Panay island is the third island loop leg we did and the major one this 2013. Since this is the third one and a bit smaller (Negros being the largest island after Luzon and Mindanao, which we did 2012), I was already confident and excited in doing these island loops. However, there were new faces (recruits) joining this tour, in fact a lot of them- 8 friends will be joining compared before when only me and Dindo who were doing these tours so the tour promised a fun and enjoyable one. On the other hand, since most of them are new to this activity, I was a bit concerned on being able to complete the entire loop. During the planning stages, I had already included alternative routes that can be used to shorten the trip while still maintaining the goal of doing an island loop. And since there were new members, this one needs to be more organized so we had one session, a pre-ride meeting to address all concerns as well as to share tips and tricks on road touring to the newbie’s. On the homestretch, Dindo opted out due to urgent matters so another concern came that I am the only one left who had experience doing these long tours to go with the group.
The day came on February 19, when we met at the Batangas Port to catch our ship bound for Caticlan. It was more convenient to go there by ship as flights arrive later in the day while the ship arrives at 6AM the next day, the right time to start a ride. Fare was around 1K pesos with a fee of 300 for the bikes (not sure why the allotted 11Kg baggage is not enough to cover the bike). At the ship (2Go), we had our launch party at the deck. It was funny though as 100% of the people at the deck partying were males- the macho type but everyone started dancing when the band started playing songs such as “Dancing Queen.” We arrived at Caticlan a little bit late due to porting problems. The weather was bad as there was a typhoon south of Panay- it was raining but based on experience, rains are better than sunshine. We started our ride past 8AM, something to worry about as this is the longest ride of the entire trip with 168 Kms total. We might not make it to San Jose as planned.
I was joined by Jerome Licup (visiting from UK), Deo Cas, Windsor Genoveza, Ega Escosio, Al Jumarang, Jerry Escosio and Heidi Sarno. Ann Cortes will be joining on the third and fourth leg from Iloilo. From all of them, Jerry and Windsor can be considered even a newbie in riding bikes so this 500km ride is a big feat for them. While Deo has been with us in our Manila to Bicol tour and Jerome and Heidi are known adventure racers. Ega and Al, though just started riding a little over a year, has logged considerable time on the saddle since then. These were the members of Team Panay. As we have planned a grand ending celebration at Boracay, we will be joined there by fellow MMS members Tintin Henson, Sioni Eduarte, Edwin Serapio, Lui Serapio, Boki Olipas, Zai Aranez, Donna Montalbo, Beth Policarpio and Leah Manalo (visiting from Singapore).
DAY 1 (From Malay to San Jose)
As expected, the roads from day 1 were purely flats except the initial downhill from Malay. There were sections were we were able to average 40 Km/h speed (with the help of tailwinds). It was also rainy and windy, there were sections were crosswinds were so strong it was scary that it felt like the winds would knock us off the road or sometimes headwinds were too strong it was difficult to ride. Tail wind was a different story- it was thrilling. This trip was a bit different from former trips I had with a lot of breaks where we had full meals- maybe the result of having numerous members. I felt I have gained weight after the tour rather than supposed to be losing it (actually I lost 5 pounds afterwards- only a little but still better than I expected).
We had our first stop at the boundary marker of Aklan and Antique provinces, of course for picture taking. We had our lunch at Culasi, the jump off town for a climb to Madja-as, the most popular mountain of the island. From here on, we found out the inaccuracies of the mileages of the E-Z Maps so there were sections where we found it difficult to decide and the locals were also not helpful as they are not sure of the distances. The ever reliable yellow road kilometer markers were also surprisingly inaccurate at this portion of the island. Sometimes numbers were not changing or even returning back from previous counts. By the time we have reached Laua-an, we got worried that we will not be able to reach San Jose as planned so we initiated our exit plans. 30 kms from San Jose, at around 5PM, we decided to rent a jeep rather than staying in the nearest town seaside resort as it may ruin the next days’ plan. Those who were already sore rode the jeep. For some (including myself) who decided to complete the day’s ride, we just had our bags on the jeep to lighten the load then we made one last push and arrived at San Jose de Buenavista by 7PM under the cover of darkness. We stayed at Eagle’s Inn- quite nice and cheap. San Jose is the capital town of Antique, not a city but pretty much the closest there is. Having Chowking and not Jolibee in town shows its status of being almost there but not quite there.
DAY 2 (San Jose to Iloilo)
We woke up early and started our ride by day break. Though I was already anticipating it- bypassing the coastal town of Tobias Fornier would mean a mountain pass terrain. The distances between the riders as a result of the steep grade got me worried of possibly not completing this day’s ride but eventually, everyone did made it to Iloilo by mid-afternoon. What comes up must go down- so the mountain pass also offered a thrilling relief after the back breaking climb. At the end of the pass, at San Joaquin, we had our brunch. As we were already in Iloilo, I had a La Paz Batchoy. I was excited to go to the next town- Miag-ao to see the UNESCO monument, the Miag-ao Church. We had a longer time there taking pictures. This day was more on the sunny side so heat was really a problem, we actually prayed for rains. Then as per Ann’s advise, we had our lunch at Oton, famous for its sea-foods. We then leisurely entered Iloilo City to end of the day’s ride. We searched for a place to stay (we didn’t booked any accommodations in advance as we are not sure if we will make each town by schedule), and found one beside Sarabia’s, the premier hotel in the City (so we were beside and not “in” Sarabia). By dinner, we went to Breakthrough Restaurant, the recommended place in town and had a hearty dinner. Jamby Madrigal was on the other table as President Pinoy and team were in town for the senatorial campaign. After the dinner, we tried having fun at Smallville (Boardwalk), Iloilo’s version of our hottest places in Manila but tiredness and the apprehensions of the next day’s ride got the best of us so we called it a day by 10PM. Not so typical for MMS.
