Bel-is: My Newfound Paradise

My Holy Week break this year has been memorable because I got the chance to come home in the province (Pandan, Antique) to be with my parents and siblings. Even if it’s just for a few days, still, the fact that your parents are happy to see you home and relaxing together with them are priceless. It also eases homesickness, which I still feel even if they are just a plane away.

I went home Maundy Thursday, around noon time, so that I don’t have to join the massive exodus of passengers going to the province which starts around Wednesday night until Thursday morning. It was also because I want to rest a little on Thursday morning before I fly out of Manila. Besides, I am not in a hurry because the flight only lasts 45 minutes (via Kalibo, Aklan).

The whole of Thursday and Friday I was only at home for the observance of the Holy Week. The town of Pandan, Antique (like any typical town) is devoutly Catholic and no merry-making should be done on those two holy days, to observe the death of Jesus Christ.

On Black Saturday, we are allowed to at least get some sun and sand because it is the eve of the resurrection (Easter Sunday). Besides, I am going back to Manila the following day and I don’t want to go back without some tan.

Panay Island, which comprises the provinces of Iloilo, Guimaras, Capiz, Aklan and Antique, is gifted with beautiful white beaches and abundant sea foods. The most famous beach tourist spot, Boracay, is in Panay, located in the town of Malay, Aklan. It is situated at the northern tip of Panay, bordering Antique. See the map.

I decided not to drop by Boracay because it is very crowded during Holy Week break. And I don’t like crowded places. So what I did was gather my high school friends in Pandan that time and go some beach which remains unexplored and not discovered.

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We were deciding on two beaches: Mararison Island (in Culasi, Antique) and Bel-is (in Buruanga, Aklan). Since Mararison is an island, we prefer Bel-is because it is more accessible (and nearer). From my hometown of Pandan, Antique, we rented a van going to Buruanga, Aklan via Libertad (Antique). It took us just an hour for the travel because the road is already paved. The scenery outside of the van is breathtaking because the blue sea is very inviting.

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My friends and I have never been there, so we have to ask (read: research) some basic facts about the place. Do we need to bring our own food? How remote or accessible is it? Are there resorts in the area? Things like that. To make the preparation part short, we bring our own food (picnic style), and sun block!

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We keep our expectations low on the place, all we know is that it is a white sand beach. When you google “Bel-Is” only one postcard type picture will appear. In short, not much visitors go there. A friend told me that the famous Ariel’s Point is located within the area, and that makes me excited because I saw an episode in Sports Unlimited featuring the place. But that was years ago.

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Going to Bel-is requires riding a motorized banca. It is not an island away from the main Panay, but because the place is rocky and mountainous, the best way to access the place is through sea. There is road going there, but the terrain is not car-friendly. It took us about 30 minutes to reach our first beach. From the banca, you can really see the clean, greenish water. A sight to behold.

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There are residents in the area, but only a handful. They are mostly fishermen. They are so blessed to witness nature’s beauty daily.

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The weather is perfect when we went there. The sun is out, not much cloud, and the blue sky envelops the water. The corals below are also visible. The sand is white, powdery even. It reminds me of Boracay during my childhood, when it is still unexplored, with no electricity. In Bel-is though, there are already resorts but these are just of low-quality. One of those we went to even have dilapidated facilities, a reminder that the place is not maximized. What a waste. Maybe the Aklan government can help in promoting this spot.

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Overall, we did not err when we choose Bel-is as our point of destination for Holy Week break. If the pictures are beautiful, it don’t hold justice when you see it real. That’s how beautiful the place is.

I am lucky to be residing in a place where all these beautiful natural resources abounds, and accessible. I will definitely go back there. Maybe with my Manila friends in tow? Before it becomes another Boracay, of course.

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