Mera Joy Aniolga

Island of the Giants: Carles

In Event, Travelling on April 23, 2011 at 7:57 am

On the way to the Island

As a kid, I would always hear my father talk about his treasure hunting days. I would always hear him say this and that about “Isla de Gigantes”. He talked about huge coffins, the Yamashita treasure, the beautiful beach, the caves and everything. Listening to him alone made me want to go to that place first thing in the morning. I did not know where it is or how to get there but Isla de Gigantes is definitely on my “”When I grow up, I’ll go there” list.

Colcol asked me if I wanted to come along with him and Harren to Isla de Gigantes. Without thinking twice, I said “YES”. I was actually surprised as to how they knew about the island because I thought it was just my father and his treasure hunting friends who knew about it. We had several meetings before the actual date of travel. The only meeting that I was able to attend to was the last one, I was actually surprised and a bit shocked when I saw a lot of people on the table meeting with my friends. There are friends that I know, friends that I barely know, familiar faces and total strangers. My “When I grow up, I’ll go there” list must have leaked or something as there are many people who wanted to go to my must-go island too.

Upon arriving at the Island

In the end there were only 16 of us who made it to the terminal. We took the 4 am bus going to Estancia. The Tanza terminal is perfect for people who want to catch the first trip with the first seats on their destination. Buses that leave for Boracay can also be found here. We took the Estancia bus as it will take us to the port where we’ll meet with Maan’s cousin who will take us to the Island. For people who want to use public transport going to Isla the Gigantes, going to Carles is the best option as there are boats that will take you there. As for us, were lucky enough to have Maan because she has a Tito who lives in the Island.

After 4 hours or so, we arrived at Estancia. We had to do some marketing and the like because according to one of our friend who will come with us too, there are no markets there. Considering that none of us were able to go there yet, we bought gallons of water, loads of food and a sack of rice.We met with Christian at the town proper of Estancia. He had 2 other friends with him. They asked if the boat of Maan’s cousin can accommodate all 16 of us plus our big bags. We did the math and decided to let Oooey, Colcol and Arthur go with Christian and his little boat.

At the "TANKE"

The boat ride from Estancia up to Isla de Gigantes took 2-3 hours. We passed by several islands along the way. One of which is the famous Sicogon Island. It is a private resort that has an airport of its own. Gloria Diaz’s Pinkamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa was shot there. There are other islands too, some inhabited, some not. Me and my friend Cathy sat at the farthest corner of the motor boat. It was 8a.m. and we were traveling under the scorching summer sun. We did not mind the fact that we have no covers on our heads or that we weren’t able to put on sunblock because the air is cool and our excitement got the better of us. By the time we arrived at the Island at around 11 a.m., I was already badly burned. It is the worst kind of sunburn. Worst that until now, a year and a half after my first Isla the Gigantes escapade, the burned skin has not yet recovered. Where my shorts and tank top failed to cover my skin, the sun‘s heat more than made up for it.

When we arrived at the island, we went straight to Maan’s Tito’s house. It was just 50 steps away from the beach. First thing that I noticed about the island is its “ambiance”. I don’t know if it’s just me or if my prejudice is getting the better of me. But setting foot on the Island’s white sand seashore had some kind of a cosmic effect on me. Blame it on my badly burned skin or the stories that I hear from my father.


Our friends who hitched in the smaller boat arrived a little bit later. I was right in assuming that size and speed are somewhat related when it comes to motor boats. We had bigger boats, it was quicker, we arrived faster. They had a small boat, it was slow and they just can’t keep up with us.

After lunch, we decided to check out the “tanke”. Locals refer to it as the “engkanto’s swimming pool”. I was scared but excited as hell to check this place out. The “tangke” has no shoreline. It is actually hidden in the high rocks. Imagine a small beach in between high rocks with trees and shrubs above and beside it.

