Thanks to an episode aired in Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (more popularly known by its acronym KMJS, it is a weekly television program presenting fascinating stories and places in the Philippines) that our interest to explore our neighboring province of Capiz, particularly its capital, Roxas City, was roused and awakened. It was also in the show where we came to know about a never-heard-of island off the coast of Roxas City, Olotayan Island.
Because we couldn’t find a tour operator or a native of Olotayan Island online, we decided to contact the Capiz Tourism Office to help us plan the trip. We touched based with one of the personnel and he gladly assisted us in making the trip possible. An important lesson we’ve learned this time was that when planning a DIY trip, you could never go wrong with the tips and advices straight from the local tourism office of the place you are visiting.
So after we negotiated with a local official in the island, we packed our bags, and took the two-hour bus drive from Iloilo to Roxas City.
Even though our main goal was to visit the island of Olotayan, we decided to visit first some of the most famous landmarks around the city; spots that you shouldn’t miss paying a visit when you are in the “Seafood Capital of the Philippines.”
Robinson’s Place Roxas. We ate a light breakfast inside the mall and had coffee afterwards. “Light” because we planned to have a seafood galore for lunch; more extra space for seafood all-you-can. One thing we noticed was the scant number of people coming in and out of the mall. It was a weekend so we expected to see a huge number of shoppers who like us were trying to escape the scorching heat of the sun that literally dries everything outdoors. If you’re used to crowded malls in your place of origin, you’ll find it quite refreshing or boring (depending on your orientation) to find few people inside a shopping mall on a weekend.
Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. A wedding ceremony was going on when we arrived at the cathedral so we decided to leave the bride and groom in peace and left the place of worship a little afterwards. Outside the cathedral, we chatted with a couple of vendors who gave us unsolicited advice on what places to visit best and what to do for us not be duped by local ruffians. We profusely thanked the ladies and walked straight to a nearby museum.
Ang Panub-lion Roxas Museum. The attendants were closing the doors of the museum for their lunch break when we arrived. So in order for our time and effort not to go to waste, we literally begged for them to accommodate us even just for 5 minutes. At first they were steadfast not to let us in but with a little bit of charm we secured an entry to the museum. In the next 20 minutes, my friend and I were having a lively conversation with the attendants and they gladly waited until we saw all the museum has to offer.
Baybay Beach. From the museum, we took a 10-minute tricycle ride to Baybay Beach, which is a seven-kilometer stretch of beach lined with tropical trees, a lovely park (People’s Park) and seafood restaurants. On the way, we were already deciding what to eat for lunch: would it be fish? If it’s fish, what kind of fish? Or crabs? Shrimp? Seaweeds? Shells? When we sat down to order our lunch, we still hadn’t decided what to eat yet. This only goes to say that in Roxas City, you can have as much seafood as you want, anything you like, prepared anyhow you like.
Roxas’ Ancestral House. Across the People’s Park is one of the ancestral houses of the Roxas’ (the most popular family of politicians in the city). We were not allowed to enter the house itself but we were able to chat with the guard on duty. He told us that once in a while, former Senator Mar Roxas and his journalist wife Korina Sanchez visit the house and spend some time there.
Olotayan Island. While approaching the island, we instantly felt and saw that “laid-backness” of the island. Life was unhurried and far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Indeed a perfect get-away-from-it-all place to unwind, relax, and slow down for a while. During our stay in the island, we experienced the everyday joys and sorrows of the local folks trying to catch up with the rat race in the city.
The city of Roxas, we dare to say, is not at all very different from our home province, Iloilo. We share the same language, custom, and some traditions perhaps because of our shared origin and ancestry. The fact that we are on the same island (Panay Island) made us also confident that we would be able to navigate the place with ease and familiarity. But this familiarity also made us overlook one important thing: oftentimes we take for granted that things familiar to us.
Because Roxas City is only a bus ride away from us, we thought we “knew” all about it already. But in this trip, we came to realize that every place on earth has always something new to offer, no matter how familiar you are of it. All you have to have is a set of fresh eyes, an open mind, and a welcoming attitude.