Kalibo more than a gateway to Boracay

By Jihan Abbas Alisangco

Posted at Apr 18 2012 02:55 PM | Updated as of Apr 19 2012 07:32 PM

I love the beach. I may not be a good swimmer but still, I enjoy lounging by the shore and waiting for the sun to set.

I usually fly from Manila to Caticlan so it would be easier for me to go to island paradise Boracay, but there were quite a few times when I would take the Manila-Kalibo route.

I was always curious about how this capital town of Aklan looks like, but I never really got the chance to check it out. So when Nina Candelario, who owns a small but cozy inn in Kalibo and the Aklan Kamera Organization (led by Roy Escalona), invited me to visit them, I gladly did.

Other beaches in the country may boast of powdery white sand and blue waters, but Kalibo has something else to offer. I was able to roam around other towns and found a really nice beach in Tangalan. Its sands may not be as white as the ones in Boracay, but it proved to be a beauty on its own. With the place being so serene and peaceful, we could only hear the waves of the blue waters by the shore.

So what else can Kalibo offer to the public? Here are some of the things I got to do and places I got to visit that might interest the adventurer in you.

The Mangrove Eco-Tourism Park

Located at barangays Bugtongbato and Naisud in Ibajay town, this ecopark was launched in January 2010. It is dubbed as the most diverse natural growth mangrove community not just across the country, but in Southeast Asia.

The Aklan Kamera Org team toured me along the stretch of the ecopark, walking a total of two kilometers to check out the mangroves. It was such such a great experience. Being able to see so many mangrove species, we enjoyed nature at its best despite being under the heat of the sun.

The Ibajay Eco-Tourism Park takes care of 28 out of a total 35 mangrove species in the country. And the best part is, it has the so-called exotic mangrove in the Philippines, the century-old “Apiapi” trees.

Jawili Falls

Aside from the beach in Tangalan, Kalibo is also known for the crystal clear waters of Jawili Falls.

It provides a nice getaway for those who want to enjoy nature at its best. Aside from fresh waters from its seven basins, Jawili Falls also boasts of multi-hued limestone rocks.

Truly, Jawili Falls showcases Mother Nature’s work of art. Those who enjoy nature tripping and swimming at the same time will enjoy its cool waters, which span from 130 to 540 square feet, with a depth of eight to ten feet.

Those who want to go there with their families can do a picnic weekend, since its caretakers offer affordable cottages and grills to their visitors.

The art of piña weaving

Nang India is known for using piña fiber in her masterpieces. Photo by Paolo Ruiz

Aklan is known as the piña weaving basket of the Philippines. Not only that, the province is home to one of the best visual artists I know, Anna India Dela Cruz-Legaspi.

Nang India, as she is fondly called by her kababayans in Kalibo, has been known in the fashion industry for her artistic and intricate work using local resources such as piña fiber.

She said her being a visual artist paved the way into getting into the business of piña weaving. “I initially used piña cloth as canvas for my artworks. That’s when the right people began to notice my works,” she said.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Nang India recalled that her piña weaving business began when on one occasion, her paintings done on piña cloth canvas were borrowed by the Department of Trade and Industry and used it as a display during a trade fair in Aklan. That was the time when someone from Rustan’s department store saw her work and was impressed by it.

With the business she found herself in, Nang India started with one loom and one weaver. Later on, when more orders came especially from abroad, she came up with 250 weavers.

Nang India said she even had international brands ordering from her, including Calvin Klein and Dolce and Gabbana.

The Ati-Atihan Festival

Onlookers are welcome to join the parade at the Ati-Atihan Festival. Photo by Lito Labrador

If there’s one thing that Aklanons are proud of, it’s their religious feast, the Ati-Atihan Festival.

The festival, held every second week of January, is done in honor of the Santo Niño. Participants paint their faces in colorful and different ways, and parade along Kalibo wearing costumes.

The Ati-Atihan Festival is named after the Ati, the indigenous natives of Aklan. It is one of the best and most colorful festivals in the country. The event gathers thousands of tourists every year, both local and foreign.

And the fun part is, onlookers are welcome to join the parade.

For those who want to make the most out of their stay in Aklan, try to get out of Boracay and give Kalibo a visit. Here, you can enjoy both nature and culture, ensuring you and your family an experience worth coming back for.

The author would like to thank Aklan Kamera Org led by Roy Escalona and Nina Candelario for their hospitality, and Paolo Ruiz and AKO for the photos they submitted for the article.