Second Day at the Island

Now as for the mysterious side of it: This “tanke” as I have mentioned is surrounded by rocks and trees but the water’s surface is clean and does not have single fallen leaf, shrub or stem on it. (As they say, it is the”engkanto’s swimming pool so it is somewhat maintained and cleaned regularly but unseen forces of nature”) The locals there are very superstitious, they told us to keep out mouths shut and to never destroy the serenity of the place as it might enrage the “engkantos” there. And this we did when we got there. We spoke in hushed voices, we were extra careful and all. I wonder if the “engkantos” there got mad when some vandals put their names, their lover’s names, their fraternities’ names and the like at the rocks around.

Next is a little beach whose name I forgot. This one has a very short shoreline, a few rocks here and there. It has white sand too. One of the rocks was high enough that some of my friends decided to jump at the top of it before finally taking a plunge. I figured, the water must have been deep enough as nobody among who jumped broke a neck or limb.

At the Mayors Island

After that jumping beach, we went to Bantigue. The sandbar there was amazing. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived there, the tide was getting high but the sand bar is still visible. Seeing the sandbar from afar made me a bit scared as it looks like a long line of boiling water.

It was getting dark, so we headed back at the Island and started to pitch our tent. We had 3 tents. I borrowed Dandan’s humongous tent, so there were like 8 of us inside it and still a room for more. We woke up the next day with local children peeking at our tents.

Cave Dead End where Oooey had his "Ethan Hunt" stunt.

On our second day, we started our adventure by going to Pawikan Island. It is actually visible from where we pitched out tents. It is called as such because the island resembles a giant sea turtle or in vernacular, a “pawikan”. It does not have permanent residents though fishermen camp there for overnight sometimes.

We decided to have our lunch at the Mayor’s Island. I don’t know if it’s actually called as such but our boatmen said that the town’s mayor owns the island, he even built a concrete house for island hopping tourists. Unfortunately, the cruelty of typhoon Frank destroyed the house. We are left with nothing but the concrete ruins of the house. Since the boatmen volunteered to cook our lunch for us, we roamed the island. At the top of it are stones. They look like stones but they said that they are ancient corals which popped up from the sea and eventually evolved into becoming a little islet like this. The view from the top is amazing as you get to see the surrounding islands.

At the Cave's Entrance

Next stop is the cave. Not just a regular cave but THE cave with the buried Japanese treasure. I imagined this as the place that my father use to talk about. The trek up the cave is steep. A trail is established and we have guides but for a city dweller like me who walks at concrete and FLAT walkways everyday of her life, the climb is very difficult. Some of my female friend even gave up midway up the cave.

The cave’s entrance have a lot of vandalism. Nene was here. Toto loves Nene. SRB. Botlog was here. Fuck you. I love you! I lhab you. Inday rocks! I don’t know whether vandals go up here with a sole purpose of vandalism in mind because if I were them, I would not do it. I’d rather vandalize the town CR or the Multipurpose hall, where going there does not require you to hold on to a branch of tree for dear life.

Going down the Pawikan Cave

The cave is big, beautiful but abused. If it were a person, the cave would be a big, beautiful whore. For instance you can still see signs of its natural beauty. You know for a fact that is was once a virgin spot whose beauty is both bane and boon. Stalactites cut here, stalagmites cut there. Holes here, holes there. Digging there, digging here. One thing that caught my eye was a stone with a hand mark on it. They say it was a mark for the treasure. People believe that the cave houses the Yamashita treasure and the hand mark belongs to the Japanese soldier who buried the Yamashita treasure there.

After cave, we went to another Island. The name I forgot again. It looks like a giant mole or a giant’s mole (either way works!) I actually imagine it be a giant’s mole protruding out of the ocean. I assume the giant is asleep under the ocean. This belief made me scared to step on the slippery big brown stones of the island. I’m afraid it might come to life and the giants might swallow us whole (say, this mole is located near his mouth?) Anyway, we bathe in that giant mole-ish island. Our boatmen interacted with other fishermen in the island who were camping there for the night. We played with a few hermit crabs. We eat sea urchins offered to us by one of the boatmen.

The Japs hand mark they say.

On the way back to our base island, we saw a lot of dead corals. Moving forward, we spotted two boats of fishermen engaging in dynamite fishing. I now understand why this mode of fishing is prohibited. Looking at the dead corals and fishes is just not an interesting sight.

Repost from Old Blog. July 19, 2010



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