With rolling hills reminiscent of Batanes, a sandbar that changes its form depending on the waves, a marine diversity good for fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving –Malalison Island is poised to be Visayas’ next premier destination but it also faces a threat that might soon put it out of the map.
It’s been almost two years since Typhoon Yolanda made its landfall in Antique. To this day, majority of the area have already recovered from the storm that is said to be one of the strongest in history but the possibility of it happening all over again is at bay.
For weeks, the far off province had no communication to the world save for some limited areas in the Central and Northern parts. Schools, buildings, even evacuation centers were damaged when the storm hit the province last November 2013.
“Yung malalaking puno bumagsak, yung mga bubong nasira. Walang kuryente at signal pero sa kabila nun, hindi kami masyadong nabalita dahil ang focus ay Eastern Visayas, (The trees were toppled down, the roofs were destroyed. There’s no electricity and phone signal but despite that, the rest of the Philippines didn’t know much about our plight because the focus was Eastern Visayas)” said John John Sumanting, tourism officer for Culasi, Antique.
“Itong Malalison, nasira yung school, dati diyan nakatayo yun sa harap, ngayon dagat na yung kinatatayuan niya, (The school here in Malalison was formerly located there in front, but now the land has been reduced to water area)” Sumanting added.
From 55 hectares, Malalison is now down to 54.
For first timers, the island is beautiful, unspoiled –perfect for those seeking a quiet tropical getaway. There are no traces of Typhoon Yolanda; all you see are upward curves on the mouths of the locals as they pass by.
Since then, developments have been continuous. The school was reinstated in a much safer location on top of a hill, commercial building located near the seawall (right before you cross the island) is currently in the works, and more and more tourists are discovering the beauty that the island has to offer.
On the day of my visit, I rented a floater and swam to the middle of the ocean –or at least just far enough from the sandbar– and there, with my shades on while the sun is at its peak, I became one with the sea and observed my surroundings.
The sky was bright blue that afternoon, filled with long stretch of billowy clouds, you could see it taking the shape of the Earth. I was making rounds in that small private space of mine on top of my floater, staring at the vast horizon above me, spinning like a kid on a carousel ride. This is the kind of image I would like to keep. It’s a postcard view of what Malalison is, and always will be, to me.
Even without a snorkeling gear, I also see some small fishes swimming below me, and even a school of flying fish. Then from afar, I notice a few people arriving and departing with every boat that docks the island.
After about an hour or two, I joined some friends I met on the island to trek the mountain. Going up takes 30 minutes or so, depending on your pace. It was a hot and tiring trek but it was worth it as we were greeted with an uninterrupted 360 degree view of the island and its neighbors. This is where pitcher plants, duhat, little caves, and Nableg islet could be found.
Truly, this island is a paradise away from the world’s turmoil, but we wouldn’t know if it’s the same enduring image today as it will be tomorrow.
Malalison is located 15 minute boat ride away from Culasi, Antique.
How to Get There
From Manila, you can fly to Kalibo or Iloilo. There are buses that leave for Antique from these two jump off points. Travel time is 2-3 hours. Once in Culasi, head straight to the municipal hall to register and meet the Culasi Tourism Officer, Mr. Sumanting. He will give you a brief background about Culasi and will also assign you a boatman. After your trip to the island, go back to the municipal hall to claim your tourism certificate.
You could pitch a tent in Malalison but if you prefer real home, there are also home stays available. Price rate is as follows:
Php 3,000 – good for 15-20 pax (with complete facilities)
Php 150 – good for one person
Php 129 – Ceres Bus from Kalibo to Tibiao, Antique
Php 750 – boat ride to Malalison (round trip, good for 1-5 persons; Php 1000 for a group of 10)
Php 10 – Environmental fee for locals (Php 40 for foreigners)
Php 25 – floaters rental
Php 100 – Malalison Island tour guide