Malalison Island, AntiqueAfter Yolanda
Malalison Island – After Yolanda
Malalison Island ( Locals pronounce it Mararison ) is the name of the 54 hectares of rock that can be seen jutting out of the sea just off the coast of Culasi. I have gazed at it many times when travelling along Antique’s coastal road on the bus. Its white sand bar, which changes shape with each tide, can clearly be seen from Culasi Baywalk.
Looking along the beach I can see boats that have brought islanders from Malalison Island over to Culasi for their shopping of supplies and drinking water. Everything needs to be brought to the island from the mainland. Even furniture is placed carefully and strategically for the 20 minute trip across the crystal clear sea to Malalison Island. As i watched the sun set behind Batbatan Island, Malalison’s neighbour,
i was already trying to imagine what the island looked like just six months (May 1st) after typhoon Yolanda ripped through the area devastating everything in its path. I was soon to find out. But for now with the bright orange sky and the sun setting, Malalison Island looked ideal from a distance.
The Legend of Malalison Island
According to a popular local legend, the island is one of the three offsprings of Madyaas and Kanlaon.
Mararison, Batbatan and Maningning were their names
Mararison and Batbatan turned out to be strong men while Maningning was the prettiest maiden in Antique.
However, the siblings grew up to be stubborn. Mararison was fond of violating rules, Batbatan disobeying his parents and the elders, while Maningning played with the boys. Because of this, Bulalakaw, the chief god, saw it all and made an action to teach the siblings a lesson. Then there came a very strong typhoon. The wind and the sea raged. Flashes of lightning and thunder occurred as the weather worsened.
Bulalakaw gathered the siblings and with one wave of his hand, he threw them into the sea and turned them into islands and separated them from the mainland of Antique, despite Madya-as’ and Kanlaon’s appeals and prayers to the chief god.
Mararison being the nearest (as he received the lightest punishment because he is first-born and greatly loved by his parents and later realized his mistakes but was too late), Maningning (present day Maniguin Island) as the farthest and Batbatan in between the two. They were cursed to be separated from their parents for eternity.
Over to Malalison Island
The next morning, Pedro, our guide and boatman met us at Anna Sophie Hostel in Culasi. We walked the short distance to the beach where Pedro’s small plywood outrigger was waiting. The sea was perfectly calm and reflected the blue of the sky. As the dot of Malalison Island grew larger some coral reefs appeared in the water below our boat and then suddenly we beached.
The island seemed empty of tourists and we were the only ones on the beach apart from a few children playing on and around the fishing boats. There was a Barangay fee of P10 for filipinos and P30 for foreigners to pay for entry to the island. The beach, which is actually a 100 metre long sandbar was clean, tidy, and pure white. Pedro suggested we go hiking around the island.
Hiking Malalison Island
With Pedro leading the way, we followed through the barangay. Some houses were still waiting to be repaired while others were already being worked on. The small chapel had had its roof ripped off by the typhoon and was standing abandoned. Pedro invited us to his house to meet his family and mentioned that the small lagoon behind his house had been sold to developers who were planning to build homestays there. I could only think that this would be the end of this small fishing community if the plans were pushed through.
After leaving Pedro’s house, we started to climb a quite steep path. This path the children of the island climbed everyday during the school year, as the school is situated on top of the hill. There must be some very fit school kids there. No need for P.E. classes haha.
I have already witnessed the devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban, on the other side of the country, a couple of months ago so i knew what to expect here on Malalison Island. But apart from some houses being damaged, the school roof being ripped off and some uprooted trees still lying around, there was not much else here in the way of noticeable damage. Most of it had been cleaned up already.
We continued to hike along the path through the grass covered hills, past the roofless elementary school to the other end of the island. Along the way we passed a cluster of Pitcher plants nestled between some dry ferns. It was a surprise to find that these grew here on this island where there is hardly any vegetation.
After a short while we arrived at the other end of the island, where a small islet called Nablat. If it is low tide then it’s possible to wade across and explore Nablat Islet. Unfortunately when we visited it was high tide, so had to give it a miss, Instead we rested on the beach and bought a soft drink from the Sari-sari store nearby.
Return Hike to the Beach Area
The return hike passes along cliffs with sheer drops down to the sea on the eastern side of Malalison Island. Pablo told us that there is a small cave on one of the beaches below, that we would visit later when we circumnavigated the island by boat on the way back to the mainland. The trail wasn’t difficult at all, and the panoramic view across the blue blue sea back to Culasi and Mt Madjaas was exceptional.
It seemed as though we could see the whole coastline of Antique from up there. At one point there is an amazing view down to the sandbar and houses of the barangay. Arriving back we found a stall selling halo-halo which was a welcome sight. The cold shaved ice and evaporated milk tasted so good.
Always support local business when visiting small communities like the one on Malalison Island. Back at the sandbar we just had enough time for a quick swim in the cool blue clear water before setting off on our round island sail, and heading back to Culasi and the mainland of Antique.
The Cave and Return to Culasi
There were a few other boats lining the shore and groups of visitors enjoying a picnic, including a boatload of Police officers, as we pulled up on the stony beach where the cave lies. Pedro excitedly directed us to the cave, which turned out to be only a few metres long. Of course i entered to check it out and explore but was a bit disappointed with it. Nonetheless we took a group photo as i emerged from the darkness, and then headed back to our boat for the next stop on our round island trip.
With Pedro’s son sitting upfront on the bow, we headed to another “secret” spot of Pedros, which turned out to be a small cove at the end of Malalison Island. We docked the boat and went off to explore for a few minutes.There were some good views of Nablat Islet and Batbatan from here.
Once again we boarded the boat for the last leg back to Culasi passing along the eastern coast. Half way along we looked up at the hills tops and were astounded to see the school with its roof ripped off perched there as a monument to the strength of Typhoon Yolanda. I am sure the island will recover from this catastrophe and emerge stronger than before with the right guidance.
How to travel to Antique from Manila
Panay Island, where the province of Antique is located, is supported by four airports. Kalibo, Iloilo (International and Domestic), Caticlan and San Jose (Domestic only) There are several flights by Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines, each day to these airports from Manila.
If you prefer not to fly there is the 10 hour sea route to Caticlan. (Boracay)
Take a JAM bus from Pasay to Batangas Port. From there you can take a 2Go Ferry to Caticlan. Once in Caticlan find the Ceres Bus terminal serving Antique. Any bus to San Jose or to Iloilo via Pandan will take you to Culasi.
Travellers coming from Kalibo, take a tricycle to the Ceres Bus Terminal and take a bus bound for San Jose, Antique via Culasi. Kalibo to Culasi may take around 2 hours only. Alternatively you may take a bus bound for Caticlan and ask the conductor to let you down at Nabas Junction, (this is the junction to Antique) where you can wait for any bus heading south to Culasi, San Jose or Iloilo along the Antiques Coastal Road.
From Caticlan and Boracay
If you’re coming from Boracay or Caticlan, there is a bus terminal for Antique near the Port. You may take any bus bound for San Jose, Antique via Culasi. Travel time is around two hours.
Find your way to the Molo Bus Terminal where you can take a bus going to Caticlan via Antique or to Culasi. It will take around five hours to reach Culasi.
From Culasi (updated for 2019)
Ask the conductor to drop you off the bus at the Culasi Plaza stop, and then enjoy a 5 minute walk to the Tourism Information Centre located just behind the Municipal Hall where you can arrange your final leg by boat across to Malalison Island. Culasi port is only a few metres away from the Tourism Information Centre. The boat ride across to Malalison Island takes around 20 minutes.
Malalison Island, Antique
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