Mango is a succulent fruit which is the Philippines’ national fruit. Native to South Asia, it is one of the most cultivated fruits in the tropics. Philippines is among the top exporters and producers of mangoes in the world. Among the most famous and sweetest varieties are the ones cultivated in the small island province of Guimaras, which is tagged as the “Mango Capital of the Philippines.”
Guimaras is part of Region VI (Western Visayas), and was formerly a sub-province of Ilo-ilo. It became a full-pledged province in May 22, 1992 with Jordan provincial capital. Guimaras is composed of five (5) municipalities and its residents are mostly Ilonggos. However, Guimaras remains one understated destination. From beaches to caves, it has a lot to offer beyond the mangoes for which it is known for.
How We Got There
The main entry point to Guimaras is Iloilo City which is about an hour away from Manila by plane. From Iloilo International Airport, take the airport shuttle to SM Iloilo. The trip is around 30 minutes and costs PHP 50.00. SM Iloilo will then be your vantage point in reaching other destinations in the city. For travelers bound to Guimaras, go to Ortiz Port.
Luckily for us, our accommodation is quite near Ortiz Port. However, we still took the cab. The port is your usual busy port,bustling with activity but totally forsaken. Nearly rundown, it badly needs some makeover, or at least a cleanup if possible. Otherwise, the port is totally functional.
The fare for one way trip is PHP 14.00. Yes, a fare equivalent to my daily fare from home to Ayala Avenue. Even my companions were surprised at the affordability. The trip across Iloilo Strait to Guimaras takes around 15 to 20 minutes.
Finding Your Way Through The Island
Upon alighting at the Jordan wharf, we went directly to the Guimaras Tourism Information Center which is located in the port area. The personnel are accommodating and will respond to your queries. It is at the Tourism Information Center where we made our tour arrangements.
There are varied modes of tour arrangements available for visitors. These are tricycle, multicab, SUV and van. Because there’s only three of us, we took the tricycle tour arrangement. This tour arrangement is good for 3 to 5 individuals and costs PHP 1,200.00 for an eight hour land tour covering about 8 major destinations.
An Early Trek
After arranging our travel itinerary at the Information Center, we acquainted with our driver before proceeding to our first destination, the Balaan Bukid Shrine. It is located near our origination point. The catch, however, is a 30-minute trek to reach the shrine atop the hill. Way to start our tour!
The road to Balaan Bukid Shrine fills up during the Lenten Season as the devout residents trek to the top, passing by the Stations of the Cross along the path. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t too hot that day and the breeze helped cool us down upon reaching the summit. At the top, there is a small church and a cross. Moreover, one can view Iloilo City from there.
After Balaan Bukid, we went to the “Smallest Plaza” then proceeded to the town proper. Our first stop was Guimaras Provincial Capitol and the Guimaras Museum. The museum, however is still under construction.
The Mango Pizza
After a brief stop-over at the capitol, we went to Pit Stop restaurant to have our breakfast. Pit Stop is famous for its Mango Pizza, which they claim is the only one of its kind in the country. It is your traditional pizza crust topped by sliced ripe mangoes then covered by a layer of cheese and garnished by sliced bell pepper and crushed cashew nuts.
The pizza is very cheesy. However, the cheese is complimented by the sweetness of the mangoes. A 14-inch pizza costs PHP 415.00 while a 12-inch pizza costs PHP 389.00. This and our breakfast revived our hungry spirits and provided us much-needed boost for the rest of the day.
After a brief respite, we proceeded to the Mango Research Center where a variety of mangoes are planted. Mango season is during the summer season (March to May), thus, we only saw the trees with neither fruits nor any signs of flowering.
Close to the Mango Research Center is the Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery was our next destination. Founded in 1972, it is run by monks following strict doctrines of St. Benedict. The lot was donated by Doña Juanita J. Ledesma and her family in memory of her late husband, Don Oscar R. Ledesma, a former mayor of the neighboring Ilo-ilo City.
Aside from being a place of worship, the Trappist Monastery also produces mango based products. Products include mango biscocho, mango polvoron, mango pastillas and even mango butterscotch. These are sold on their gift center which is also located within the Trappist compound. There are also non-perishable goods such as ref magnets, key chains and some religious relics.
Thus ends the first half of our Guimaras day tour.