If you’re looking for tips on how to get to “Kawa Bath” Antique from Iloilo or from somewhere, I am pretty sure another blog has that already covered. There are a lot of travel blogs on the internet that offer quick guides and itineraries. But, if you would love to read about how I experienced Antique, the harsh truths of this misadventure and every bit of it, feel free to read on.
From Pandan to Tibiao
The clock struck at 3:00 in the afternoon. We have all decided to leave Malumpati Cold Springs and proceed to Tibiao to resume what’s left of our itinerary. The tricycle driver who brought us to Malumpati has offered us a free ride back to Pandan Terminal where we were supposed to catch the next bus to Tibiao. I have just realized something. We had our itinerary backwards. It should have been:
- From Iloilo, take the earliest bus to Antique, stop by Tibiao to experience “Kawa Bath”.
- From Tibiao, take another bus to Pandan to Malumpati Cold Springs.
- From Pandan, head straight back to Iloilo before night time.
That would have been a more feasible itinerary given the limited time we had. Except, we had everything in reverse. Who would have known we would be stuck in a seven-hour land travel from Iloilo to Antique? If you are curious how we got to Malumpati by land, Part 1 of this story will shed you some light.
The four of us, Mike, Krizia, Kim, and myself, sat patiently at the iron benches while waiting for the next bus. We waited for about half an hour, we all felt drained. This waiting game took so much of our time, the clock was hastily ticking. It was getting late. The next thing we knew, a short stout guy approached us. He was about in his mid-40s, and I can guess he’s another tricycle driver who brings tourists from the terminal to the cold springs.
He spoke to us in broken Tagalog (the dialect in the National Capital Region). “What are you guys waiting for? A bus?” He asked. Krizia replied to him explaining that we were on our way to Tibiao. I’ll just write this conversation in English so I wouldn’t have to translate each sentence. “A bus comes every two hours, you just missed it. However, you can take the van going there. Just tell the driver that you are stopping at Tibiao.” That was his advice. “Is it a long ride from here to Tibiao?”, I asked. “No, not if you take a van.” We thanked him for this tip and uncomplainingly waited for a van to pass by. These vans come from Caticlan, another island where the famous Boracay is located. We were at the very far end of Antique, another hour more we could be reaching the island of Caticlan, but that was not in our itinerary.
At long last, after about an hour, there was a van. The guy spoke to the van driver in Hiligaynon (the dialect in Antique). He explained where we were headed and the driver gave us a go signal to squeeze in. It was a 12-seater van, and there were empty seats at the back for four people. Wow. Just our luck. The van costs us P110 each ($3.50 AUD).
After about an hour and a half, we approached Tibiao. The sun was almost out. We kept on wondering why the van back to Tibiao took a lot faster than the bus from Tibiao to Pandan. We figured, probably because there were a lot of people in the bus and each of them had to make a stop. The moment we got off, we just realized we had another dilemma.
WE WERE OUT OF CASH AND THERE WAS NO SIGN OF ATMs OR BANKS AROUND. The driver dropped us off at the cross-way, the “entrance” to the roads going to the baths. We instantly tried to make a quick computation of what cash we had left. Good grief! It wasn’t enough for the 4 of us to experience “Kawa Bath”. It was such an epic fail, I, being the leader of the pack, did not have any contingency plan. Complete face palm. We were planning to cancel it, but the thing is I already pitched this destination to one of my client websites and it has already been approved. I really had to go and cover it. Shit! Shit! What now?
PLAN B, C, D ,E… B for Broke, C for Cashless, D for Desperate, E for Epic
Krizia had an idea. The boys would be left at the habal-habal station while we both proceed to the final leg of our itinerary. Habal-habal is a local term for motorcycles. We didn’t have any other options, as there were no tricycles in that area. It is impossible for tricycles to enter the narrow and steep roads to the Kawa Baths so the motorcycles were the only mode of transportation. Since I badly had to go, Krizia went with me. We both traversed with two different habal-habal drivers who took us to Kayak Inn. A trip to the Kawa Baths costs P140/head ($4 AUD) back and forth.
The sky suddenly became gloomy. I could smell rain from the lush green scenery along the narrow roads. It started drizzling, as if the sky was crying for the boys. I sincerely felt bad leaving them behind, but we honestly had no choice.
Upon arrival at Kayak Inn, a gentle old man welcomed us. He was very eager to show us around since it was just Krizia and me as his customers. We went on a weekday, and it was already late. Most people would try this out in the morning or some time in mid-day after river tubing or after another activity. But since our plans were not going quite well, we got there a few hours before it got dark.
I was rushing, just getting things done for my article, and Krizia and I were both worried that we might miss the last bus trip back to Iloilo. I was looking into the option of staying in Antique for the night, but Krizia had background stories of mythical ghost and creatures around this part of the country. I am sorry if I am somehow spooking you, I am not saying that Antique is a dangerous place. In fact, it is considered as an off-beat tourist destination if you search it on Google. But then again, we all have our tell-tales and personal experiences. So no. Staying in for the night is never gonna happen.
As we interviewed Manong (a local term for a man older than his 20s), we had to understand how this “Kawa” things got into the business of hot baths. Kawa, a local term for large flat metal couldrons, were first used by the early people to make Muscovado (unrefined brown sugar). But thanks to new and modern technology, there was no more use for these couldrons, so the people of Tibiao converted them into hot baths where people can actually fit in.
The kawa is first filled up with water, and then heated with firewood and some bamboo sticks. The heat is just enough for your body to naturally adjust into. They have choices of organic ingredients which you can add into your hot bath. The choices are salt, milk, coffee, or beer.
