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This blog is an amateur photographer's attempt to show how beautiful the world really is. He is drawn to the colors of nature like a moth to a candle light. What are showcased here are nature's grand display of colors at sunrise and sunset, beautiful beaches and off-the-beaten track locations in his beloved Philippines, waterfalls and some of nature's great sculptures, architectural gems, and other views from around SE Asia that he was fortunate to see at one point.

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May 28, 2015

mararison island | culasi : antique's rough gem



Rough but pristine, relatively untouched by mainstream tourism, and a bit out of the way from most popular destinations in Panay. Its probably how I would describe the rest of the attractions in the province of Antique in western Visayas. And for some like me, its what makes it very attractive.

It took an hour long plane ride, a 4-hour land travel, and a short 20 minute boat ride - quite a trip for some, but all worth it the moment I set foot on Mararison's beautiful shore.

What's in the name?

Overlooking the village

Legend has it that the island was formed when a beautiful princess named Sukita fell in love with a young datu named Haidar against her father's wishes.  On the day the lovers planned to elope, Sukita's father cursed her and struck their boat with lightning as they were sailing away. A small island formed where the boat was last seen, and the locals called it Malalison ('the disobedient one'). In the local Karay-a dialect, most of the l's become r's, hence the island also called Mararison.

It seems that Mararison is not really meant to conform. Just 20 minutes away from the shores of Culasi, its white sand shoreline gleams in the sun - completely different from Culasi's gray shore and murky water.

The island life

Purok 2
Purok 4

There is a small fishing community in the island.  When I asked our boat man, an ex-barangay captain, how many people lived there, he answered in a figure he is most familiar with: 400 voters

Day's catch
day's catch

Dried
dried fish

Fishing is still the primary livelihood, augmented by offering homestay accommodations to tourists during the summer season as there are no resorts in the island (at least as of now anyway).

Net repair
Nanay Alma

The photo above shows Nanay Alma working on a net. She is one of the island's go to person when it comes to net repairs and she charges 150 pesos for a day's work. Its good business as nets would need repairs after every few weeks of use.

Basketball court
village court

The island still shows signs of the havoc brought by the wrath of typhoon Yolanda as it was in the direct path of that super typhoon which claimed thousands of lives in Leyte. "We are resilient, we just have to rebuild and move on", one local proudly declared.

Kaw-it sandbar 

Malalison Sandbar

The sandbar at the eastern tip of the island is one of Mararison's crown jewels, and most of the visitors converge here.  Locals call it "kaw-it" or hook, clearly evident when viewed from one of the hills in the island.

Sandbar
sandbar at high tide

Its the best swimming spot and during the peak season it can get swamped with selfie-stick wielding tourists. Open cottages are nearby for day trippers.

Whatever floats your ...
whatever floats your boat

The best time to go there is at high tide. Its the only time you'll have more of the shallow area. Confused? Its because the water abruptly goes deep just a few meters from the sand bar. Its only during high tide that water covers most of the flat area. During low tide, you get  a dry sandbar and a chasm.

The grasslands

Grassland sunset
grassland sunset

I probably spent more time here than on the beach.  Its surreal and worlds apart from the beach below. Went up twice to one of the  high peaks: on sunset and at 4AM the following morning to catch the sunset.

Sandbar traffic

Its the best spot to get a view of the whole island and you'll get to see a lot of pitcher plants up there too. I think this spot in the island deserves a separate post, so please watch out for it here soon :)

Related post: Mararison - the mini Batanes of Panay

Travel Guide

Boat taxi

Essentials to help you plan your trip to Mararison island

Contact Information

John Sumating
Culasi Tourism Office
Smart: +63-947-587-3067
Globe: +63-916-324-5068

Mario Feunteblanca
(for boat and homestay)
+63-928-492-9103
+63-935-202-3523

You may also contact Mario via the tourism office to arrange for your boat transfer and accommodations in the island.

Getting there

Two possible gateways: via Iloilo City and via Kalibo. I chose Iloilo because of the flight options and the possible sidetrips along the way. From Iloilo its 4 hours by van to Culasi (fare Php 200 pesos, van terminal is in Molo). From Kalibo its just 2 hours to Culasi.

From Culasi town proper, you can hire a boat to Mararison (Php 750 two way, some resorts in Culasi charges 1000-1500 per boat). Its best to ordinate with the local tourism office.

Accommodations

Open cottages
open cottages near the sandbar

Tent and open cottages are available near the sand bar. I would recommend homestay as it will also help the locals directly. Homestay is usually 400 pesos per pax per night. 

Homestay

Food/Water

Water refill station

Potable water is available but supply can be limited. The village have several water refill stations. The water is source from a spring somewhere in the island.  Best to bring your own just to be sure.

Fresh catch

Fresh catch can be bought during the morning and in the afternoon. You can also buy supplies from Culasi (mineral water, meat, etc). There are many sari-sari stores in the island, but expect the prices to be higher compared to the same goods in Culasi. Ice is available, but limited supply. Service charge for cooking is usually 40 pesos per dish.

Electricity/Cellphone signals

Ths island has a generator that operates at 10AM-2PM and then at 6PM-10PM. Cellphone signal is spotty, but I was able to get SMART 2G, and GLOBE 3G - weak but enough for you to access your COC app :) Strong signals for all networks if you are high up on the hills.

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Lantaw
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