Philippines / Visayas / Antique / Culasi
Sometimes, time stands still. Its those moments when you forget that the earth is still rotating, that your cell phone bill is on auto debit and, as long as everything is working correctly, your heart keeps beating. But sometimes, you happen upon a place so beautiful, so serine, it skips one of those beats. One can learn to appreciate places like the sparsely populated Malalison island (in Antique Province, just off the coast of Panay), despite the lack of things like cable television, reliable wifi and . . . electricity.
Well OK, they do have electricity, but it comes from a gas-powered generator and it is only available between 6 and 10 pm. Electricity is one of those modern conveniences that you rarely miss here; that is, if you are able to disconnect from your mobile phone. If you are not on the sand bar, snorkeling, going for a day hike, or chatting up the locals, then you are missing the entire point of being on this island.
Google it… or try “Mararison island.” Both yield similar results, and I could not tell you which one is correct because maps, blogs, and even signs throughout the village all display both spellings. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Malalison Island, or Mararison Island, whatever you wish to call it, is the type of place that people travel to, to be humbled at the way they choose to live.
As you can imagine, this is not a big tourist destination. While the number of people that visit each year is increasing, tourists come from local destination on Pany. From Closeby cities like Iloilo or Bacolod.
The village of Malalison is where the majority of the islands residents live, and is where you will find all of the small resorts and homestays available. A stroll through the village will show you all the little shops and street food vendors that you need during your visit.
Snorkeling is without a guide and unsupervised. If you don’t have your own gear, you can rent a mask and snorkel all day for 50 pesos from one of the locals. The trekking however, is supervised. In fact, a guide is required. For a small fee, your group is lead by a resident up the hillside, through a field of carnivorous pitcher plants, to the top of the mountain where the radio tower is tethered, offering 360 degree panoramic views of the island. This is the perfect place to catch the sunset!
As you make your descent along the seaside cliffs, and towards the hidden cove with a black pebble beach, you are offered the option to trek back or pay a boatman for a lift back to the beach. I chose the latter, as it was already dark and the cool mist of the ocean spray was very refreshing after the hike.
Restaurants are sparse. Most visitors choose to buy fish from the local fisherman and have their host prepare it for them. If you prefer a simpler route, a stroll through the village will lead you past several street food vendors and pop up restaurants, but don’t expect many options.
With a little bit of something for everyone that is able to leave their cell phones alone for more than an hour, this tiny gem of an island still remains a bit of an undiscovered paradise. I always feel lucky to have the opportunity to visit islands like Malalison while they are still genuine and not yet commercialized. It’s a refreshing break from the room service and van shuttles. This island should be on your list when on Panay island or more specifically Antique Province. Live among the locals in paradise for a one of a kind experience.