Empowering Trails: A Voluntourism Journey from TREK Iloilo to the Scenic Wonders of Guimaras

September 16, 2015 Travel

Twice or thrice a year, our group, TREK or Trails to Empower Group, ventures to isolated communities to reach out. We take voluntourism to heart, especially the part where we embark on our side trip.

After our TREK Iloilo, which targeted the Panay Bukidnon cultural group of Calinog, Iloilo, we visited Guimaras.

Guimaras is just a 15-minute boat ride from Iloilo City via Jordan port. It is an island province, among the smallest and youngest, famous for its mangoes. Of course, there is also a lot to see in Guimaras, and here are the places we visited during our 24-hour stay.

Balaan Bukid

We have a lot to be thankful for. TREK Iloilo is our first outreach outside Luzon, so we were very worried about logistics, but angels came to help, and donations poured in. We are blessed!

Before hitting the beach, we decided to do a little pilgrimage.

Balaan Bukid is where the prominent cross, visible from as far as the Iloilo coast, is located. Alongside its trail are 14 Stations of the Cross, and at its summit is the Shrine of Ave Purisima.

The trek was a bit challenging for me due to difficulties walking after a mountain climbing accident more than a year ago. However, the view that awaited me at the peak, coupled with the communion with the Lord, made it all worth it.

We were rewarded with a sweeping view of Iloilo and Guimaras. I found myself a perfect spot to spend a quiet moment and reminisce about our recent outreach.

Trappist Monastery

This was another opportunity for us to give thanks. After a quick lunch at a seafood restaurant (which, unfortunately, ran out of seafood), we visited the Trappist Monastery.

The Trappist Monastery grounds are a sacred enclave run by monks of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, following the rule of St. Benedict. The monks earn a living by selling souvenir items and processed foods.

I bought various food items, and their rum balls, in particular, are the best. I also purchased rosaries and St. Benedict's medals and had them blessed there.

Alibuhod Beach

We checked in at Raymen Resort. We secured a room that accommodates 8 people for only P 2,200.00, while the rest booked their own fan and air-conditioned rooms. Fortunately, we had reservations as the resort was fully booked at that time.

Alibuhod has a short stretch of white sand and serves as a jump-off point for Guimaras island-hopping tours.

Island Hopping

The sound of the waves, the beachfront seats, and the cold beer were too inviting, but I decided to join an island-hopping tour instead.

We chartered a boat, good for 10 people, for P 500.00 for the first hour and P 150.00 for succeeding hours.

Due to high tide, we were only able to visit a few destinations included in the usual island-hopping tour, but it was okay. We enjoyed it.

I skipped swimming at Ave Maria Beach because it was that time of the month. It was our first stop. I was content just looking at it and admiring it from afar since our boat couldn't dock at the beach.

Next, we went to the SEAFDEC Research Center. Along the way, we spotted beautiful private islands.

The SEAFDEC Research Center is located on the southwest portion of Guimaras Island. It is composed of clusters of floating fish cages interconnected by floating footbridges.

The guide allowed a bit of interaction with the fishes. My friends attempted to turn it into a fish spa.

By the time we finished exploring each cage, it was already late afternoon. The sea was calm and relaxing, providing a perfect end to our day.

And it was already sunset when we reached Raymen Resort. Our friends who chose to stay were already on their nth bottle of beer. We caught up with them, shared our little adventure, and then started a proper celebration for TREK Iloilo.

We left Guimaras early the following day to catch our flights back to Manila. We had a good time in Guimaras, and we look forward to coming back for more.

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