The good news is, Manggahan isn't the island's only festival. A few days from now, on February 20, Guimaras will have a couple of festivals that you'll have to see for yourself to appreciate. Plus, the island is home to tourist spots that you won't see on every other island in the Philippines, so make the most of your Guimaras trip by checking them out too!
In Guimaras, there's a river called Sibunag. Legend has it that the river was named after a demigod, who was stolen from his parents by a fairy when he was still an infant. Like his Greek counterpart Hercules, Sibunag grew to manhood and performed several amazing feats, which have since been immortalized by the locals through their yearly festival.
The festival is so-named because it involves the racing of balsa, or bamboo water rafts. There's also a motorized banca race, a paraw regatta, and other activities to celebrate the myths and legends surrounding the Sibunag River.
Like Balsahan, the Asinan Festival is celebrated every February 20. As its name suggests (asin literally means "salt"), the festival showcases cuisine that make use of, or are doused in, generous quantities of salt. If you're not a fan of salt, however, no worries: Asinan participants also serve spicy food, crunchy nuts, and tangy citrus fruits.
The best time to visit Balaan Bukid (lit. "Holy Mountain") is on Good Friday, since you can watch a procession of devotees pass through the 14 Stations of the Cross to make offerings on top of the hill. But if you'd rather not go with the crowd, and you're in the mood for some spiritual enlightenment, Balaan Bukid's trails won't disappoint.
Built between 1894 and 1896, Guisi Lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse in the Philippines. The Spaniards used it to guide ships sailing towards Cebu, Iloilo, and Manila, although the Philippine Coast Guard has since replaced it with a newer, more operational lighthouse.
Luckily, history buffs can still catch a glimpse of the Guisi Lighthouse, since it's only a stone's throw away from the nearest beach resort. You can still make out its octagonal, cylindrical shape, and imagine what it must've been like back when the lantern still flashed and signaled ships that they're already close to shore.
Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC)
The name may be a mouthful, but if you want to see marine conservation efforts firsthand, you won't want to pass on the SEAFDEC Marine Reserve. Located in Lawi (in the Guimaras capital of Jordan), the reserve is home to turtles, giant clams, and other dazzling sea creatures. There's a guided tour of the reserve, so if you have young children with you, it's a great place to teach them the importance of keeping Mother Nature healthy and happy.
Taklong Island National Marine Reserve
True to its name, Taklong Island has watchtowers where DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) officials can look out for fishermen using questionable means to haul their quarry. The island's beaches are also lined with mangroves, and you can find plenty of budget-friendly accommodations around the area.
Another great place to take your kids is Camp Alfredo, located in Barangay Ravina in Sibunag. Dubbed a "one-stop family adventure-nature destination," the camp has zip lines, uphill and downhill trails, tree houses, restaurants, and other facilities where your family can let loose and have fun. Find out more about them through their Facebook page, or hit them up via mobile at (+63) 908-123-2977.
On top of a tiny peninsula, jutting out into the Guimaras Strait, lies Roca Encantada ("Enchanted Rock"). Built in 1910 to honor Doña Presentacion Hofileña Lopez, the erstwhile summer home has since been declared a "heritage house" by the National Heritage Institute.
Although its name is rather misleading, Roca Encantada does offer an enchanting view of the islands and waters surrounding Guimaras. From its balcony, you can watch the Guimaras and Iloilo straits stretch out into the horizon, as well as the La Islas de Siete Picados (Islands of the Seven Sins). We're not sure why the islands are called that, though we imagine there's an interesting story behind the islands' name.
Guimaras is more than just an island of mangoes. It's also an island of festivals, last frontiers, and historical landmarks. Whether it's Mango Season on Guimaras or not, you'd be missing out if you don't add it to your itinerary!