Monday, 11 May 2015

Caroline vs. Kalibo

After two nights in Manila, Clem and I flew to Kalibo, in the province of Aklan, where his mother's family is from.  We had the welcoming committee at the airport, and then a huge family feast for lunch; I was a bit anxious about meeting so many new people who knew exactly who I was, but everyone was very warm and welcoming.  I'm going to need a chart to keep track of all the relatives, though!

Lunch was followed by a long siesta, and then just before sunset a couple of us went over to Bakhawan Eco-Park, a mangrove forest that is not only beautiful, but also prevents the major flooding that used to plague the area.  The path through the forest is about 1km one way, and once we came out the other side we decided to hire a small boat to go out to the sand bar.  We got there just as the sun was setting, so the view was beautiful.  It was good timing too, since we were the last group the boat driver was going to take for the day.  There are also a couple cantinas in the Eco-Park, but they were both closed by the time we got there.

The next morning some of the family piled into a van and drove down to Jawili Falls, a series of small waterfalls cascading into rock pools.  The park around it has been modestly developed for tourists so there are small cabanas with tables, perfect for a lunch break, as well as toilets and showers and a small refreshment stand.  For a small fee Clem and I went up to the falls area with some cousins, and we scrambled up rocks and across streams, stopping every now and then to put our feet in the water.  Clem and I hadn't been told where we were going so we didn't have a change of clothes for swimming, which I would have liked to have done since the weather was scorching, and the water was clear and cool.  Next time!

For our last full day in Kalibo we stayed around the centre of town, visiting the Museo it Akean (Museum of Aklan) and Kalibo Cathedral.  The museum is small, but is loaded with artefacts; one branch of Clem's family are very involved with the museum, so one of the cousins was able to give us a tour.  I was particularly taken with the cathedral; it's been reconstructed a number of times, and the inside was a gorgeous blend of original exposed brick and new plasterwork.  It was empty when we stopped by, so I took my time looking around.

We also made stops to visit family, first at Thumbelina, a book store run by an auntie, and then at the home of family matriarch Lola Susing ("Lola" means grandmother, but can also be used for great aunts; Lola Susing is the sister of Clem's maternal grandfather).  She is an impressive 98 years old, and we had a great time visiting with her and talking about the family.  She gave us a copy of her late husband's book of poems, and wrote a lovely inscription for us emphasizing that she is praying "for a great event that may come [our] way in the near future."  Message received, Lola!

While in Kalibo we stayed at the Ati-Atihan Festival Hostel, near the centre of the city.  Ati-Atihan is an annual Aklanon festival that takes place every January; we missed it in Kalibo by a couple weeks, but we've attended celebrations in Toronto in the past.  The hostel (more like a hotel) is run by part of Clem's family, and the original building is actually the house in which his mother grew up!  From our room we could see the spot Clem was bitten by a monkey as a child.  It was a great place to stay: it's clean and spacious, staff are courteous and helpful, and it's in the centre of town.

Kalibo is a nice town and is worth a visit, but what I loved most about it was connecting to pieces of Clem's past and meeting a lot of his family.  After our visit we headed to the island paradise of Boracay for our real beach vacation.  A post on that coming up soon!

xx, C.

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