due to the rain.

By Tuesday morning the rain had stopped, and everything was back to normal. Here are some of the village kids gong off to school. I think I counted 9 kids on this tricycle.

We left Suhot Cave and Spring at around 10am and headed back to Iloilo where we would drop off Ross Boy and then head down to visit a friend of Jim’s, EJ, who had a Beach Camp an hour and a half south of Iloilo in San Joaquin.  Jim had known EJ and his wife Joy back in Australia, where they’d spent a few years.

On the way we stopped at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Miagao wo meet up with Precious, this is where she’s studying.

An hour later we were at San Jouquin, and at the entrance to the beach camp, through a coconut plantation. Over to the left (which you can’t see) is a duck farm and there are some goats and cows wandering around – idyllic.

Anna (on the left) and I put our feet up and enjoyed the view out into the sea, not another island to be seen.

Later that evening I wandered down the beach to watch the villagers bring in the net, which would hopefully have a catch of fish for dinner.

It took quite a while to bring the net in, maybe about 20 – 30 minutes.

Finally, the net’s drawn up onto the beach, I took a peek at the catch, and I have to say, the tiny little fish wouldn’t have fed many people, but then I’m sure with lots of rice everyone would have been satisfied.

The kitchen at the beach camp, very authentic!

The menu. We had a wonderful pork dish and some spinach out of the garden. Very tasty.

Once the sun went down, the name of the beach camp was lit up in lights off the edge of the deck that was build over the sand, pretty cool.

Our dinner for the night.  Venus had gone back to Miagao to pick up Precious so we sat around for a while drinking beers and then Anna and I went swimming (we wanted to see if there was any phosphorescence – there was!).  After the swim I hit the sack, but from the looks of it next morning, quite a bit of whiskey was consumed.

We left Ooma next morning at around 9.15am and started our Road Trip back to Iloilo.

This is what I called our Road Trip of Many Stops.

First stop was at 9.18am – yep a mere 100m from Ooma where we stopped for some food as there was a road-side stall that sold goat meat and Venus and Precious love the food there.  What was interesting was the woman who owned or worked the goat stall.  Her English was amazing and she wanted to talk.  Apparently she’d worked in Hong Kong for 10+ years as the nanny for a Chinese opera singer, I had a great chat with her about her life there, then she showed me a video of the singer (she keeps in touch with them), just goes to show it pays to engage with the locals.

We’re back on the road again and our next stop was at 10am in a small town, Venus kindly drove around looking for fishing cast nets for me (I’d expressed a desire to have one the same as what EJ had at Ooma – no luck finding one though – and that’s another story).

We then dropped off Precious, and then picked her up again and then drove into Miagao town so Venus could go to the bank.

We’d passed this church on the way down to San Jouquin and I wanted to check it out.  This is ne of the four Baroque churches in the Philippines and it’s listed World Heritage listed.

Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, Miagao, constructed in 1787 and completed in 1797. Apparently, it served as a fortress against Muslim raiders. In 1898 during a revolution it was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt. Then damaged by fire in 1910 and an earthquake in 1948. Restoration work begam in 1960 and was completed 2 years later.

I loved the inside, but with so much damage, wonder how much of the church is “original”, it’s almost too ornate.

Loved these doors, but again, are they the original doors, probably not.

Beautiful, even if it’s not the original, we don’t have anything this old back in Australia.

Once we’d had enough of the church, we met up with Venus again and then picked up Precious who’d brought us all coffee.

We didn’t actually stop in this town but we’d driven through it on the way to San Jouquin and I wanted to take some photos on the way back. This is the town of Guimbal and it’s known for it’s sunshine fences.  Almost the whole town has a fence like this on all the main streets.

And where the fence couldn’t go on the ground, it was up on the balconies.

It was sort of cool, in an “in your face” sort of way.

The only exception to the sunshine fences was this house. This owner had a lovely fence himself and refused to change it!

By 12.30 we were back in Iloilo at the GT hotel and booking in.  We were pretty tired after the road trip but Jim and I decided to catch the bus to “old” Iloilo to pick up a parcel from a parcel pick up place (Omar had lost his Apple Watch in the canyon we’d down at the beginning of our trip, Jon’s porters had gone back to the spot where Omar had lost it and had dived down and found the watch, so Jon had “mailed” it to us so we could give it back to Omar).  We then went to find a fishing tackle shop to see if they had any of the fishing cast nets that EJ had at Ooma.  Sadly, didn’t find any, so we caught the bus back to the GT – always an interesting experience catching a bush in an area that you don’t know and everyone’s English is somewhat sketchy!

Next morning the three of us caught the bus again down to Old Iloilo to check out a few museums. The first one was mainly an art gallery with some historical items in it. We then walked a couple of ks (in the heat) to the Maritime Museum.

Stunning ceiling!  The museum was great, well worth visiting, so much to see with regards to the maritime history of The Philippines – and some really good videos.

We then walked to see another building which was less than average, and then ambled back to catch the bus, looking in nooks and crannies along the way.

We passed by this fig tree (it’s on the left around the corner), with a canopy of roots over the sidewalk.

The tree on the right and all the roots, pretty cool.

The bus driver didn’t understand where we were going, so gave us tickets to a place about 1.5ks from our hotel, so we had to get off and walk to the hotel in the heat, We were all pleased to get back to the airconditioning.

We went out that night with EJ and Joy to this wonderful Chinese restaurant, I made the mistake of asking EJ where he got his fishing cast net.  He then insisted that I have the one from the beach resort – so he called up one of his workers and had them take it to a bus to be delivered to us next morning at the hotel.  I felt really bad about him going to all this trouble, all I wanted was the website he ordered it from.  Ah well.

After dinner, we met up with the rest of the Visayan cavers at a bar (which another caver owned), where there was live music, so our Iloilo experience ended at midnight after having drunk too much beer (well, everyone else did I stuck with Calamansi juice – sort of like lemon juice).

Next morning at 12 noon, after another caver had picked up the fishing net and delivered it to me (I still feel bad about all the effort they took), we started our trip back to Sydney, lots of waiting around at airports, but finally home sweet home at 2pm on the 15th!

A truly authentic experience Jim, thanks for organising it and big thanks to both Jim and Anna for their company, and all the Visayan cavers who made us feel so welcomed.

Finally, not sure which airport we were going into, maybe Tacloban, but pretty much, it says it all, we weren’t in Kansas any more.

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