Antique on the rise: Malalison Island and Seco Island

Malalison Island (also called Mararison Island) and Seco Island, both located in Antique province, used to be off-beat tracks. Now they’re starting to attract public attention, Malalison Island with its rolling hills and Seco Island with its sandbar surrounded by clear waters.

Malalison Island: A small community in a picturesque island

From the port in Culasi, it took us about 15-20 minutes to reach Malalison Island. The island didn’t seem impressive at first (the view is better on the back of the island where you can clearly see the rolling hills), but I was awed by the aquamarine water on the beach at the right end of the island. We passed by giant cement blocks in the shape of jackstones, which serve as breakwaters, and then docked on a beach facing a row of residential houses.

After depositing our bags in a homestay and resting for a bit, we trekked to the rolling hills of Malalison Island. Our tour guide, Kuya Petron, told us it would take us about 1.5 hour in all, including the time for picture taking and trek back to our lodging.

The trek was easy enough. We passed by pitcher plants (Bellsprout!), growing on both sides of the trail. Pitcher plants store water and trap insects inside. We took a peek at one, and indeed, there at the bottom is a dead winged insect.

Pitcher plants found in the rolling hills of Malalison Islandl. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

Kuya Petron told us that some residential houses were relocated in the hills, after a strong typhoon hit the area, if I remember correctly. The houses will soon be transferred elsewhere, to preserve the island’s main attraction. I personally do not mind this and can understand how the welfare of local residents is given priority, but his apologetic tone and the efforts the residents keep to maintain the island well is endearing.

Kruhay Antique! Hello Malalison Island! (Photo by Hali Navarro)
The rolling hills of Malalison Island. (Photo by Hali)
Another view of the rolling hills. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Loving the colors. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Trekking across the hill. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Make sure to wear sunblock, by the way. We applied very little and were sunburnt. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

The rolling hills of Malalison are a perfect background for photo-ops, with its green-brown shade. What I appreciated most is the top view from the first hill we climbed. We saw the residential community along the beach and, further to the right, large circles of deep blue that are actually corals. From above, it looked like sunken islands — or countries, as my imagination makes them up to be.

Overlooking the residential houses and deep blues of the corals on the right. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

We’d spent the rest of the day swimming and then drinking coffee in the balcony of our homestay.

Seco Island: The island away from everything

Seco Island is a staggering 3 hours away from Culasi. I’ve been to longer boat rides, such as in Jomalig in Quezon Province and Calayan Island in Babuyan group of islands, but Seco Island seemed more distant than any of these. Perhaps it’s because it’s really just a small island, not even big enough to support a small community, and it stands in the middle of the open sea. The fact that our boat is compact and fit only a few passengers added to this impression.

We set out at about 4AM in the early morning for a smooth journey. As our engine launched the boat forward, Hali pointed at small sparkles in the water, not unlike fireflies. He said they’re bioluminescence. They would appear like firework sparks as long as our boat moved. Whenever our boatman Kuya Juni turned on his flashflight, they would disappear under the bright glare.

Further along, we saw a bundle of dark clouds and thunderstorms ahead. This struck me as very unique to sea travel. When you’re living in a city, you don’t know whether it’s raining someplace else because trees, buildings and electric posts obscure the view. There in the sea, it’s apparent we were delving right through a sea storm.

Our boatmen removed the tarpaulin roofing in preparation. We endured rain pellets and strong waves. After about an hour, we made it past and saw a glimpse of the elongated Seco Island in the distance. Nearing Seco Island, we saw a school of dolphins flipping out of the water. Apparently, they are a common sight.

As we neared Seco Island, I felt a little disappointed. The water was low and full of seaweeds. I’d seen photos of Seco Island online and most of them features a sandbar with a clear beach. We secured the boat. Our boatmen set to cook breakfast in a beach hut, while Hali and I walked to the sandbar at the end.

Sandbar at Seco Island. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Seco Island is flanked by seaweeds on both sides, but its tail features a sandy beach with clear waters. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Chilling. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

There’s a consistent line of small waves slapping across the shore, from the open sea. The low, clear waters reminded me a little of Candaraman Island in Balabac. The sand underneath is filled with small corals and stones covered with lime-green moss.

There are small fishes and carbs in the shore. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

I relaxed after a while. Hali said he actually liked it here, and I told him I could see why. There are more beautiful islands in the Philippines, but the remoteness of Seco Island sets it apart. It makes you feel like you’re alone in the world and, for that day, Seco Island is yours.

P.S. Seco Island is also known as a windsurfing destination. In fact, as has been pointed out to me later by a good friend, it’s actually for the adventurous and should not be tagged as a simplified “Instagram-worthy” island sand bar.

Environmental management

Malalison Island is home to a community, so you’ll find the usual small pieces of garbage. The beach at the end looks promising in the distance, but up close it isn’t as clean. We saw plastics, tin cans and other trash. The same can be said about Seco Island, particularly in the beach huts.

We hope the issue doesn’t worsen before the local tourism steps forward in cleaning up both Malalison Island and Seco Island.

Travel Guide to Malalison Island and Seco Island

From Kalibo or Caticlan, take a 2-hour bus ride to Culasi and walk to the port.

Before visiting Malalison Island, please contact their tourism office first. A boatman will be assigned to you. The boat ride to and fro Malalison island costs P750, good for 5 people.

Approaching Malalison Island. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

Going to Seco Island is considered a special trip and costs P1500 each for 2 people. Seco Island, by the way, is under the municipality of Tibiao. It is about 3 hours away from the jump-off point in Culasi or Tibiao. There’s an entrance fee of P150 per person.

Homestays are available for P250 per person. There are also beach resorts available, which offer rooms for a higher rate. We stayed at Marife’s homestay and though I was happy with our caretakers and am posting their contact number below, I encourage you to also consider other options. Our boatman also offers homestay accommodation, and so do others. I was told that there are 40+ homestays in Malalison Island, but only about 5-10 are posted in the Internet and most guests who’ve researched online avail of only these.

The tour guide fee to Malalison rolling hills is P200.

If you’re going to contact Kuya Juni (our boatman) of Orange Wave, please tell him we said hi. Oh heck, he probably doesn’t remember us. 🙂

Contact numbers:

Culasi tourism office: 0916-324-5068
Marife homestay (Malalison): 0920-857-6379
Orange Wave (boat service to Malalison Island and Seco Island): 0950-316-7749/0909-085-3316

 

P.S. You might also be interested to see the other places we’ve been to in our 4-day vacation in Panay Island.

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