Though it’s slowly gaining its recognition, Antique still is the epitome of a hidden gem. An offbeat path. A province that I don’t even want people to know about but at the same it’s given me such a lovely experience that I couldn’t wait to tell the world about it. Quickly, in just two days, it has become one of my favorite provinces in the Philippines.
I don’t know what it was that sparked my curiosity about Antique (an-tee-keh), but for the longest time, I knew I wanted to make a quick tour to this clearly, unpopular province. Surely, part of it is the fact that it’s a stone’s throw away from the loud and crowded Boracay, which I happen to go to quite a lot (READ: The Ultimate Boracay Hack). Whatever it was though, I knew there’s gotta be something there that will satiate my desire for offbeat discoveries…and boy was I right.
After quitting a job in a sinfully horrible working environment, I was ready to reward myself with a couple of weeks of sojourning across islands I haven’t visited yet. To be in my element again. To run wild and free. My husband had limited time, and he wanted to just relax for a weekend so I knew Boracay would be the best and cheapest option. After all, it is a good starting point and the perfect opportunity to stop by Antique.
You may or may not have heard of it. You might even associate it with local mythical dark creatures like aswang and manananggal. But don’t underestimate this unassuming province. It may not boast of a long strip of white powdery sands like the nearby Boracay does, but it has the serenity and seclusion that you’ll have a hard time finding in the party island capital. If we’re talking nature, it’s a mixture of all. After all, their slogan is “where mountains meets the sea”. But the truth is, it’s more than just its summits and seas.
A Mini Bali
It’s not entirely as romantic as Bali as it lacks the luxurious villas and VIP treatments. (READ: Bali’n On A Budget) It’s not as cultured either and you won’t smell the scent of incense as you walk around the streets, but it’s still authentic in its own way. And it’s not nearly as popular as Bali so you will absolutely be surrounded by locals only. But that’s always a good thing, isn’t it. There’s no version of overcrowded Kuta beach here, and surfing really isn’t a thing here. Maybe Antique is more of an Ubud if we’re trying to be specific. So with no further adieu, here’s a few things about Antique that definitely brought me back to my Balinese state of mind. (READ: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Bali)
The Rice Terraces
You can’t miss the rice terraces. Whether you go for a hike or not, they’re practically ubiquitous in Antique. They’re not entirely as grand as Tegalalang’s or those you find up north in the Philippines, but its tantalizing lush beauty still gave me that hippie Bali-ish nostalgia. When you go for a hike, you’ll pass by even more mesmerizing rice terraces and if you’re lucky enough to catch them during sunset, you’ll witness a one of a kind glow against the fields partnered beautifully with golden skies.
The Rushing River
Yes, if you come on the right season, you could actually go whitewater rafting too, just like in Ubud’s Ayung River. I’m not sure how wild the river gets but I’m sure it’s beginner friendly too. I loved that my $5 a night private hut was situated right above the river and not only did I slept through the sound of the rushing waters, but I had a magnificent view of rice terraces as well. The river itself is a very short hike down and on my last day, I met some friendly locals from a nearby province who I went down to the river with for a swim. Fresh, clear water and gorgeous tropical trees all around me, don’t mind if I do.
Just a short 30-40 minute hike away from the jump off point, Bugtong Bato Falls is a must see when in Antique. These days that the province is slowly gaining its recognition, I would assume that the waterfalls can get pretty popular on the weekends. It was empty the day that I went and it couldn’t have been more perfect. However, I didn’t learn until it was too late that you could trek along the first three tiers of the waterfalls (there are seven tiers but only the first 3 are open to public) and rappel through them. Perhaps next time I’m in Boracay, I’ll make a quick day trip to Antique specifically for this adventure.
The Kawa Hot Bath
Bali may be famous for its luxury spas and villas, but Antique will not fail to give you an extremely authentic relaxation experience. Known as Kawa baths, a big boiling pot of water is prepped with leaves, ginger, carrots, other herbs, and flowers where you could bathe and forget all the world’s troubles. Quite frankly, I don’t think the “ingredients” really does anything for you, but it’s just a little something to spice up your life. It’s a little gimmicky, sure, but where else could you really experience being “cooked” and simmered? Don’t worry though, they won’t really cook you. They’ll eventually turn off the fire once it reaches a certain temperature so it’s just like taking a hot bath with a twist. Pair this experience up with the sound of the river and the lush surroundings and you’ve got yourself an upgraded Balinese spa experience. Oh, and did I mention it costs $5?
Cliff Views and White Beaches
One short boat ride away and you’ll find yourself in the quiet rustic island of Malalison. In contrast to Bali’s busy beaches of Kuta or Seminyak, the beaches of Malalison are quiet, empty, and raw. The white sands compliments the vividness of the waters, ranging in shades of blue, turquoise, and emerald. Local fishermen are seen hustling in the morning and late afternoon and with friendly locals that inhabits the island, you’ll never be bored. With the lack of libido-filled travelers or sometimes nauseating honeymooners, Malalison is perfect even for the solo wanderers who’s in dire need of a solitary yet fun experience.
The hike along the mountains shouldn’t be missed either. I’ve been told it’s great to catch the sunrise and sunset here, but even hiking it in the thick of the mid-morning sun was exhilarating enough for me. At the end of the trail, there are boatmen waiting, ready to give you a ride back to the front of island for a dollar. And if hiking isn’t your cup of tea, you can snorkel the afternoon away instead. A boat to the island costs 750 php but you can split it with up to 10 people if I’m not mistaken.
Antique is a the perfect alternative to Bali if you can’t afford to splurge on an international roundtrip ticket. But in all honesty, why look for the similarities of this place to others when you can just indulge in its authenticity. Antique may be a novelty, but hey, uniqueness and originality never gets old.
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