Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kalibo, Aklan

November 2007

This provincial capital of Aklan is famous for its ‘kalibo Ati-Atihan’ festival every 3rd or 4th week of January. I think that in the Visayas and elsewhere, Kalibo pioneered the Ati-Atihan festival (from ‘ati’, or Aeta in tagalong). The Iloilo Ati-atihan is now more famous because of bigger prizes and bigger corporate sponsorships, hence the competing ‘tribes’ are more expensively dressed and trained. This festival is very lively and colorful, with several dozens of drums and drummers per tribe giving danceable beat to their respective ‘warriors’, dressed in colorful and intricate costumes, normally made of local raw materials, who can dance from slow to rock to acrobatic steps.

The town also prides itself of having its ‘Bakhawan Eco-park’. This is a wide plantation of mangroves plus a recreation area, more than 80 hectares, and has an ‘eco-walk’ made of bamboos, right in the middle of the mangroves.

Other tourist attractions of the municipality are the ‘Pina village’, a place where the folks weave and sell pina cloth out of pineapple leaves. Then there is the ‘Ati-atihan village’, the Museo it Aklan, the Kalibo Cathedral, the Aklan Freedom Shrine, and Tigayon hill and caves. More details, one can visit the official website, www.kalibo.gov.ph.

The municipality is small. One can see the central municipality in a few minutes tricycle ride. No high rise structures, a few fast-food chains. A modern-looking hospital, the ‘Tumbocon memorial hospital’, named from a former politician, is also visible around the town center.


The airport is just a few minutes from the town proper. But when the plane lands, you would think that the town proper is far away because the wide and long runway is surrounded by rice fields and just a few houses, it looks like a secluded barrio.. But this is a good thing because the airport will have a wide space for more expansion someday as the volume of visitors and passengers who come to the province, as well as those going to Boracay, is increasing.

The airport terminal is pathetic. There are no trolleys for departing and arriving passengers. So if one has plenty of baggage, he/she will be compelled to hire a porter. The porters have t-shirt uniforms, with their corresponding number and family name at the back, fine. But they mix up with arriving passengers at the baggage claim area, which is already small, and it makes that area more crowded. Why the heck would porters compete for an already limited space with arriving passengers?

Maybe the porters are unionized, or at least organized. And through their lobbying, plus the indifference of the local airport authorities, passengers will be deprived of having trolleys so that they can carry their baggage on their own, and have some space to an already small passenger arrival area. Porters will be needed of course by some passengers who really have plenty of cargos, but they should be out of the baggage claim area. They can be positioned at the exit area to help passengers transfer their baggage from the trolley to the vehicles waiting for them.

The exit system from the baggage claim area, like in many airports in the country, is somehow funny if not stupid. Passengers are asked to show their duplicate stub as proof that the baggage being brought out are indeed theirs. Fine, it’s a standard practice, especially for those who are leaving ahead. But when all passengers have already claimed their baggage, and no one is reporting or complaining of any ‘lost baggage’, then it should be assumed 100% that all baggages being brought out belong to their respective owners. But the guards still keep checking the stubs, making the exit queu unnecessarily long and disorganized as people simply want to get out of the airport as quickly as possible. But then again, the private security guards are only implementing ‘orders’ by the local airport authorities. So it’s actually the latter who make those rigid rules.

Nonetheless, this is an international airport as there are a few direct flights from Seoul and a few other Asian cities to Kalibo. The passengers are mainly tourists heading to Boracay. For some passengers coming from Manila going to Boracay but are afraid to ride small planes (about 40 seaters) that land at Caticlan airport, which is very near the port going to Boracay, they ride bigger planes that land at Kalibo then take a 1 ½ hours land trip to Caticlan port, for a boat ride to Boracay.

There is an increasing number of Koreans landing at Kalibo airport, evidenced by some notices and instructions at the airport terminal which have Korean translations.

Aklan’s Road Network

The province’s road network is generally good and smooth. The province is mountainous, so roads have plenty of curves, ascent and descent. Usually these roads would tend to deteriorate quicker than flat and straight roads, but the roads were constructed well, and/or maintained and repaired regularly. Credit should go to the provincial government for this good job.

Kalibo’s Police

The driver of the van that we took from Kalibo to Caticlan was apprehended by Kalibo’s policemen who were very eager and early in apprehending some drivers of public utility vehicles. We rode the van around 6:15am. By 6:30 am, before the van crossed the long bridge (was it Aklan river?), 3 policemen stopped our van. Passengers are always inconvenienced by delays caused by such apprehensions. With nothing to do as one policeman was issuing a traffic violation ticket to the driver, I approached the team leader and asked why they apprehended the van driver. The policeman replied, “Not wearing seatbelt, driver wearing slippers, and waiting for passengers in a non-designated area, outside regular van terminal.”

Oh well. Perhaps one reason why many criminals go scot-free is because the policemen are busy apprehending drivers not wearing seatbelts, or motorcycle riders who don’t wear helmets, other minor offenses. When the van driver asked, “Why don’t you apprehend the colorum vans? Your fellow policeman, Vargas, operates colorum vans.” The police officer who issued him the traffic violation ticket just walked away as if he never heard the van driver. Oh well.

Our van driver told us that perhaps those policemen have ‘marked’ him because they know that he’s a migrant from Manila and not an “original” Aklanon. But he has already migrated to the province and all he wants is a decent income for serving passengers. He murmured because those violations would cost him nearly P1,000 in penalties.