The province of Guimaras is world famous for its mangoes, but there is more to this island province aside from the golden fruit. The mangoes get their flavor not just from the nutritious soil, but also from the people of Guimaras, who are very sweet people by their own right.
Our overnight stay in Guimaras was an unexpected sweet treat from my regional colleague/friend who grew up in Buenavista, the oldest municipality of the province.
World class mangoes + sweet and hospitable treat + heritage town = We definitely got lucky!
Guimaras’ Heritage Town
Buenavista is one of the five towns of Guimaras province. When the Spaniards colonized the Philippines, Gonzalo de Penalosa established a small settlement in the province in 1581.
The Spanish governor general was impressed by the location of the settlement and exclaimed ‘¡Buena Vista!’ (Spanish for ‘Beautiful View’). From then on, the town was named Buenavista.
When Christianity was introduced to the Western Visayas region, most especially in Iloilo province, it was only a short while before the religion also reached the island of Guimaras.
The Navalas Church (Parish of St. Isidore the Worker) built in 1880-1885 is an important historical site of the province. It is the oldest and only existing heritage church in Guimaras. The original edifice of the church made from coral mixed with rocks is kept intact, while the interiors and other parts of the church were already reconstructed.
Aside from the church, the belfry about a hundred meters in front of the church still exists. Engr. William Pillora, the ‘sweet’ friend who also doubled as our personal tour guide, narrated that it used to have a big bell around four feet tall. The bell was made of copper with gold in the middle, and was so huge that when it tolled, the bell can be heard from across Dumangas, Iloilo (adjacent town).
The bell was stolen and believed by the people of Navalas to be dumped into the sea near Isla del Siete Pecados by Muslim invaders. The locals believe that it is guarded by sea creatures, so no one tried to recover it.
Roca Encantada and Isla Del Siete Pecados
As we wandered across the countryside, we also reached Roca Encantada, the heritage house of the Lopez family (one of the well known Filipino clans from Iloilo).
In 1910, the house was built in honor of Doña Presentacion Hofileña Lopez. The National Historical Institute declared it as a ‘National Heritage House’ on August 14, 2002.
We were lucky because no one was home. We got the chance to wander around the house, enjoy the beautiful view of the sea, and catch the sweet embrace of the fresh air.
The house was built beside the sea and from there you’ll have an unimpeded view of the Isla Del Siete Pecados. It is a group of seven islands in between Buenavista, Guimaras and Dumangas, Iloilo.
While we were in Roca Encantada taking photos and enjoying the view, Engr. William shared an interested legend about Siete Pecados. The islands were believed to be the group of young boys who wanted to go to a party (Engr. William actually said ‘disco’) in Dumangas, Iloilo which was a boat ride away. Unfortunately, their boat capsized in the middle of their trip. Instead of drowning, they were turned into islands, to serve as a lesson on disobedience (and also of the dangers of excessive partying). Interesting right?
Another legend says the islands are uninhabited except for the largest where a
Spanish lighthouse was constructed in 1884. Legend has it that the isolation and loneliness of the seven islands was a punishment for disobedience. (http://www.choosephilippines.com/specials/lists/270/buenavista-guimaras-list/)
MacArthur in Buenavista
When we arrived in Buenavista, the first site I saw was the McArthur’s Wharf from the motor boat.
The wharf was named after him because he was responsible for the construction of the 7 km road from Brgy. Sto. Rosario to Brgy. Supang that leads to Buenavista wharf. The place is also a piece of history because when McArthur arrived in the town from West Point Germany, they were ambushed by the local guerillas.
Buenavista has a lot of history to tell including that of General Douglas McArthur during the American Regime, whose hat was shot by two locals who, had they shot only an inch lower, would have altered the course of history.http://www.buenavistaguimaras.gov.ph/index.php/about-buenavista/brief-history
Brgy. Supang is also one of the historical sites in Buenavista because a US reservation camp was built in the area after it was captured by MacArthur and his troops.
The transformation of Buenavista in terms of engineering was made possible by MacArthur and his team. The infrastructures they built are still being used by the people today.
Indeed, Buenavista stayed true to its name through the years. It is still a charming town with a beautiful view and an interesting story in Philippine history that needs to be told, re-told and be known for.
I still have four more towns to visit and explore in Guimaras soon. For a one-day adventure, the taste of Buenavista was one of sweetest adventure to date.