DAY 3 (Iloilo to Bantay)
Ann Cortes joined us from today so we were now 9 riders. We got a little delayed
for our breakfast at Jolibee as a local school had their prom and in these places, students go to Jolibee after a prom. Before the trip, this leg was the one with a big decision point- either go through the interior or go to the seaside towns. Going to the interior would save us around 40kms but we were worried the interior would mean mountain passes. However we were told earlier that the interior was also fairly flat. But still, based on previous trips I only wanted to have a complete loop around the island and not a short cut version so my leaning was towards the coastal towns. Anyways, the decision was to be done when we reach the fork at Zarraga. By the time we were at Zarraga, it was evident it was wiser to take the shorter route to ensure we will make it to Roxas as planned. But we encountered problems when everyone we have asked had different opinions of which route was shorter. Worst, the police station told us the exterior was shorter- further cementing a common notion not to trust policemen- sadly- as it was obvious the interior was shorter. Others said it’s just the same. There was a bridge near Pototan under construction that made the decision making more challenging but we were assured we can pass through the bridge by bike so interior it will be.
It was another rainy day so we were muddy during this entire ride. We decided to have our brunch somewhere in Pototan. The interior roads were a little narrower so for this entire ride, there were a couple of near “being side swiped” scenarios. The route was also rolling, the terrain I hated most as I would rather do flats or mountain climbs than rolling which seems to zap your energy. We attempted to ask for a shortcut route via Tapaz after passing Passi City (another one of those “is this really a city” place) but we were told it would be longer. We already decided to skip Roxas City to further cut the total mileage so we aimed for the coastal towns towards Kalibo. The fork was at Sigma. We took the route towards Mambusao and from Mambusao to Sapian, another downhill joyride. At the end of the day’s trip at Sapian, we were told that there were no accommodations in Sapian so it’s either we go towards Roxas City or towards Kalibo. Of course we preferred towards Kalibo- the shorter way. We were told Bantay was the best place as there are resorts in town and there is also an option to ride a boat to Dumaguit further cutting the entire trip. Since it was already late and the day’s ride plan was already completed, we decided to take a tricycle to Bantay (the same person whom we asked for advise, who owns the store were we had snacks also owned the tricycle we rode- that’s what entrepreneurship really is). They actually offered to take us all in just one tricycle including our bikes as they usually overfill their trips (which I doubt) but they eventually agreed that its only 3 bikes per tricycle. So the art of securing a bike to a tricycle became handy.
We arrived at Bantay by dusk to a secluded resort- Borabocay (almost Boracay). There the horror stories began even though we were already in Akalan but still a few flaps away from Capiz. We had a nice dinner and few drinks before calling it a day. Knowing its our final day the next day- we were more relaxed and enjoyed our drinks and our night’s sleep. We made our dinner this time as there were no restaurant in this place.
DAY 4 (Bantay to Nabas)
There were no questions in the morning that we will take the boat ride to further cut the trip. It was a normal trip in Bantay where motorcycles are also commonly taking to cut their ride time to Kalibo. From Dumaguit, it was still 10 kilometers to New Washington where we had our breakfast. I was concerned that they needed to ride 10km before breakfast. At New Washington (not sure if this is the birth place of the late Cardinal Sin as he has a statue at its town square), I decided to hire a jeep again to ensure we will have enough time to go to Boracay and enjoy our first day there rather than spend the entire day riding and arriving Boracay by night. Some decided to ride the jeep. For the rest, we decided to just ride from New Washington to Nabas (as Nabas was the place we already passed by on day 1 so we didn’t wanted to ride it again plus it was already known to us that it’s an uphill). For this leg, I decided to do the remaining 50kms in one ride non-stop so I told the rest that it’s all man for themselves. The final kick was on Ibajay where there is a short mountain pass. We arrived Nabas before lunch. 440 kms+ Trip concluded, now time to party!
The original mileage table list down about 520 kms total ride. Out total was
around 440 kms. Though it was shorter, it was a great ride as we were not there to punish ourselves but to enjoy. We were happy that everyone even the newbie’s made it- a great feat! The most important thing is that we enjoyed the trip- the purpose of doing this in the first place.
As we ride hard, we need to party harder!
We spent the next two days enjoying Boracay- me I even did the 15 shots on Cocomangas to celebrate- Rides, Places and Friends !
Now that we have increased our tribe, and the awesome experience of Panay, the pressure of having the next legs more enjoyable is more evident. There are still more islands in the Philippines to explore but the ones remaining are either too developed or too remote- but still a challenge. The important thing is still the ride, the people and places and the friends you are riding with. There are also even plans to start the international leg- maybe a Singapore to Cambodia- Lets see…
Map of the Trip