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TRAVEL GUIDE

Aswang in Capiz? Tsismis! Here are the province's cultural charms from land to sea

By NICK GARCIA Published Jul 11, 2022 6:20 pm

Tsismis: Capiz is a lair of the aswang, mangkukulam, and other malevolent creatures from the dark recesses of one's mind.

History: Capiz is where you'll find Roxas City—the Seafood Capital of the Philippines—as well as Spanish-era churches, ancestral houses, verdant ecoparks, clear skies, crystalline waters, and other sights of cultural significance and charm.

Located on the island of Panay in Western Visayas, it's arguably an underrated tourist destination compared to its neighboring provinces like Aklan where the go-to Boracay is.

If you need some respite from the metro's smoke, grime, and monstrosity, then Capiz is the place you're looking for. Here are some of the destinations you wish you've visited sooner than later.

Palina Greenbelt Ecopark

Those who fancy a lunch buffet in a bamboo raft on the river while indulging in a picturesque, refreshing view of Mother Nature ought to go to Palina Greenbelt Ecopark in Roxas City.

Palina Greenbelt Ecopark

For the exciting part, the raft is mobile and is made especially for a river tour. You can almost hear Christopher Cross' Sailing playing in your head, if not recall Ed Sheeran's iconic Lego House live acoustic performance on a boat.

Palina Greenbelt Ecopark also offers activities like recreational fishing, mangrove planting, coastal cleanup, as well as footspa, body/back/foot massage, and manicure/pedicure, whatever floats your boat.

Located in Barangay Cagay in Roxas City, it's managed by the Palina River Development Association that comprises the local fisherfolk. Not only it's accredited by the Department of Tourism, but it's also the recipient of several green awards, including the 2018 ASEAN Sustainable Tourism Award.

Shoot a message at 0946-3195772 or 0910-6097475 for more information.

Capiz Provincial Park

An actual park has to have flora and fauna (not primarily concrete and steel), and Capiz Provincial Park in Roxas City is up to the task.

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Filled with trees, shrubs, and other greenery, the park also has a rock fountain with a pond teeming with koi fish. It also has huts where people can rest, eat some meryenda, read a book, or appreciate their surroundings. Capiz Provincial Park also has stalls where you can buy snacks, drinks, as well as pasalubong and souvenirs.

Pasalubong center

Capiz Ecology Park and Cultural Village

If you feel the need to reconnect even more with nature and disconnect from the metro, Capiz Ecology Park and Cultural Village in Cuartero offers exactly that.

Capiz Ecology Park and Cultural Village

With no mobile signal in the area, the viridescent environment helps clear the mind. You'll be spared from doomscrolling on Facebook and Twitter, checking work emails, hearing the distressing notification sound of your apps.

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At the Capiz Ecology Park and Cultural Village, tourists may also check on the houses of indigenous peoples, made of cogon and bamboo. Some of the community members would even interact with the tourists to tell their story and showcase their bamboo-weaving craft.

Upon availability, the Panay Bukidnon performers may also showcase their cultural dance.

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Since exploring the park would surely lead to exhaustion and hunger, you may avail of local kakanin, prepared in front of you as the local explains the cooking process. Group meal packages are also available.

Reach out to the Capiz Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office at (036) 651 0585, 0998-4123 291, or [email protected] for assistance.

Immaculate Conception Metropolitan Cathedral

Since Panay is among the places that Spaniards colonized, it's heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism. Tourists ought to pass by the Immaculate Conception Metropolitan Cathedral or what they call Roxas Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in the province and in the country.

Roxas Cathedral

The Roxas Cathedral was founded in the 1700s. During that time, the churches are strategically located at the center of the town, surrounded by residences, markets, and other establishments. This is what they call the Spanish colonial architecture, which is the Spaniards' means of effectively controlling the natives, as well as making religion literally at the center of their lives.

Just across the cathedral is a fountain that can be a sight for sore eyes, especially at night when its lights are also turned on.

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Sta. Monica Parish Church

The ideal stop after visiting Roxas Cathedral is another Spanish-era church: Sta. Monica Parish Church in Panay (pronounced as PAN-AY, different from the province itself), a municipality eight kilometers east of Roxas City.

