To say The Philippines is full of hidden surprises is an understatement. Outside of the country, you may hear talk of visits to Manila or other prominent locations such as Boracay or El Nido. But you will rarely hear of the less popular places like Malapascua, Baguio or the Calaguas Islands.
I have recently become aware of one of these relatively unknown regions due to the impact it has been having on the world stage. The region is known as Guimaras, an island province located in the region of Western Visayas.
As a province, Guimaras is just a baby compared to other regions of The Philippines. As of May 22, 1992, Guimaras gained independence from its previous status as a sub-province of Iloilo. The island also has some significance within the history of The Philippines.
Guimaras was one of the first islands settled by the Spaniards after establishing themselves in Cebu. In 1581, Spanish Governor Gonzalo Ronquillo de Penalosa established a settlement on the island for the purpose of Christianizing the natives.
The island’s population speak Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a. Although Hiligaynon – informally known as Ilonggo – is not as prominent as languages such as Tagalog and Cebuano; it is still the 4th most widely used language in the country.
Get to know Guimaras
The island of Guimaras has been subdivided into 5 municipalities, namely: Buenavista, Jordan, Nueva Valencia, San Lorenzo and Sibunag. It is also known as one of the smallest provinces in the country, with its capital being Jordan.
The province is situated in the Panay Gulf, between the islands of Panay and Negros. To the northwest is the province of Iloilo and to the southeast is Negros Occidental. The whole island is part of the Metro Iloilo-Guimaras, one of the twelve metro areas in The Philippines.
Within the Visayas the island has begun to establish itself as one of the tourist hotspots. It has beautiful beaches, hidden coves, heritage attractions, as well as its most famous attraction – the world’s sweetest mangoes.
It’s time to talk business – The mangoes of Guimaras
The province was awarded the nickname “The mango capital of The Philippines” for a reason. Guimaras is not only known for the sweetest mangoes in The Philippines, but for having the sweetest mangoes in the world. The island province actively exports its produce to the markets of America, Australia, Canada, and Singapore.
The mangoes have even gone as far as being served to the British royals as well as the United States government.
The quality of the mangoes has not just come about by chance. The Guimarasnons actively work to prevent their product from being contaminated by any products of a lower grade. They have fought to keep the island’s assets free from genetic degradation and disease.
The work does not end there. The mangoes are also meticulously inspected in order to ensure the island province is only sending out the very best to its customers. Mangoes which are too small, deformed or not sweet enough end up as export rejects. It is safe to assume that if you visit the island, these are the mangoes which you will be consuming.
Mangoes are the 3rd largest fruit export in The Philippines; trailing behind pineapple and banana. Guimaras is in a position to have a significant impact on the export numbers as the island is said to house over 50,000 mango trees. A large portion of these trees are located at the Southern Orchard in Ravina. It is one of the largest mango plantations in the province with a land area of 220 hectares.
How to reach Guimaras Island
In 2006 Guimaras experienced a major setback when a tanker operated by Petron went down off the southern coast of Guimaras. It subsequently released 500,000 liters of bunker oil into the ocean. Despite this, the beaches on the island still look immaculate.
The island now accommodates a thriving tourism industry. The island’s reputation of having world-class mangoes along with the islands beautiful landscapes draw a steady flow of tourists to the island each year.
If you are planning on visiting Guimaras it is important to note that there is no direct flight to the island. You will need to take a direct flight to Iloilo from one of the major in the country (Manila, Cebu etc.). Once you arrive in Iloilo, take a jeepney or taxi to the Iloilo City Harbor, specifically Ortiz Wharf. From there it is a short boat ride going across to Jordan Wharf, Guimaras which is the main port of entry in Guimaras.
Once you arrive in Iloilo, take a jeepney or taxi to the Iloilo City Harbor, specifically Ortiz Wharf. From there it is a short boat ride going across to Jordan Wharf, Guimaras; this is the main port of entry to Guimaras. There are boats regularly traveling between Iloilo and Guimaras throughout the day. Finding transport to the island should not be a problem as long as you arrive at the port during regular business hours.