I plunged into the kawa, with the backdrop of the Tibiao River, rice-terraces from afar, and abundant greenery. Manong threw in some leaves, herbs, flowers, and a bit of ginger and salt as I chose salt as my add-on. Hot Bath is actually beneficial for the body. According to Manong, it reduces stress and releases toxins from the body. One kawa session can range from P250 to P350 ($7-10 AUD), depending of what you would like to put in. It was really soothing, but the idea of getting stuck there if we don’t finish in time was at the back of my mind.
In about 45 minutes, we wrapped it up. The experience was nice, and it would have been nicer if we weren’t in a rush and if the boys were with us. We rode the haba-habal back into the the station where we had to wait for the bus back to Iloilo.
BUS RIDES AND NARROW ROADS
“You are bound for Iloilo? Oh, the last bus is 4:00 PM from Caticlan.” One of the habal-habal drivers adamantly informed us. We were back at the cross-way where the boys sat, patiently waiting for us and our “stories” of the Kawa Bath experience. Time-check, 6:15 PM. Whaaatt? Wait, Whaatttt? Are you saying we just missed the last trip? Noooo! You gotta be kidding me! No! There’s no way we were staying there for the night! Plus, we didn’t have enough cash. “The best thing to do is to pray that there’s a van going to San Jose De Buenavista, where you can catch the bus to Iloilo from the city proper terminal. Some of the buses from Caticlan stop there for toilet breaks. Hopefully, you can catch one.” The habal-habal drivers tried their best to help us in some way. They even offered to drive each one of us to San Jose De Buenavista with four habal-habals if it was the only choice we had left. We all remained calm, though I was a bit panicking deep inside. What if our cash was not enough? What if there’s no more vans? What if we get stuck there? What if we get to experience mythical ghosts and creatures? A lot of things were running in my mind.
With a stroke of luck, there was another van to our rescue. We thanked heavens for this, and squeezed ourselves into another van-ride. Our cash was just enough to get us to San Jose De Buenavista. We badly need to get some cash out. It was another one and a half hour travel, and about this time, we all felt like we were in a “Survivor” episode. It was like chasing sunsets, constantly racing against time, except we were chasing buses.
The city proper of San Jose De Buenavista was a bit modern. Fortunately, there was a bank along the way, about a few meters from the Bus Terminal. There were two choices: A van all the way to Molo, Iloilo, or another non-airconditioned Ceres bus. Thinking we didn’t want to be cramped up for several hours, we opted for the bus. So we took out some cash, bought snacks and water for the long ride back, and settled at the back of the bus. OK. On our way home to Iloilo, at long last!
I took a video of this
rollercoaster bus-ride. I have been traveling in a lot of places, riding buses and trains, but this particular bus scared the shit out of me!
The bus ride was scarily FAST. It felt like it was taking a flight off into the winding roads unto deep dark ravines ahead of us. It was hazardously dark outside, and all we could catch sight of were the bus’ headlights and headlights of vehicles we came across. The road was literally narrow, yet it was two-way. I tried to get some sleep, but I couldn’t. I was holding tight onto the backrest of the seat in front of me. There were no seat belts. As the bus drove past the sharp curves, the four of us kept on getting dislodged out of our seats. One moment, we were on the right side, the next moment we were on the left. The cold wind from outside roughly gushed on our skins, with a mix of scattered rain. I managed to close the windows down (also making sure I wouldn’t get thrown out of the window if things get worse). We were expecting to arrive at Iloilo in three hours, but the bus got there in a matter of two hours. WHAT A RIDE! Two crazy hours of trying to keep our butts in our proper seats.
ONE DAY IN ANTIQUE, WAS IT WORTH IT?
We all have our fair share of stories, and sadly we didn’t see any Rafflesia (Part 1 of this story explains about it). The day seemed like it was three days of traveling. We all felt worn out. Thanks to the bus ride, we now have body sores to add into the sack. Seven hours of land-travel since morning, getting lost in Pandan Terminal, losing my favorite pair of Speedo goggles, missing the next bus to our next destination, not being able to experience “Kawa Bath” as a complete group, having to try our luck to catch the last trip in San Jose De Buenavista city proper, running out of cash in the middle of nowhere, and the weather was not cooperative in the last hours. IT WAS INDEED A LOOONG DAY. But, was it worth it?
I will definitely come back to Antique again, but probably not under the same circumstances. I would love to experience “Kawa Bath” again. I would love to appreciate the beauty of Malumpati Cold Springs again. I would love to stay longer, and of course still get to see Rafflesias in Mararison Island. I would like to see Antique in a different spectrum. I’ll make sure it would be planned well the next time.
We arrived at Iloilo at past 10:00 PM. We were all exhausted and dead hungry. We found ourselves walking on the streets under the moonlight while we pushed our luck until the very end, this time to find an open food stall. We capped the night off at a 24-hour local eatery which served Tapsilog (which derives its name from the words of what the plate consisted of. Tapa – beef strips, Sinangag – garlic rice, and Itlog – egg. Tapa+Sinangag+Itlog = Tapsilog) and soft drinks. Our indulgence of Tapsilog and bottles of Mountain Dew comforted us as we laughed and endlessly ranted about how our day went. We all got it out from our systems. For us, it was partly a misadventure, no actually not partly, maybe three quarters of it was a misadventure, and we were survivors. Our trip did not go 100% as planned, but the best thing is that we enjoyed our good company. Our Antique experience deserved a space down by the book.
Following our very late dinner, it was time to call it a night as tomorrow is another day. GUIMARAS, HERE WE COME!