Bakhawan Eco-Park

I went back to Aklan after a year to continue one of our advocacies for the local government unit. Last time, I went here and didn’t have time to go to one of the province’s famed attraction, the Bakhawan Eco-Park. A visit to the latter deserves maybe a whole afternoon depending on how much time you want to spend at its penultimate spot. Though I wasn’t much of hiking/nature kind of gal, I enjoyed myself here. Located at New Buswang, one of the coastal barangays of the capital town of Kalibo. The wide expanse of mangrove forest was a rehabilitation project in the 1990s, and has saved the townspeople from floods and other effects of strong typhoons.

It was a long trek on a man-made wooden pathway spanning a little more than a kilometre. One would pass by mud crab and fish pens, and acres of mangroves. Every few hundred meters or so are sheds with benches where one can catch their breaths or just enjoy the stillness of it all. There is a even a camp site for those who wish to pitch tents and spend the night there. I and some of my colleagues who were with me enjoyed the leisurely walk while listening to sounds of chirping birds and crickets. What made my heart jump for a few minutes was the rickety wooden bridge we had to cross to get over the other side of the river cutting through the forest. Nyay!

But the view of the sandbar and the open sea beyond more than made up my moments of anxiety! God’s creation never fails to amaze! We spent a good half hour just sitting on huts just enjoying the breeze and waves as they splashed the shoreline. As it was getting dark, we made our way back as dusk was slowly creeping its way in.

Akean food trip

Still in connection with my trip to Aklan, we also had a chance to eat at a couple of restaurants that featured both native Filipino dishes (not necessarily Aklanon) and international cuisine.

On our first night, we took a tricycle ride to the nearby town of Numancia, to have dinner at their famed Niño’s Ihaw Ihaw. We just had to try their seafood specialties. My favorite from among this batch is the crispy shrimps.

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The next night, we were gunning for Saylo, supposedly another one of the better restaurants in Kalibo. Unfortunately, it was closed (not sure if permanently or temporarily). So we went to the next good thing, which is nearby Latte. It was good enough, what with a great ambiance, soft lighting and comfort food. I only had fish and chips that night. I should have tried their variety of cakes and desserts.

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On our last day, we drove for almost an hour in our rented tricycle trying to get to the Residence River Restaurant. We were going in circles, even traversing the narrowest barangay streets of New Washington trying to locate this joint. It was a good thing we had time to kill before our evening flight. It was right on the highway and we completely missed it twice because it had an obscure signage and you either have to know it’s there or you should be looking very, very closely.

And in the end, all the travel was worth it. The restaurant rests on the banks of the Aklan River, and we dined with a beautiful view of the sunset while listening to the calming sounds of the water and the crickets abound.

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Sampaguita Gardens Resort

As a follow up to my post on my travel to Aklan, I am now featuring the Sampaguita Gardens Resort. One of the most visited tourist spot in the town of New Washington, this complex boasts of a hotel, function rooms, restaurants, pools, a spa, a chapel, a huge garden with larger than life statues and Jojo’s Christmas Cottage, a museum and store which houses Christmas decorations of all shapes and sizes. If you are a Precious Moments fan or collector, then this would be heaven to you.

The resort is a sprawling complex right by the sea side. It is a great venue for events or some quiet time with family and friends. We didn’t get to see the rooms though. Also the spa was closed the day we went there. But the Christmas cottage was something unique and interesting. It has three floors full of Precious Moments memorabilia interspersed with Christmas trinkets. It is Christmas all year round here, with the lights on especially at night. What I didn’t like: the heat. The whole museum was not air-conditioned and it was dusty. The garden was nice.

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Austere Aklan

Working in the city, and living in the suburbs often times drains one. So once in awhile, it’s good to stop and smell (and enjoy!) the flowers in the countryside. As tiring and stressful my work is, I am glad that it has given me the opportunity to travel (whether local or international). And after the official work is done, I am free to go as I please! This has lessened considerably though in the last couple of years because I am always itching to go home to the kids.

Anyway, earlier this month, I was able to go around Kalibo, the capital town of Aklan, and the nearby towns of New Washington and Numancia, when I and some colleagues had time to kill before our flight. We were lucky to have my “seatmate” who hails from the town tour us around. Before Caticlan was fully developed, Kalibo was the gateway to Boracay. Now, the sleepy town is still an option but since it is further away from the famous beach destination, there is less people traffic here. Kalibo, despite the progress, cannot be a city, I was told, because it lacks the minimum land area. Maybe this has contributed to the somehow relaxed ambiance of the town, preserving its old-fashioned ways where people lived simply but happily.

Some of the places we visited:

St. John the Baptist Cathedral

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Monument of New Washington’s well-known son, Jaime Cardinal Sin

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Shrine of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary across Cardinal Sin’s monument

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Aklan’s Pink Sisters Convent

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The Yard Grill and Restaurant, where we didn’t eat. We just wanted to see the place because we were told that this is a jump off point for a newly opened river cruise.

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We also went to the Sampaguita Gardens, which deserves another post. But all in all, I am thankful for this trip. Despite the hot sun on our faces that afternoon, it is always nice to commune with nature, and the good-natured people in the provinces untouched by the craziness of city living. I would always take the chance to pack my bags, ride a tricycle and roam around the countryside in a heartbeat.