By Nelly Lumbaca
ANTIQUE – The province of Antique is currently served by PAL flights via Clark. After the launch of twice a week flights to the small airport in Sa Jose de Buenavista (provincial capital) last March, PAL increased the frequency to thrice weekly just a month later due to the rising number of passengers.
Antique with its 18 municipalities is no longer a sleepy province. Air links have been ignored for decades due to existing flights to nearby Iloilo, Roxas & Caticlan.
But Antique takes pride in various attractions. The province motto is “Where the mountains meet the sea.”
The seahorse-shaped province has a very long coastline, all of which are situated at the base of a mountain range stretching from north to south of Panay island.
The southernmost town of Anini-y has the last standing colonial church of Panay made of corals, built more than 170 years ago.
Roads are good, linking the towns and catalyzing trade and commerce.
At Aningalan, there’s a small strawberry farm at the mountaintop – the only one throughout Antique – also offering lodging and food for tourists.
Along the main highway stands an all-bamboo quaint restaurant, Alpas- also offering cottages – owned by a young American couple. Ken is the cook but Kim manages the whole operation.
Ken’s mother is a Filipina while Kim is half Chinese. Both met in San Francisco.
They offer vegetarian menu using indigenous ingredients. At the backyard is a beach with few amenities.
Alpas showcases the ambiance of the whole of Antique – rustic and eco-tourism centered.
San Jose is starting to manifest rapid urbanization – 3 malls, banks, popular fastfood branches and various road rehab projects.
The town (not yet a city) claims several historical trivia – the first Malay inhabitants of Panay arrived at San Jose, Emilio Aguinaldo initiated the revolt at Panay prior to that in Manila, etc.
The eco-tourism thrust is mainly spearheaded by private initiators. With full government support, Antique’s tourism will certainly boom.
They need more roads, telecommunication facilities, water storage & distribution system for highland communities, hotels & resorts, etc.
An ongoing infra project – road through the mountains – will further cut travel time from San Jose to Iloilo. The mountain breeze and scenery along this artery road surpasses the lure of Tagaytay.
There are several islands being developed to attract tourists. But these private developers are wary of becoming another Boracay. They don’t want the planeloads of tourists who will destroy Antique’s natural charm.
Antique is not laidback. It’s uniquely rustic.