Travel Magazine

Going to and Eating in Islas De Gigantes

By Mustachio @mustachio2011
Of the seven thousand plus islands in the Philippines, there's a group of ten islands called Islas de Gigantes, which translates to "islands of the giants". Why the name Islas de Gigantes? I wondered. And asked. I was told that the people who lived there were giants. Or so some think. Only because of extra long coffins that were found in the caves some x years ago.
Going to and Eating in Islas de GigantesGoing to and Eating in Islas de Gigantes The extra long coffins on display at the inn in Gigantes Norte
...though you really can't tell that it's about 7 feet long from this sucky photo of mine.
DAY 1To get to the islands, you have to wait
These ten islands lie on the north of Iloilo, and Iloilo holds jurisdiction over them. To get there, we waited at the airport. We waited at the bus terminal. We waited at the port. If you abhor waiting, then Islas de Gigantes will be a big pain on your butt. Guaranteed. If this does not deter you from visiting the islands, this is how you get there:
  • Iloilo as your starting point
    1. From the airport (assuming you are flying in to Iloilo), take the shuttle van to Jaro Plaza. Travel time: 30 minutes / Fare: Php 50
    2. From Jaro Plaza, take a jeepney to Tagbak Terminal (where northbound buses and vans are). Travel time: 10 minutes / Fare: Php 10
    3. Alternatively, you can take a taxi from the airport to Tagbak Terminal. Certainly a more expensive option.
    4. At Tagbak Terminal, either take a van (no AC) or bus to Estancia. 
      • Van - Travel time: 2.5 hours / Fare: Php 150
      • Bus - Travel time: 3.5 hours / Fare: Php 152
      Be warned: the van leaves only when it's full. It follows no schedule. If you're the first passenger, chances are your waiting time plus your travel time will equal the travel time of a bus. Trust me.
    5. From the terminal in Estancia, take a tricycle to the port. Travel time: 10 minutes / Fare: Php 10
    6. I bet, by the time you get to the port of Estancia, your stomach will be growling. Treat it to some food. There are carenderias and sari-sari stores at the port.
    7. Take a pumpboat to Gigantes Norte. There's only one pumpboat servicing Gigantes Norte from Estancia and it leaves at 2PM (or thereabouts) daily. Travel time: 2.5 hours / Fare: Php 80
    8. Thereabouts means: 30 to 45, even up to 60, minutes later, depending on the captain; in our case it left at 245PM.
Going to and Eating in Islas de GigantesGoing to and Eating in Islas de GigantesGoing to and Eating in Islas de GigantesLeft to right: Van terminal at Tagbak, Estancia terminal, Port of Estancia
  • Roxas as your starting point - you can fly in to Roxas in Capiz from Manila. Take a bus (2 hours) to Estancia.
  • Bantayan Island in Cebu as your starting point - there's one pumpboat going to Estancia at 9AM daily. Locals (in Estancia) did say that the boat ride takes 3 hours and will cost about Php 300.

