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.
The Philippines is a year-round destination, but rain is least likely from December through April.
Singaporean nationals can visit any part of the Philippines visa-free for 30 days.
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.
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.
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.
|How are you?||Kumustá kayó?|
|Fine, thanks||Mabúti namán, salámat|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Mawaláng gálang nga pô!|
|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?|
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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.
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.
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.
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.
PEIL Crepes Ice Creams & Internet Café, Miggy's Place, Latte Restaurant, Big Bean, Third Cup, La Nena's Manokan, Ramboy's Lechonan & Restaurant.
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.
Bakhawan Eco-Park, Sampaguita Gardens, Aklan Museum, Borocay.