Off to the Base Camp at Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn
|Mangroves on the scenic coastline of Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte|
After almost 12 hours on the road, hopping from one ride to another (includes waiting intervals at the airport, bus and boat), we had finally reached our destination – Gigantes Norte – one of the major islands in Islas de Gigantes, Carles, Iloilo. We jumped aboard a bamboo raft from the passenger boat to get into the shore. From there, motorcycles were waiting for us. And by that I mean single motorcycles, not a tricycle. This is the only means of transportation in Gigantes Norte. Each motorcycle can transport two people at a time, so we hopped in pairs and off we went to our base camp – Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn.
Standard fare is Php 10 per pax.
|Motorcycle is the major means of transportation in the island|
Gigantes Hideaway (as how the locals refer to it) is a short 5-minute motorcycle ride from the port, or 15 minutes by foot, passing by a scenic coastline lined with mangroves, some residential homes and mountains of empty scallop shells. Owned by Carles’ tourism officer, Joel Decano, it is the only established accommodation in Islas de Gigantes as of this writing. It is actually a compound where Joel’s family live side by side.
|The entrance at Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn|
The three-bedroom main house was converted into an inn. Gradually, they are adding more rooms to accommodate more tourists. The main house has a clean bathroom with ample supply of water, a dining area and a spacious living room. There is a videoke machine and a sounds system in the house, which the guests can use for free.
|The quad room at the main house|
The rate is Php 200 per person per night, regardless of how many rooms you want to occupy. Of course, this depends on the season. We were the only guests when we were there, so we got two rooms. One room with a queen-sized bed (fits two pax) and another room with two single beds and a queen-sized bed (fits four pax).
|The room good for two pax|
Power runs until 11:30 pm only. After that, a generator supports the power requirements of the inn until early morning. So, make sure to charge your cameras and phones before the power shuts down. Also, there is no network signal in Gigantes Hideaway (all networks). There’s only a place they call “call center” where people are literally doing their “calls” and “texts”. So, if you’re hiding from your boss or your ex-lover, go to Islas de Gigantes and they will not be able to contact you for the time being! You’re on vacation, right?
|A scrumptious seafood feast|
Now that you know how to go and where to stay at Islas de Gigantes, the next question is: where do we eat or buy food? Worry no more as the friendly staff at Gigantes Hideaway can do this for you. The usual arrangement with them is that they will charge you depending on the market value of the ingredients that they will use to cook your food. Yes, at cost. And then, you’ll just have to give a tip to Ate Anggay, the cook.
The food, especially seafoods at Islas de Gigantes is so affordable. Dubbed as the scallops capital of Carles, you can buy a kilo of scallops at Php 110 and can go lower on certain seasons! Fish, crabs, lagang (a kind of shellfish) and all sorts of seafoods are abundant in the island that you can indulge without spending a fortune! Our total bill for the food for our three days and two nights stay (dinner on day 1, full board on day 2 and breakfast on day 3) was Php 1300+ only, good for five pax.
The food is not like the usual resort food as it seems like we were having a feast all the time. Imagine this: sizzling scallops, scallop skewers, fish sinigang, spicy lagang and fried fish on the first night alone! Plus crabs and all sorts of scallop dishes on the succeeding meals! We also have an abundant supply of coffee; and beers and liquors are just within reach.
|L-R: Joel, Bhey, Irog, Uly, Lennie, Me and Jingle|
On our first night, we invited Jingle and Joel to join us over a few rounds of drinks. It was a blast I must say! During the conversation, we can’t help but talk about some interesting stories on Islas de Gigantes. Joel shared some stories as to why the group of islands is called “Islas de Gigantes.”
‘There are historical accounts saying it is because of the wooden coffins found buried within the island. These coffins are about 7 to 12 ft in length, so the locals thought the early settlers on the island are ‘giants’, thus the name,” Joel recounts. Two of these wooden coffins are displayed at the dining area of Gigantes Hideaway, in front a huge Balete tree. Interesting. The island has more than the sand and sea for sure.
|the Balete tree at Gigantes Hideaway|
|One of the two coffins in Joel's custody|
Joel also told us that just hours before we arrived at the inn, they had been digging within the compound because they were putting up another nipa hut and at less than three feet below the ground, they had found some ceramic jars with human bones and some personal belongings inside. They had displayed the jars in a wooden cabinet inside the main house, while they buried the human bones somewhere within the compound. Joel also said that there was a time when treasure hunters flocked to the island to dig and search for Yamashita treasures. Until now, there are still see some evidences of the diggings that they made on the island.
|Ceramics found from less than three feet under the ground|
There’s so much to discover at Islas de Gigantes that I think the experts or the government should focus on. Imagine these ceramics and wooden coffins that they had found. I am pretty sure that there are a lot of stuff like these buried beneath the grounds of Islas de Gigantes. These are things that are part of our history – something that we should preserve and document. Hello UNESCO? Come visit Islas de Gigantes to see for yourselves!
Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn
Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte, Carles, Iloilo
Joel Decano - 09184685006