The province of Antique is just a mere blip in the national tourism radar. But that is actually an advantage to its fledgling tourism industry. With few tourists and relatively unknown sights, the natural, cultural, and historical attractions of Antique are raw, primal, pristine, and untouched by mass tourism.
A good place to start off your exploration of Antique is the northern municipality of Libertad. Let’s check out some of its interesting sights.
1. Pajo Marine Sanctuary
The entrance to the Pajo Marine Sanctuary looks rather ordinary—just a small village with a wide beach characterized by dark, brown sand. The water near the shore is quite murky, the waves stirring up sediment as they roll and crash on the shore. After donning your life vest and snorkel gear, you board a small rowboat which your guide rows a hundred yards off the shore. The water begins to look beautifully clearer as you row farther.
At last, you reach the sanctuary and dive in. And indeed, what an enchanting view it is below the waves! Table corals, brain corals, and carnation corals along with colourful sponges make it an underwater city down there. Vibrant and jittery fish dart in and out of their crevices; some will even swim up to take a closer look at you. Endangered giant clams grin at you with their colorful mantles.
2. Maanghit Cave
Head off to Union via a rented motorbike and endure a 20-minute hike on an easy trail to reach Maanghit Cave, so-called because of the peculiar stink that emanates from the cave. The musky smell comes from the massive amount of guano, or bat droppings, in the cave.
The cave is easy to navigate; locals have placed bamboo stairs for the descent, and there are no steep or dangerous embankments. Lovely rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones decorate the cave. Many of the formations glitter thanks to the millions of embedded quartz crystals.
If you want a bit of a challenge, head down to the tunnel underneath the main chamber. This is the site of an underground stream. It’s pretty cool to feel the water slosh past your feet; it’s like getting a natural foot spa. Strange flowstones and stalagmites also adorn the walls and roof of the tunnel.
3. Bungan-bungan Spring
We bet you will feel sweaty and stinky by the time you exit Maanghit Cave. Well, freshen up at Bungan-Bungan Spring, a popular and natural spot for locals to cool off during a hot day. Chilly, fresh water flows to the various basins of the spring. You can soak under the falling water and chat with locals and friends.
The large deep basin is perfect for diving. You have to try it especially since the kids will be excitedly coaxing you to dive into the aquamarine water!
Locals can also prepare you a home-cooked meal, which you can eat right below a shady mango tree. Or if you are with a group, they can whip up a lively boodle fight. Bon appetit!
4. Banig Weaving in Ati Cave
Motorcycles don’t usually reach Bungan-Bungan Spring and Maanghit Cave, so you’ll have to walk back to the village center to Union. But before reaching the village, take a left turn past a large meadow between a wall of coconut trees. Beyond that is Ati Cave, a large but shallow cavern.
But why is this cave so lively? Why are there a lot of people here chatting and laughing? Well, turns out that this is actually an important venue for banig weavers. A banig is a traditional woven mat with bariw leaves as the main material. The leaves are stripped off their sharp spikes, dried under the sun, cut into strips, and pounded flat to be ready for weaving.
But why in Ati Cave? Well, locals said that it has the right conditions for ensuring the quality of the banig. The cave’s coolness and humidity strengthen and improve the elasticity of the bariw strips. If the work is done in a dry place, the strands will become brittle.
Locals said that weavers all over Libertad often congregate in Ati Cave. There, they exchange gossips and the latest news on what’s happening around town as they weave their banigs. During the hot summer months, locals also seek shade in Ati Cave, enjoying its coolness.
5. Multi-Purpose Coop
The last stop would be the multi-purpose coop in the middle of the charming, quiet town. Here, you can buy bariw banig mats that were made in Ati Cave. Other products made of bariw are for sale here as well. Help yourself to bariw purses, bags, pencil holders, and more.
Libertad is definitely for the backpacker who loves to explore new places and experience new adventures. More importantly, the town’s community-based tourism initiative paves the way for how eco and cultural tourism should be handled. Visit Libertad now!
Getting to Libertad
Take a flight from Manila or Cebu to Kalibo. From Kalibo, you have two options.
Option 1: Ride an air-conditioned van from Kalibo to Libertad. Note that there are only a few trips for this.
Option 2: Ride a bus from Kalibo to Pandan. Then from Pandan, take a jeepney or tricycle bound for Libertad.
1. Head first to Libertad’s municipal hall to register. Friendly tourism officers will be there to assist you. Contact details are below:
Mr. Galahad Garcia (Libertad Municipal Tourism Officer) – +63 929 769 47 53
Phone Number: +63 995 503 45 44
2. We recommend hiring a habal-habal for your Libertad tour. The drivers can provide you with amazing insights about the place, and you will also be able to help their fledgling tourism industry. Ask the assistance of the Libertad tourism office to help secure you a habal-habal.