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Monday, October 28, 2013

When in Kalibo

It used to be that when you want to reach Boracay, you have to go through Kalibo first because there was just one commercial airline flying domestic in the Philippines.  But with more airline companies available, and offering budget fares at that, Caticlan, which is nearer, became a host for smaller aircrafts and thus, making travel time shorter.  In the process, only a fewer number of local and foreign tourists stop over Kalibo.  And even then, upon landing at the Kalibo International Airport, passengers prefer to go straight to the beach.
But why not stay a day in this quiet genteel town?  Kalibo, after all, is located in Aklan, said to be the oldest province in the Philippines.  This place is best known for its Ati-Atihan Festival held every January in honor of the Santo Nino (Infant Jesus), and which served as a model for the Sinulog Festival of Cebu and the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo.  However, when you're in Kalibo on other times of the year, what do you do?
1.  Go to Dela Cruz House of Pina 

81 New Buswang
Kalibo, Aklan
Tel. No. +63 36 2623267 (closed on Sundays)
The pina cloth are fibers made from pineapple, and one of the traditional textiles of the Philippines.  Aklan, and more particularly Kalibo, remains to be the main and oldest manufacturer of pina cloth dating as far back as pre-Hispanic times. Historical records suggests that the pina cloth has even been exported as far as Greece and Egypt during its heyday. 
While there are many shops around town that manufacture and sell this, we opted to go to sisters Ding and Leevi Dela Cruz whose family has been in this industry for generations.  Thankfully, they have continued this tradition and even opened a big portion of their residence to showcase their work.   
On some days, Leevi, who is in charge of weaving and dying the cloths using natural dyes, can give a demonstration on how pina fibers are weaved into the most lightweight and beautiful cloths that will later be used to make shawls, pillow cases, ladies' purses, wallets or fans that they sell in the showroom.  There are also cloths available by the yard for you to be sewed into barongs (men's traditional long or short sleeved shirts) or women's gowns, blouse and/or skirts.
They also weave baskets of all shapes and sizes using buri leaves, which they supply to better known department stores in Manila and are also exported to the US, among others. 
2.  Visit Sampaguita Gardens
506 Rizal Street Poblacion,
New Washington, Aklan, Philippines
Tel. No. +63 36 2643422
            +63 36 2645555
From Kalibo town proper, you can take a tricycle and reach the resort in 30 minutes.  If coming from Kalibo Airport, the ride will take you there in 15 minutes.
Sampaguita Gardens is a resort and hotel put up by Samuel John Butcher, the creator and artist of Precious Moments characters that spread Christian messages.  The resort was set up in 2003 and is considered one of the major tourist destinations in Aklan.  Entrance fees are Php50/adult (US$1.19) and Php30/child 3-12 years old (US$0.70), but are consumable.  This means, you can use your tickets to pay for the food or merchandise you might buy inside. And believe me, you'll be able to spend it all without effort.
The resort is an all-year round Christmas park. Thus upon entering, you are greeted by Precious Moments angels along the pathway, a nativity scene in the garden and the centerpiece of the resort, Jojo's Christmas Cottage.  The gift shop is found inside along with the Cottage's Coffee Town where we discovered serve good coffee.  You can enjoy your cup in one of the tables located at the outdoor porch of the Cottage.
At the time of our visit, however, there were a lot of disappointments. First, the Christmas museum located on the Cottage's second floor is closed for repairs. Second, much of the rides in the garden, like the carousel, are in disrepair.  Third, the Coffee Town didn't have a lot on offer so you're limited to just having hot drinks.  (We were hoping to have something cold on a hot day).  Fourth, the resort had a general feeling of not being maintained properly.
On the bright side, the poolside restaurant was open so we enjoyed their hefty Pancit Canton very much, and they totally have bragging rights to their biscocho (toasted bread).  Make sure to buy a couple or so of boxes for your own consumption, and as gifts for friends back home.  They sell it at Php78 (around US$1.85) for the small box and Php150 (around US$3.50) for the big one.  Of course, you can't go home without taking a little bit of Precious Moments merchandise with you.
All in all, it is still a happy place to go to.  You may even opt to stay there as a hotel guest and hopefully get a view of the sea outside your window.
3.  Eat oysters at RML Manokan Haus
Mabini Street, Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines
Ask any tricycle driver, and he'll take you to this place.  RML is primarily a chicken inasal (barbecue, Visayan style) place, so please try out their chicken and pork.  There may also be other RML branches in other parts of the Visayas Region, but since you're in Aklan, a seafood paradise, they also serve fresh-steamed oysters.  The best part about this place is that you only get to pay Php60 (around US$1.40) a bucket.  Dig in!
4.  Have a photo op at a historical place
Glowmoon is now a commercial building, but it was once the residence and birth place of one of the country's heroes, Victorino Mapa.  He served as legal adviser of the Philippine Revolutionary Government of Emilio Aguinaldo, in the Commonwealth Government as Secretary of Finance and Justice, as Associate Justice then later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  (The place is near the Aklan Catholic College and Kalibo Cathedral, the latter, a worthy place to visit too.)
Kalibo is also the birthplace of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin.  His family residence is now a museum that you may want to check out too.
5.  Get a pizza fix at Zabroso
Mabini Street, Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines
Zabroso serves 16-inch pan pizzas Chicago style so expect thick slices with loads of toppings.  One whole pizza is only Php250 (US$5.95), but you can choose from among those that they've already made for the day at Php35 (US$0.83)a slice.  Pastas are available too.

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