It feels like ages since I last posted, when it was actually just less than a week ago. But I’ve been away traipsing in the mountains and exploring caverns up north, and what could have been a better excuse, right? But I’m picking things up with this post, which will cover when we went on that day trip to the island province of Guimaras.
We had only one remaining day in Iloilo City, and since the island of Guimaras is just a short ferry ride away, we decided to use it up on a day visit.
Of course this meant that we cannot visit all the points of interest in the island, so we decided to make do with some of the main ones. Of course, with the help of our multicab driver, who also happened to be our guide.
Our first stop for my three-part Guimaras series: the Smallest Plaza and the Holy Family Hills.
Off to Guimaras!
6:30AM, we left our accommodations and took that brief jeepney ride to the harbor – also known as Ortiz Wharf – and so we were able to take the 7AM boat to the island. The weather was great and the waves were at rest, so our boat ride took only around 15 minutes.
The boat was really packed, both with tourists like us and locals presumably going back home to the island.
Upon arriving at the Jordan Wharf in Guimaras, you’d immediately come upon the Guimaras Tourism Office, where visitors are required to register. Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay anything during the registration.
This is also the perfect time for you to seek assistance for your tour around Guimaras. Ask the officer-in-charge about your options for transportation, accommodation, and maybe even your itinerary if you don’t have one.
Since it’s just a quick visit for us, we’re not looking for a place to stay. We asked for their suggested itinerary for the limited amount of time that we had, and then he gave us options on what mode of transport we should take.
We are quite a large group, so it was more economical and sensible to hire a multicab. I think we spent Php1,500 for it. After we have chosen, the officer called one of the multicab drivers waiting outside the Tourism Office, and hooked us up.
I was so impressed at how quick and efficient the whole thing was. Like, seriously, you can come here with zero plans at all, and they’d help you out in no time. Kudos to the Tourism initiatives of the Guimaras local government!
The Smallest Plaza
Our itinerary was designed for us to cover as much as we can, which meant the bulk of it was spent around the Jordan area. Our first stop was the Smallest Plaza.
With an area of just less than 300 square meters, this is the smallest plaza in the Philippines. At one point in the past, it was also the smallest plaza in the world, and was even written in the Guinness Book of World Records. Somehow it lost that record to another place, but it remains to be the smallest in the country even today.
It was, indeed, small. Just like a small school quadrangle, with an elevated center that holds a statue of the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. We didn’t spend any longer than 5 minutes there because it really wouldn’t take too long to explore it. 🙂
Holy Family Hills
If the itinerary planning were left up to me, I’d be honest and say that pilgrimage sites aren’t really a priority. But if the site involves communing with nature, then I’m in for it. I had no idea about Holy Family Hills until this visit, when the Tourism Office made the suggestion.
The Holy Family Hills is actually a wide expanse of elevated land, which is probably why the word “hills” loosely applies.
It is around 57 hectares, and I instantly got the sense of its vastness the moment our ride crossed the gate and made its meandering way through a dirt road flanked on both sides by tall trees and green underbrush.
Then we came to a stop in a wide open area with a gently sloping grassland that looked very well-manicured, I wouldn’t be surprised if numerous people mowed it. Our driver told us to get down and start walking.
I actually imagined the Teletubbies to suddenly appear and dance their way on all that green space.
Immediately our eyes were drawn to several installations – tableaus and statues – depicting biblical milestones. The first one was a life-size tableau of The Last Supper.
One of the main attractions in the middle of all that green is probably the Statue of the Holy Family, which is enclosed in a roofless gazebo of sorts. The statue is in the middle, elevated, so you’d have to crane your neck to take a good look at it.
If you make a circuit of the area, which is quite wide so it’d take a considerable walk to fully circle it, then you can check out the Stations of the Cross. Here are some images of the life-size statues depicting the Stations of the Cross.
Directly opposite the Statue of the Holy Family is the Chapel and Prayer Room. I can totally see this place being filled during the Holy Week with devotees and nature-lovers both.
By the way, the Holy Family Hills is currently being managed by the Eucharistic Disciples of St. Pius X. And believe it or not, there are no entrance or admission fees!!
There’s the well-maintained chapel, which is actually quite small so it qualifies more as a room. But the surrounding area is wide, which more than makes up for it.
Maybe I’ve gotten quite used to tourist spots becoming actual “tourist traps” that I was mildly surprised that there weren’t anyone selling anything inside the Hills, like maybe souvenirs and stuff, anything to make a profit from.
Instead, there was just a small store outside the gates, selling local handmade crafts. And it does not even seem to qualify strictly as a store, because it calls itself a Tourism Action Center.
I was amazed at how much love and care went into maintaining this place. You don’t have to be religious to recognize that fact. If you’re looking to have some quiet “me” time while taking a walk on grassy ground, surrounded by trees with the blue sky overhead, then this place is perfect.
If you’re up for some reflection and even reinforce your faith, then again, this place is also perfect. I know of some people that hesitate to go on to pilgrimage sites because they usually associate Stations of the Cross to an uphill climb. There’s no climbing involved here, which means even elders can have an easy and relaxing time of it.
We spent around half an hour here, then we boarded our multicab once again to proceed to the next part of the itinerary. I’ll see ya then!