Kalibo

Known for its Ati-Atihan festival, the central Philippine city is also your access to the pristine beaches of Boracay.

Kalibo is a central Philippine city famous for two things: its wildly popular Ati-Atihan religious festival every January and its location as a gateway to the beaches of Boracay. The city with a population of 75,000 people, an airport and access to the sea has become a commercial centre for the Western Visayan Islands. Travellers who are intent on joining the once pagan, now Catholic and highly participatory Ati-Atihan celebration may find the city’s hotels filled with revelers by mid-January. However, some travellers head straight through, hopping on a van or jeepney to the pier. From there boats connect Kalibo’s island, Panay, with Boracay and its 100 or so beach resorts. That trip takes about two hours. Kalibo’s airport is one of two serving Boracay. Those who stay in Kalibo itself during non-festival times often hike in the Bakhawan Eco-Park, a restored mangrove forest, or visit the Aklan Museum for a grasp of the region’s history (mostly agricultural) and culture. Snag a piña cloth, the local weaving speciality, as a souvenir for someone back home.

 

When to go

The Philippines is a year-round destination, but rain is least likely from December through April.

Visa requirements

Singaporean nationals can visit any part of the Philippines visa-free for 30 days.

Money

The peso (P) is the monetary unit and there are 100 centavos to one peso. Currency exchange kiosks at the airport and at major banks accept Singapore currency. ATMs are open 24 hours and international credit cards are widely accepted. 

Transport

Kalibo's airport is one of two that connect passengers from around Asia to the premier beach isle of Boracay (the other is in Caticlan). Outside the terminal, vans and jeepneys leave regularly for the two-hour drive to the Caticlan pier, where ferries go to Boracay. Some bus operators sell two-in-one tickets that cover passengers for both bus and ferry. Motorized tricycle-taxis from the airport will take you anywhere within Kalibo city.

Health and safety tips

Kalibo is considered safe despite the odd fight during Ati-Atihan season (January); be wary of aggressive child beggars, who apparently hand their money over to adults for drugs. Food hygiene is always questionable, so unless your stomach has a proven record for handling street food, eat in restaurants. The Rafael Tumbokon Memorial Hospital (tel: (63) 36 268 2616) on Mabini Street has 168 beds and accepts foreign nationals. In an emergency, call 117.

Emergency details

The nearest embassy is in Manila at No. 505, Rizal Drive (corner of 5th Avenue), Bonifacio Global City, 1634 Taguig City (www.mfa.gov.sg/manila, tel: (632) 856 9922).
 

In an emergency, dial 166 or contact the local Philippine National Police office in Camp Marcelino (tel: (63) 36 268 4006).

Basic greetings
English Filipino (Tagalog)
Hello Helló
How are you? Kumustá kayó?
Fine, thanks Mabúti namán, salámat
Goodbye Paálam
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Mawaláng gálang nga pô!
Thank you Salámat
Yes Óo
No Hindî
How much? Magkáno?
What's your name? Anó ang inyóng pangálan?
My name is… …ang pangálan ko
Nice to meet you Ikinagágalák kong makilála kayó
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Nasa Facebook/Twitter ka ba?
Where’s an internet café? Saán may ínternet café?
Where can I get a taxi? Saán akó makákabilí ng tíket?
Where is the bus/train station? Saán ang estasyón ng bus/tren?
A one-way/return ticket to… Isáng óne-way/round-trip tíket sa…
Do you have a room for one/two? Méron ba kayóng kuwárto pára sa isá/dalawá?
When's check out? Kailán ang check-out?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Pwéde ba kayóng magrékomendá ng magandáng réstorán/bar?
A table for two, please Mésa pára sa isá/dalawá, please
A menu, please Menú, please
The bill, please Ang bill, please
Where's the toilet? Saán ang CR?
Help! Saklólo!

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White Beach

Boracay

This 4km (2-mile) stretch of white sand makes Boracay one of Asia’s most celebrated beaches. The coconut tree-festooned White Beach along the west side of the tiny islet opens onto a bright blue sea that offers wonderful snorkelling or scuba diving – ask one of the numerous local diving equipment shops for details. Resorts from tiny boutiques to party centrals to cheap backpacker inns form an endless column along the beach.

Aklan Museum

Martelino Street

Set in a royal Spanish school built in 1882, the Aklan Museum (Museo Akean) displays a hodgepodge of art and sculpture. Here you'll find dolls along with sculptures, plus paintings that depict the region’s past. Look out also for Chinese Ming dynasty porcelain and old-style weapons such as swords. The museum has suffered some typhoon damage in recent years, so ask about its status before heading over.

