There are places that are so beautiful that you feel like dancing when you get there.
This was how I felt when I finally reached the top of the hill that affords a 360-degree view of the whole island of Malalison in Culasi, Antique. I suddenly felt like dancing like those characters in the movie “La La Land.” The view was not Los Angeles though, but the whole of this magnificent island and the surrounding province of Antique dominated by the breathtaking Mount Madya-as.
This 55-hectare hook-shaped island belongs to Culasi, Antique. It is located about 3 nautical miles from the port of Culasi. It is known as Mararison, which means “fond of violating rules” in Karay-a, the native dialect of Antique.
According to local folklore, Mararison was one of the three offsprings of Madya-as and Kanlaon. The other two were Batbatan and Maningning. Mararison and Batbatan grew up to be strong men and Maningning a pretty woman. But all three were stubborn. Mararison was fond of violating rules, Batbatan was disrespectful of his elders and Maningning was very lazy. Madya-as prayed every day to the gods to help her children but the siblings’ attitude turned worse. This angered the supreme god Bulalakaw. One day, he gathered the three siblings to teach them a lesson. With a wave of his hand, he turned them into islands separate from Madya-as. The three became the islands of Malalison, Batbatan and Maniquin.
Malalison’s white sand beach is now likened to how Boracay was 30 to 40 years ago. It rolling hills are being compared to those found in Batanes. Accommodations are still mostly home-stays. Electricity is only available from 6 to 10 in the evening. There are no fancy restaurants but there is one carinderia, there is no ATM, a very weak mobile phone signal and there’s nothing to do at night except gaze at the stars.
Its 800 people of Kinar-anons and some Tagalog migrants from Mindoro are quite friendly and are always welcoming of the visitors to their small island.
How to get there
The gateway to Malalason is the town of Culasi.
The town of Culasi can either be accessed from Kalibo or from Iloilo.
From Kalibo, Culasi is about 100 kilometers away. Fly from Manila to Kalibo (about 50 minutes). From the airport, take a tricycle to the Ceres bus terminal. Get on a bus going to Culasi. Travel time is about 2 hours. Alight at Culasi public market. The boat terminal is located right next to the market.
From Iloilo City, it takes 190 kilometers to reach Culasi. Fly from Manila to Iloilo (about 60 minutes). From the airport, take a taxi to the Ceres terminal in Molo. There are several buses bound for Culasi there. Travel time to Culasi is between 3 to 4 hours.
Another way is to take an overnight ferry from Batangas to Caticlan (9 hours), and from Caticlan, a passenger van to Pandan, and then another passenger van to Culasi.
Those with private vehicles can drive from Iloilo via the south-western Iloilo-Antique coastal road or Road 501 (according to Waze).
There’s a Tourism Information Center right in front of the boat terminal. All visitors are required to register, pay the environmental fee of P20 and terminal fee of P10. There is a parking lot for private vehicles.
Round-trip boat fee is fixed at P750 for a group of five maximum. Travel time to the island is between 15 and 20 minutes.
What to see, what to do
There are many activities to do on the island.
Most visitors come to the island on a day trip, bring their own food, have a picnic, play on the sands and enjoy swimmingion the refreshing water of Malalison. Picnic huts can be rented for P300 to P400 per day.
But there are many more activities that one can do on the island. For the adventurers, there’s the trek to the Lantawan Peak. To get there, a guide is required. The local guides (fee is P200) will take visitors to Lantawan Peak, Nablag Islet and other hidden attractions of the island. It’s an easy trek to Lantawan, which passes thru the small barangay (village) of Malilison. Climb up to the trail passing thru the agoho forest and make a brief stop at a school on a hill before finally ascending to the view deck of Lantawan Peak.
In here, one can get a breathtaking view of the whole island, from its magnificent rolling hills to its powdery white sand bar to its surrounding emerald green water.
The trails around the hills have another surprise: thousands of pitcher plants growing wild.
On the southwestern part of the island is the Guihob Beach, with its colorful pebbles. A small cave can also be found in Guihob. Nablag Islet can also be explored during low tide.
Malalison also has a beatiful sand bar. It is the best place to laze around under the sun while enjoying the cool clear water of Malalison.
Where to stay, where to eat
There are very limited cottages to stay in Malalison. Price ranges from P1 to P2 per day, and the cottages can accommodate four to eight people. These are basic cottages, though, not even with an electric fan (limited electricity, right?). Guests are advised to bring their own towels and toiletries. Throw in some flashlights and power banks as well.
The island also has several dozen home-stays. Those with extra rooms were trained by the Culasi tourism office to offer home-stays. Home-stays in Malilison mean actually staying with the families offering home-stays.
For dining, its either bringing your own food or eating at the only carinderia on the island, Nanay Cristy’s. This friendly lady makes very good fish dishes from the daily catch. And they are very delicious and affordable.
In Malalison, everything else is basic and simple. This is its la la island attraction.