Malalison Island (or locally referred to as Mararison Island) is a somewhat unknown tourist destination in the Philippines’ Antique Province. The jump-off point for this tropical wonder is the town of Culasi.
My group arrived in Culasi via private van from the Molo terminal in Iloilo City. The mid-day sun was already beating down on us as we walking into the tourist information center along the shore where we were dropped off. There was some time to kill before our shuttle boat to the island would arrive, so we took a short walk to Culasi Public Market to purchase supplies for our 2 night adventure on Malalison.
Knowing that Malalison was a primitive island with no permanent electricity, our group planned on stocking up here at the market. It is well documented that the primitive resorts and homestays will gladly cook your food for a small preparation fee of about 150 pesos, about 3 USD.
Having lunch at a food stall was the first priority, but then a quick walk around the public wet market helped us get our bearings before starting to bargain prices to make our purchases. The stores in the front had refrigerators filled with cold bottled drinks, snacks and rice by the kilo. We loaded up on those (very heavy) things and pushed further back into the market.
Fresh vegetables immediately grabbed our attention; bright, colorful, and beautifully displayed, these were easy to pick out. Most of these produce stands also had other starches such as a variety of noodles, in addition to all the necessary sauces, vinegar and oil. Because Malalison island was a first time destination for all of us, we loaded up on everything that we could possibly need to prepare a meal.
Loaded with all the sides and staples, we began shopping for the proteins. Several vendors here had pork and seafood on display. The lack of variety was very disappointing, despite being the high travel season. We were also less than impressed with the apparent quality of the meat so as a group, we decided to purchase some fish.
A little bit of price haggling landed us a few kilos of a variety of locally caught seafood, but more disappointment followed as we (eventually) found out that we were sold bad fish.
Our host at the resort told us that she did not want to prepare this as we would most likely get sick. While it was not yet completely spoiled, it was no longer suitable for consumption.
It was also to our surprise that once arriving on Malalison, we were able to find EVERYTHING that was available at Culasi market at smaller shops in the village on the island, albeit at a slightly higher price.
The extra costs were nominal compared to completely wasted purchases at Culasi Public Market. Even though the rice and drinks we purchased were perfectly fine, they were bulky and heavy to transport on top of our bags. About the only purchases we made that we were happy with was the vegetables. Produce was also available on Malalison, but in much smaller quantities.
In hindsight, vegetables and noodles will be the only necessary purchases at Culasi Public Market, leaving the rest of the purchases to be made on the island, further supporting the locals.
You can read more about Malalison and see some drone aerial shots of the island, in another article here.