Bakhawan Eco-Park

New Buswang

Day hikers can use raised bamboo paths to see Bakhawan Eco-Park, a mangrove reforestation project so thick with greenery that it feels like a jungle. Coastal mangrove forests occur throughout the Visayas, but restoration makes this one exemplary. Park paths, about 3km (1.5 miles) in total, lead to the coast. The park is about a 15-minute drive from town and charges P20 for admission.

Shop

Dela Cruz House of Piña

81 New Buswang

House of Piña sells fabrics known as piña cloth, a Kalibo speciality. Weavers take leaves from a particular kind of pineapple plant and process it by hand to make a sheer fabric. This shop combines the work of more than a thousand weavers in surrounding Aklan province, where the handicraft has been practised for centuries. The same place produces nito basketry as well as abaca slippers and placemats.

Budget $$

Gaisano Capital Kalibo

Roxas Avenue, Banwa it Kalibo (Andagao)

Part of a national shopping mall chain, the Gaisano Capital Kalibo sparkles as an anchor of downtown Kalibo. This local hangout has earned glowing reviews for its selection of food. Choose from the usual national fast food chains or pay a visit to Ted's Batchoy noodle restaurant and BongBong’s market to load up on sweet and crunchy snacks.

Budget $$

Jojo's Christmas Cottage

1 Sampaguita Avenue, New Washington

Jojo's Christmas Cottage, a three-storey Victorian-style cottage on the Sampaguita Gardens compound displays and sells Christmas-related gear year round. You’ll also find multiple dolls and a few racks of clothing, plus a coffee bar. Look for a Precious Moments holiday theme store on the ground floor. There's even more festive fun on the upper levels at the Christmas Museum.

Budget $$

Dine

La Nena’s Manokan

West Regalado Street

This restaurant-grill with wood and bamboo panelling on its inside serves traditional roasted or stewed Filipino foods such as liempo, lechon manok and fish tinola. Masks worn during the city’s Ati-Atihan festival adorn some of the walls.  La Nena's offers great food and great value, with prices only a notch higher than the street stalls.

Budget $

Miggy's Place

Kalibo Airport

This florid, semi-outdoor country-style garden restaurant at the Kalibo Airport caters to passengers arriving around noon, before they start their journey towards Boracay. Miggy's Place serves lechon, rice dishes, soups, salads and sandwiches on a range of breads, with some good healthy options. Drinks include tea, coffee and local juices. For those with time to kill before a flight, Miggy’s is a good option.

Budget $$$

PEIL Crepes Ice Creams & Internet Cafe

F. Quimpo Street, corner of Rizal Street

It’s not always easy to find a good internet connection in the Philippines, and this café offers online access along with a menu of desserts such as a decadent banana ice cream sundae. Some describe the place as homely, even romantic, ideal for just sitting down to talk.

Budget $$

Ramboy’s Lechonan & Restaurant

North Roldan Street

Giant spits turn with pork and chicken at this local favourite. Ramboy’s heaps huge portions of its barbecued meat onto the plates. Ask for a whole cut-up chicken or pork liempo, chunks of meat with crispy skin. Order off a menu of food photos mounted in the spacious dining hall.

Budget $$

Stay

Ati-Atihan Festival Hostel & Conference Center

19 Martyrs Street

The Ati-Atihan Festival Hostel & Conference Center opened in 2010 to handle demand for comfortable lodging during Kalibo’s nationally famous annual Ati-Atihan Festival. Rates range from P990 for a single to nearly P3,000 for fully furnished family rooms. The hotel includes a conference centre, smaller meeting spaces and, for those breaks between events, a pool table.

Budget $

Kalibo Hotel

476 N. Roldan Street

Centrally located 3km (1.5 miles) from Kalibo airport, the Kalibo will pick you up on arrival. If your next stop is Boracay, public transport leaves from near your doorstep. Rooms are simple but clean and cosy, with rates from P1,100 to P1,600 per night. There’s a business centre and a garden outside.

Budget $$

Marzon Hotel

National Highway

Choose from 25 spacious and smartly furnished, air-conditioned rooms at the Marzon, including some with palm-lined patios. The hotel compound offers a relaxing away-from-the-road feel even though it’s on a highway (about five minutes from downtown as well as from the airport). There’s a 25-metre pool, meeting space and the Latte Restaurant next door.

