The Kalibo town proper initially looked daunting to me, especially because I did not have any fixed itinerary for exploring the area (I only had a few destination ideas, such as the Aklan Shrine and the Pastrana Park). When I first planned the trip, I only had a couple of goals in mind with regards to touring the town. First, to just be spontaneous and go where my feet would take me. Second, to try out local food. The good news is, I was able to do a bit of both.
Where I Stayed: La Esperanza
La Esperanza is an inn located one tricycle ride away from the airport (Php100) and one tricycle or jeepney ride to Kalibo town (Php8). I opted to stay in the dorm room for women to save on travel costs and to experience how it feels to be with other travelers. I shared the room with 2 other women during my visit, one of whom was just passing through and spending one night before an early morning boat ride and another was there for a work assignment.
The place was almost empty at the time–I saw very few guests during my stay. The dorm is located in a separate building with a common bathroom, which was a bit dirty and in a state of disrepair (not that I’m complaining, given the very cheap rate). One thing I like about the place is the security. There is always a security guard by the entrance, even in the evening. And whenever I go out in the morning, I’d just leave some of my things with the staff at the information desk and just get them back when I return.
La Esperanza also has a cozy restaurant that offers breakfast in the Php150 price range–Filipino, Continental, and American breakfast. It was a good stay overall, especially because there wasn’t too much crowd even in the dorm–a great start for me as a solo traveler.
Where I Dined
There are several good restaurants in Kalibo, although I wasn’t able to check out many of them. Below are the places I tried:
This restaurant specializes in lechon and lechon manok, and I initially planned to try its specialty during my visit. However, when I saw the selection, I decided to try another dish that is a local specialty in Aklan–the inubarang manok. It’s native chicken with banana stalk cooked in coconut milk. I saw it online and it looked appetizing, but the actual dish that I ordered from La Nena’s was just a small piece of chicken and a whole lot of banana stalk swimming in coconut milk, nothing really exceptional–probably because it wasn’t really the restaurant’s specialty.
La Nena’s location is simple, nothing fancy–just a straightforward lechon house that looks like any typical carenderia. I will definitely try the lechon next time.
This is a modern-looking establishment divided into two areas–an inner section with a private ambiance and a glass-walled outer section that offers al fresco-style dining experience. The highlights of the restaurant’s menu are pork ribs and special Belgian chocolate cake. The original ribs comes with vegetables on the side, a good value meal for Php130. However, while the Belgian chocolate cake looked appetizing, I found it to be too sweet. The chocolate cake itself was good, but the thick and creamy filling (not sure what it was, but it tasted like caramel) was too sweet for my liking. Even when paired with the restaurant’s French press-brewed coffee, the sweetness was still overpowering.
As for the staff, they were polite and helpful in general; my only complaint at the time was that their bathroom was malfunctioning and the staff I asked about it didn’t seem to know about the problem.
Located inside the Metro Gaisano mall, this popular merienda place serves batchoy, pancit, puto and pandesal, and other meals. Their Super Special batchoy meal was a satisfying afternoon snack that’s perfect with puto!
Bread & Butter
This is named the most popular bakery in Kalibo, famous for its siopao and cheeseburger. It is basically just a simple bakery with a small dining area, and it has different branches in Kalibo. I went here to buy siopao and puto to eat while I was walking around the city, and both were good–too bad I was not able to try the cheeseburger which, according to one description online, tastes like Boracay’s famous choriburger. Next time. 🙂
Where I Explored
In my few days of stay in Kalibo, I realized that the town proper is just a small area and most destinations are within walking distance from each other, perfect for people who love to walk. Another option would be by tricycle (Php8). There are 2 major parks in the town–the Pastrana Park and the Magsaysay Park–and these serve as the center of the Ati Atihan celebration. Connecting them are various streets that branch out and lead to each other, something that’s easy to familiarize with.
This was where the Ati Atihan nights were held. I read about it online prior to my trip, so I went to check it during my second night in the area. There was a festivity taking place, and I wasn’t sure what it was but decided to still check it.
After paying the Php100 entrance fee, I was given a number sticker to attach to my shirt. The fee included entrance to the event and face painting, so I joined the line leading to the booths where the face painting was done and soon had an artful design on my face–very cute! I then saw a crowd of people in pink outfit, dancing zumba.
It turned out that the event was a Zumba Fest (the Ati Atihan nights were to start the following day), and there were more than hundreds of participants. I was reluctant to join at first, and for a while I just stood in the middle of the crowd taking photos and videos… Until after a while I thought, what the heck, nobody in the crowd knows me and I’m already there anyway, so might as well make the most of it. So I placed my bag on the ground and, despite being in long sleeves and denim pants, started dancing to the music–until I felt all inhibition melting away.
At the end of the event, I crowded with everybody near the stage to join the group photo, lingered while winner announcements were being made, and asked to be photographed with the winners in the headdress contest–yes, they danced with their headdress on the whole time! It was a night of fun!
This park is located near the Kalibo Church and is where most of the pre-celebration parades took place. I was lucky to be able to join one of these parades–attended church first, saw a parade afterwards, and joined the group. The high energy was contagious, and it was fun hearing (at times joining in) the loud chanting of Hala Bira! Pwera Pasma!–even the older folks joined in the shouting.
Aside from the parades, the park also hosted the trade fair, car show, and nightly programs with various guests. It was almost always filled with people during my visit.
Museo it Akean
This is a two-storey building that houses various memorabilias showing the history of Aklan. During my visit, they also had an exhibit showcasing the paintings of local artists and other works of art. At the upper floor, there is a terrace that offers a view of the park and the neighboring establishments.
I met a group of young Mormon missionaries inside the museum, and they gave me their bible as a gift. The group was composed of Filipinos and foreigners who came from various parts of the country and the world, a passionate bunch who seemed to really love what they were doing.
Gaisano Mall and Kalibo Market
For those who are looking for the classic pasalubong from Kalibo–biscocho, butterscotch, piaya, barquillos–this is the place to be. It houses the Original Biscocho Haus and Bongbongs, which offer almost all local pasalubong from Kalibo. Just across the mall is the market, which also has local crafts and the Aklanon suman. Tip: Go shopping in the morning to ensure that the suman is fresh.
St. John the Baptist Church
This is the Kalibo Cathedral that houses the Sto. Nino. Located in front of Pastrana Park, it’s an old church that has undergone a few renovations over the years because of previous calamities. Inside, its warm interior and high ceiling give the church an old charm.
My stay in Kalibo would seem rather short, but it was a truly fulfilling experience. There was no moment when I felt I had to rush–I was able to check various places at just the right pace. Even without the actual Ati Atihan celebration, it was a worthwhile and enriching visit.