Alkan, considered the oldest province in the Philippines, is located in the northwestern tip of the island of Panay. This well-visited province faces the Romblon island cluster to its north and is one kilometer away from the famous island paradise Boracay, also in the same direction. Aklan is probably one of the busiest provinces in the Philippines due to the tourist activity in Boracay, especially during the summer months of March through May.
Getting to Aklan
Land travel is also possible through the bus line Philtanco which passes Caticlan through the Strong Republic Nautical Highway. This means of getting into Aklan will be exhausting to the traveler but it can be a rewarding experience to see the countryside.
Visitors headed to Boracay will have to pass through the Caticlan Jetty port, board a 15-minute ferry ride to Cagban port in Boracay. From there, visitors can either ride a tricycle to White Beach or arrange transportation with their hotels.
The People of Aklan
The people of Aklan, called Aklanons, have a stellar hospitable character. Perhaps this is due to decades of experience in welcoming visitors into the province. Ilonggo is the main dialect spoken in the island of Panay; it is very similar to Visayan, only it is spoken in a much gentler tone. Locals are soft-spoken and can understand and even speak English, Tagalog or a combination of both.
Most locals make a living as tour guides, vendors, boatmen, masseurs/masseuse and henna tattoo artists in Boracay. Expect to see throngs of locals carrying hotel signage and offering their wares at the jetty ports and along White Beach. Some vendors can be very insistent, especially to foreign-looking tourists. A simple “no, thank you” will usually be enough get them to proceed to the next potential customer. Visitors are advised to arrange boat transfers and island transportation when arriving and departing to ensure safety. Otherwise, only the usual level of discretion and common sense should be practiced.
Boracay has charmed the rest of the world in the past decades, resulting to a boom in its economy and businesses have mushroomed ever since. Its beauty has dramatically changed over time but definitely not to its detriment. High season in the island starts in October and extends to May. However, it is most crowded during Holy Week (Spring Break); this is when White Beach and it’s waters are literally covered by tourists swimming, tanning and waiting for their turn to participate in the number of water sports available.
White Beach, the most touristy part of the island is divided into three boat stations. Station 1 is the quietest part of the beach and it is also where the most expensive hotels and resorts are located. Station 2 is the most crowded; D’Mall and most restaurants can be found here as well as a lot of water sports vendors. The paraws (outrigger boats) dock in Station 2 before sunset while tourists line the shore waiting for the majestic view.
Station 3 is where you can find plenty of affordable accommodations. This part of the beach has a distinct bohemian vibe that backpackers and beach bums love. Seasoned tourists can tell by the sand quality what station they are in; Station 1 has the finest sand quality and it diminishes as you head to Station 3.
Staying true to the Filipino festive character, the people of Aklan hold some annual festivals that tourists come to the province for. The Ati-Atihan Festival is considered one of the wildest in the Philippines, with tribe people painting their faces and bodies with soot and dancing in the streets to drumbeats and shouts of ‘Hala Bira!’ The festival is held in honor of the Sto. Nino during early January. Marked by street dancing, parades, pageants, trade fairs and local food shows, Ati-atihan lures thousands of local and international tourists every year.
Another noteworthy celebration is the Bariw Festival in the town of Nabas, located in the western portion of the province. The festival aims to promote the local cottage industry as well as the natural attractions of the town. Witnessing the Bariw Festival provides tourists the opportunity to shop for hats, mats, bags and other unique local products. This festival takes place every April.
Aklan is a province that has placed itself in the global tourism map because of its natural beauty and festive attitude. With the almost endless opportunities for recreation, entertainment and relaxation, it is definitely a destination that will impress even the most seasoned of travelers.