Budget $$

Sampanguita Gardens

1 Sampaguita Avenue, New Washington

This coastal resort is anchored by a Victorian mansion designed by American artist Samuel John Butcher. Sampanguita Gardens includes a year-round Christmas decor store and a butterfly garden. Rates for its 35 ornate guestrooms range from P1,890 to P5,600 per night. The 2.6-hectare (6.4-acre) compound attracts day travellers as well as large-scale events.1 Sampaguita Avenue, New Washington

Budget $$$

Suburbia Garden Hotel

65 Osmeña Avenue, Barangay Tigayon

The Suburbia Garden Hotel, just 15 minutes outside town on the main highway to Roxas City, offers package rates during Ati-Atihan. Rooms are basic. The restaurant serves hearty Filipino meals as well as take-outs. Hotel staff can arrange rides to central Kalibo.

Budget $$

Ati-Atihan

2nd week of January

One of the country’s biggest and most enthusiastically celebrated festivals, Ati-Atihan invites everyone and anyone to dance with the performers. The event was originally an animist festival but under Spanish rule it turned into a Catholic Santo Niño celebration like those elsewhere in the Philippines.


Bariw Festival

12-15 May

This event in the Aklan province town of Nabas showcases the local livelihood of weaving bags, mats and hats from bariw leaves. While you're looking out for displays of the town’s best hats and mats you can enjoy the nonstop street dancing, accompanied by musicians playing native bamboo instruments.


Boracay International Dance Festival

8 May

This event kicks off with performances and dance workshops. Also expect competitions with big prizes followed by beach parties and – in case you’re not convinced that Boracay is party-central – all-night dancing. For more information, visit www.boracayintldancefest.com.Boracay International Dance Festival


Caticlan Malay Aklan Ultra Marathon

6 October

Runners of distances from 15 to 50 km test their strength and stamina at this annual event in Caticlan, two hours from Kalibo. Registration costs P700–1,200 pesos, more for longer runs. Register for the marathon with a call to 63 928 980 4888 or 63 905 702 2844.


Foodie

For a fundamentally non-touristy city of 75,000 people, Kalibo gets unusually hearty reviews for its restaurant scene, so it's the perfect place to go for a foodie weekend. Start the day with a leisurely coffee at PEIL Crepes Ice Creams & Internet Café (and maybe return later in the evening for dessert). For lunch pick from a full-blown Filipino menu at the ornate, indoor-outdoor restaurant Miggy’s Place at the Kalibo airport; the soups and rice dishes are especially good.

 

Alternatively, head to the Latte Restaurant next to the Marzon Hotel. This upmarket Western-style eatery brews espresso to go with its Filipino-Americana menu. Check out their Hawaiian Spam sandwiches and Philly cheesesteak, or the wide selection of waffles and a list of soups, including one made from squid heads. Who could resist?

 

If you need a caffeine hit in the afternoon, explore Kalibo’s coffee shops. The Big Bean, is on Aklan Osmena Street, near the rotunda in central Kalibo, while Third Cup is downtown at City Plaza. Both are known for their low prices and skilled baristas.

 

For dinner, there are two great options for carnivores that specialise in barbecued pork and chicken – heaps of it – and soup.  Try La Nena’s Manokan on West Regalado Street, with its relaxed feel and its bamboo-festooned interior. Or proceed to Ramboy’s Lechonan & Restaurant on North Roldan Street for its massive, meaty portions.

 

 

Places to visit:
PEIL Crepes Ice Creams & Internet Café, Miggy's Place, Latte Restaurant, Big Bean, Third Cup, La Nena's Manokan, Ramboy's Lechonan & Restaurant.

Adventure

It’s easy to take in Kalibo’s highlights on a day tour before heading to nearby Boracay for a few days on the beach.

 

From the Kalibo airport, grab a taxi-tricycle to Bakhawan Eco-Park, for a hike in a restored mangrove forest along raised bamboo paths winding through the trees to the coast. Return to town in the afternoon for a tour of Sampaguita Gardens, a hotel designed by an American artist. The hotel compound includes a butterfly garden and Jojo’s Christmas Cottage, a shop that sells Christmas decorations year round. Also visit the Aklan Museum for a review of history and culture in the province after which it’s named.

 

From Kalibo, it's a fairly straightforward journey to the beautiful resort of Boracay. Buses and Jeepneys make the two-hour trip from the terminal to a pier in Caticlan, where regular ferries cross a narrow strait to Boracay. An environmental impact fee is levied for every tourist arriving at the resort. Jump on a tricycle-taxi from the Boracay pier to the 4km (2-mile) -long White Beach and its resorts, which range from tranquil bungalows under the coconut trees to raging party spots.

 

 

Places to visit:
Bakhawan Eco-Park, Sampaguita Gardens, Aklan Museum, Borocay.