Going to and Eating in Islas de Gigantes Last leg to the islands! Going to and Eating in Islas de GigantesGoing to and Eating in Islas de Gigantes Spotted on the way to Gigantes Norte:A teeny tiny patch of land with just a hut and two coconut trees (left). A barge hauling off tons of sand (right).Maybe that's why the island on the left has become so tiny.
DAY 1.75Settling in at Gigantes Norte
Going to and Eating in Islas de Gigantes Destination in sight
Ten hours, six transfers, and six modes of transportation later, we arrive at Gigantes Norte. There are only two places on this island that offer a bed to sleep on, one of which is Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Resort (or Inn as their other sign states) in Barangay Asluman. I don't know the name of the other place, but spotted it on the way to Hideaway.
Before going to the inn, via a ten-minute motorcycle ride that will cost you ten pesos, make your last-minute calls and send your last-minute text messages... there are no available cellphone networks at Barangay Asluman.
Going to and Eating in Islas de Gigantes
Sleeping at Gigantes Hideaway will cost Php 200 per person. A very good price for a private room that has a bed with pillows and a blanket, mosquito net, electric fan (which you can only use from 5PM until 11PM because that's the only time there is electricity), towel, and a toilet and shower. If you want to rough it, bring a tent. They have a wide area with a carpet of grass to pitch your tent on. A common toilet and shower also exists just for the campers.
Going to and Eating in Islas de GigantesAh! Shin-deep mini-pool just for me!
On one side of the property are open cottages and tables and chairs for the guests to relax and dine in. Food is not a problem. There is plenty. More than plenty. It will only be a problem if you are allergic to seafood. And a very big problem if you hate scallops.
Going to and Eating in Islas de Gigantes
Scallops make an appearance in every meal. Even on the road, scallops are ever present (as you will see in the next part of this two-part post).
Going to and Eating in Islas de GigantesDinner on the first night: scallops overload
When the first night's dinner arrived on the table, we were deathly afraid of how much we'd rack up after the stay, imagining the same amount of food every meal.
We kept bugging Joefer, our guide, with questions such as How much will this cost? (It's cheap, he'd assure us.) Are you sure? (Very sure.) How many kilos is this in your estimate? (About a kilo for the scallops with shells and half a kilo of the de-shelled ones.) Are you very sure we will have enough money to go home after this feast?
We couldn't finish our dinner. That and a mound of rice was too much. The leftover scallops we asked to be served for breakfast...and served it was, with a plate of egg, hotdog, dried fish, and rice, which we did not expect. We were expecting just rice and the leftover scallops. This time, the steamed shelled scallops were de-shelled and sauteed in garlic. I like this more that the steamed scallops.
Going to and Eating in Islas de GigantesThe leftover steamed scallops and grilled scallops make an appearance at the breakfast table
For lunch, we begged them to please please please cook just enough for two. And this was what they came up with: two scallop dishes (nope, not cooked the same way as last night). And, oh goody, crabs!
Going to and Eating in Islas de GigantesScallops, scallops... and crabs! Yay!
For dinner the second night, we had grilled fish, lagang, and scallops...breaded this time. I wonder how many scallop recipes they have come up with! The leftover lagang became our breakfast the next day.
Going to and Eating in Islas de GigantesThe bounty of the sea for our last dinner on the island.
Time for the bill and were we apprehensive. Would this have cost us 700 pesos each? (We only budgeted 400 a day for meals.) The total bill was Php 755. That's five meals for two persons. An average of Php 75.50 per meal! Fresh seafood for just that! So Joefer was telling the truth. It is cheap! They don't even charge for the cooking, it was all for the ingredients.
To take my advice or not is up to you:
  • Contact Joel Decano at 0918 468 5006 if you have questions about Islas de Gigantes. Book a room at the Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Resort thru him. I did not ask him to meet us at the port nor to arrange an itinerary for us, but he did. He and Yanyan (a guide) met us at the port though they weren't set to go to the islands until the next day. Joefer (Joel's brother) was our guide from start to finish: from the boat ride to Gigantes Norte, to the tours, and even on the last day, when he took us to the area where the passenger boat was waiting (it wasn't the same place where we docked on day one).
  • If you are picky, let them know what you'd like for your meal. We will eat and would try anything, so we let them decide. Our mistake was that we left it to them to decide on how much was to be served. They probably thought we were big eaters that they served meals good for four to five persons! We are big eaters, but not that big.
  • Bring mosquito repellent. Slap some on before getting comfortable at the dining table. 
  • There's a sari-sari store near the inn. You can buy your drinks from there.
  • Be prepared to eat a month's worth of scallops. I bet after a day or two at Gigantes, you'll say you'll swear off scallops for six months.
  • Leave some tip for the cook!
  • Bring a flashlight or headlamp. In case you need to go to the toilet (or want to go for a stroll) when the power's out. It is pitch black from 11PM onwards.

Islas de Gigantes in two parts:
Going to and Eating in Islas de Gigantes (you're here!)
What to Do in Islas de Gigantes

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