We set out to Carles, the jump-off point to get to Las Islas de Gigantes, around 10am. Our first stop was Camina Balay na Bato, a beautifully maintained house-turned-museum whose tour ends with a small but fortifying mug of the local hot cocoa (plus one free refill), served with an assortment of bread and pastries.
The tour is actually a five-minute video that tells you everything you need to know about the house. You are then encouraged to explore the premises on your own and have hot cocoa after.
The cocoa, by the way, is delicious. The cups may be tiny, but the cocoa is thick and rich and filling, enough to get you to lunch.
The tour of the Camina Balay na Bato ends in the dining area, where guests are served hot coca and assorted breads. The cocoa is thick and rich, and really does have a raisin-like flavor.
You can’t visit Iloilo without trying their seafood. We headed to Tatoy’s Manukan and Seafood Restaurant, which has constantly been on the list of Iloilo must-tries. We ordered sizzling crabmeat, tuna, and lechon. We wanted to try the chicken (the restaurant does say ‘manukan’ after all, but were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to finish one whole piece.) Though obviously not seafood, the lechon was a hit, the sarsa made fresh, imbued with a–for lack of a better word– fragrance that the bottled variety doesn’t have.
We didn’t go straight to Carles. There were a lot of stops in between, mostly to check out old cemeteries. We got to Carles just in time for dinner. Our resort didn’t serve food, but they helpfully pointed us next door, where we ordered sinigang, more tuna, and buttered shrimps.
We found lodging at Palm Garden, a bare bones resort whose manager, Joanne, was very helpful and accommodating. She helped us book a boat to Las Islas de Gigantes the next day, and volunteered to take us to the pier, too. The resort didn’t serve food, so we were directed to the resort next door, which looked marginally better but also had a karaoke machine. This meant dinner was accompanied by mostly off-tune renditions of “Terminal,” “Wonderful Tonight,” and surprisingly, “Banyo Queen.” The food was delicious, though.
Afterwards, we headed back to our resort and hung out, hoping that the karaoke would die down soon. Everything quieted down around 10:30pm, enough time for us to get proper shut-eye for our early trip to Las Islas de Gigantes the next day.