Getting hot in a ‘kawa’ in Tibiao
TIBIAO, Antique—The thought of dipping in a cauldron of hot water on a pile of burning firewood could be intimidating, if not frightening. But not for those daring enough to try it in Tibiao town in Antique province.
The “kawa” bath has drawn an increasing number of both domestic and foreign tourists to this town seeking to try out the rare experience and enjoy other eco-adventure activities.
“We receive many guests from all over to try out the bath. It’s also a hit among foreign tourists, especially the Russians,” said Ofelia Cumla-Gaal, operator of Bugtong Bato Falls Resort, one of the resorts that offer the service.
Guests take a 30-minute, neck-deep dip in an iron cauldron or vat of water heated by fire fed with bamboo firewood. The water is scented with fresh flowers and ginger while the heat is controlled by the resort staff.
The kawa, a meter or more in diameter, was formerly used for cooking muscovado sugar.
The bath is relaxing enough for a nap especially after spending a day of trekking and other adventure activities. Guests are, however, advised to dip in the water gradually to adjust to the heat.
The kawa bath is among the highlights of multifaceted tours being offered in Tibiao, touted as Antique’s adventure capital, by Katahum Tours.
Tibiao is also known for its pristine mountain ranges, scenic waterfalls and white-water kayaking.
The town in central Antique is 172 kilometers from Iloilo City and 93 km from Barangay Caticlan, Malay town, in Aklan province, the jump-off point to Boracay Island.
It is about four hours by passenger bus from Iloilo City and about two hours from Caticlan.
Bus fare to Tibiao is about P120 from Iloilo City and about P80 from Caticlan.
Tourists can explore and experience the various attractions and activities in tours lasting for a day up to two days.
From the town proper, guests can experience a fish spa where hundreds of small endemic fish nibble at dead skin of the feet. The experience is at first tickling but eventually enjoyable and addicting.
Flord Calawag, operator of Tibiao Fish Spa and Katahum Tours, said the fish spa continued to be a main drawer of tourists including those coming from Boracay.
Guests can also experience local culture and fishing in Barangay Malabor, about 3 km from the town center, by witnessing and taking part in “lambaklad” fishing, a form of collective fishing using large nets and traps to capture large fish near the shoreline.
From the town center, tourists can travel from 15 to 30 minutes to adventure sites by vans or passenger motorcycles.
Among the stopovers with scenic views are the 65-meter-long Tigbaboy hanging bridge and a similar bridge in Sitio Malakagat in Barangay Tuno. The latter offers a perfect spot to view or take photographs of Tibiao River below and the cone-shaped mountain of the village.
Tourists can experience the thrill of balancing in suspension bridges connecting cliffs and over the rocky river.
A tour can also include experiencing the 500-meter zip line, the longest on Panay Island, in Barangay Tuno. The zip line is operated by the municipal government.
Just before the zip line is Butong River where guests can swim in its cool and clean waters. An added attraction and excitement is climbing on top and diving from a 6-meter-tall boulder.
During summer when the water level is lower and the current slower, swimmers can lean back on rocks and boulders and enjoy a cool, soothing water massage.
At the village center of Tuno, about 7 km from the town proper, travelers can get a guide for a 1.5-km trek to Bugtong Bato Falls.
The trek could take from 30 to 45 minutes. The trail is moderate but tourists are advised to wear covered footwear. Starting from a short span of concrete path walk, the trail leads to mountain trails crossing bamboo bridges and passing creeks flanked by forests and mountains.
The trekkers could take a short rest at Bugtong Bato Falls Resort before descending 100 meters to the foot of the falls.
The resort provides accommodations for those wanting to stay overnight or a few days near the waterfalls. The cottages that can accommodate groups are surrounded by trees and mountains and are ideal for those who want to escape the pollution and noise of urban centers.
Those who reach the waterfalls are provided with options depending on one’s boldness and physical condition. The falls has seven tiers but only three are accessible due to lack of trails to the higher levels.
The lowest tier is 41 meters in height where most visitors, especially those with children, swim in the lagoon.
Climbing to the second tier is already challenging as one has to climb on a set of steep stairs on a rocky wall with only the initial steps having handrails. Climbers need to go up the rest of the stairs to the top using a rope.
The second tier also has a swimming area but the challenge is to rappel to the third tier over a cliff, using a rope. The third tier has the deepest lagoon reaching about 4 meters.
Climbing the second and third tier is advisable only for those unafraid of heights because the view climbing down could be daunting and dizzying.
While many destinations are best explored and experienced during the dry or summer season, Tibiao is a popular destination for white-water kayaking during the rainy season when the water level is higher and the current stronger.
Tours provide kayaking courses for various levels from first-timers in calmer waters to professionals in rapids and boulders.
For those who prefer less physically strenuous activities, Tibiao also offers cultural and historical interests.
Tibiao Bakery, which opened in 1953, is among Panay Island’s oldest bakeries with branches all over the island. Visitors can also experience hands-on pottery and brick-making in Bandoja village.
The various activities and destinations can be visited and experienced in a day or two. Tour packages per person range from P1,600 for day tours including lunch to P2,500 for overnight tours including accommodation.
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