WATCH: Iloilo-Antique-Boracay pilgrimage tour
Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo ( - April 18, 2019 - 6:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — Holy Week or not, Visayas offers a welcome respite for anyone into soul searching or simply wanting to escape the city’s daily grind.

For those looking for unique travel experiences that can turn into a spiritual journey, Iloilo and Antique offer less-crowded churches, pilgrimage spots, and UNESCO world heritage sites. Finish it off with a stopover to the newly rehabilitated Boracay for a real Easter vibe.    

Here is a sample itinerary:

Day 1: Iloilo 

Rent a van from the airport or the hotel that can take you and family or friends all over the city. A day is all you need to see and experience the following:

  • Lunch or dinner at Camiña Balay Nga Bato, a heritage house famous for its hot chocolate drink grounded for hours in guava pitchers called “batirol.” Advanced reservations required for the buffet spread composed of heirloom dishes.
  • Stopover at the new Museum of Philippine Economic History to appreciate and learn about the country’s old treasury, prized domestic products and industries. 
  • Stopover at Miagao Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being one of four Baroque Spanish-era churches in the Philippines.
  • Hike up the stairs and contemplate at each Station of the Cross in Garin Farm. The “stairway to heaven” leads to the pilgrimage site’s famous dark tunnel, which mimics what is believed to be an “after-life” experience, followed by a blinding depiction of heaven at the pinnacle. Finish off with boating, bird feeding, goat’s milk drinking and other “contemplative” activities. 
  • Stopover in Jaro Cathedral and bask in its Romanesque architecture, serene masses, and presence of the Shrine of Our Lady of Candles.
  • Stopover in St. Anne Parish, also called the “Feminist” church because of its life-size statue of saints that are all female, making it unique among churches in the Philippines.
  • Dinner at Molo Mansion, a historical mansion known for “pasalubong” shopping. Outside are hawker stalls selling the city’s famous Molo soup.
  • Nightlife at Atria, one of Iloilo’s new hotspots that contain heritage restaurants offering Iloilo’s famous La Paz Batchoy. 

Day 2: Antique

Have an Instagram-worthy “kawa” bath in any resort by the Tibiao River. 

After international standards have banned sugar plantations from cooking sugar in “kawa” or giant aluminum pots, these have been converted into makeshift bathtubs to give relaxation to kayakers joining the international kayaking competitions held in Tibiao River in the ‘90s.

Today, besides traditional herbs, milk, beer, turmeric and wine are among those being poured into the “kawa” baths.

Day 3: Boracay

If you still have time, on your way to Boracay, you can pass by the Sampaguita Gardens in Aklan, a Precious-Moments-themed resort, including the chapel.

Before going to Boracay, which is about over an hour of land travel from Antique, make sure to have a hotel reserved because the island only accepts visitors with prior reservations. 

Even activities there should be booked days beforehand, although much of the island’s heritage restaurants, hotels and party places are still there and have even expanded, including D’ Mall and D’ Talipapa. 

The best part is that the beachfront has been cleared of litter, poi dancers, hawkers and giant sandcastles, so there is much space for everyone to swim in, including little fish that have began swimming back to the shore! — Video by Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo, editing by EC Toledo IV

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