Panay Church

Sta. Monica Parish Church, or simply called Panay Church, was built in the 1800s on the site of a 1700s church that was ravaged by a typhoon. It's made of coral stones and its grand structure is shaped like a Latin cross.

Panay Church also has a five-story belfry which houses the Panay Bell, the largest bell in Asia and third in the world. Said to be made of 70 sacks of bronze and silver coins solicited from the locals, the 5x7 feet bell weighs over 10,000 kilograms. Its knell can be heard within an eight-kilometer radius. (When Panay Bell is tolled in front of you, you'd realize that a super lolo during New Year's Eve or the DJ's tunes in the club are not that ear-shattering.)

The Panay Bell

The giant bell, alongside other smaller bells, can be accessed through a 63-step steel staircase. Worry not about the effort, as it would all be worth it, especially that the top rewards a scenic view of the town.

View from the belfry

Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

How about another religious site to visit to make it a holy trinity? At the western portion of Roxas City is the Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where the country's tallest statue of Jesus Christ is located.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, built in 2015 in the Pueblo de Panay Township, stands 102 feet from the heel to the tip of the middle finger. If the base is accounted for, it stands at 132 feet tall.

There's also the bamboo-made church, which is undergoing reconstruction after a typhoon left it in ruins.

The statue of Jesus Christ stands 102 feet tall.

Balay ni Nanay Lording

Whether you're a history buff or a half-blooded Marites, Balay ni Nanay Lording in Panay would surely pique your interest. It's a two-story ancestral home dating back to the '40s, with its living heirs still in residence.

Balay Ni Nanay Lording

The upper tier is a museum of sorts, as it boasts of a collection of antiques, china, and other rarities. The lower tier, meanwhile, is a restaurant that, of course, specializes in seafood. A seafood buffet is as low as P350 per head.

Vicky Baes, owner and manager of Balay ni Nanay Lording, showcases her antique collection. (Nick Garcia)

Baes holds against the light one of the chinas she owns to show the inscribed hidden character. (Nick Garcia)

Vicky Baes, owner and manager of Balay ni Nanay Lording, showcases her antique collection. (Nick Garcia)

Baes holds against the light one of the chinas she owns to show the inscribed hidden character. (Nick Garcia)

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What makes a visit to Balay ni Nanay Lording more special is that it's located in Calle Revolucion, the second oldest street in the Philippines after Colon Street in Cebu.

Oysters

For bookings, contact owner and general manager Vicky Baes at 0961-5569912 or [email protected]

Islas de Gigantes

Though it is technically located in Iloilo, Islas de Gigantes is an essential itinerary during one's trip to Roxas City. Why? You wouldn't want to miss its white-sand beaches, emerald waters, and striking rock formations that demand to be on the 'gram once you go back to civilization.

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The island chain is accessible via chartering a boat from Bancal Port in the municipality of Carles, which is an hour-long drive away from Roxas City. The boat trip takes about an hour.

Bancal Port

According to a local legend, Islas de Gigantes is named as such because it's the body parts of a fallen giant. Another one says it's because of the "giant" human bones that were reportedly found in the caves.

Points of interest in the island chain include Cabugao Gamay, Olotayan Island, Bantigue Island Sandbar, Antonia Beach, and Tangke Saltwater Lagoon.

Tangke Saltwater Lagoon

Activities include island hopping, kayaking, swimming, spelunking, and eating fresh seafood (particularly scallops, which rose to fame for being priced at P1 apiece)

As you traverse the sea, you may also see a storm cloud brewing on the horizon, and the sight can be so surreal.

Boat ride to Islas de Gigante

While you're at it, you ought to quaff an ice-cold bottle of beer being sold on one of the islands, not only to beat the heat but also make the experience all the more "daserb."

If you're looking for a safe and budget-friendly way to fly, AirAsia flies to Roxas City thrice a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. A plane trip from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 to Roxas City Airport takes an hour, at most. You can book a flight and other accommodations at the AirAsia Super App available on iOS and Android.

Roxas City accepts local and foreign tourists, with COVID-19 vaccination card as the only entry requirement.