It was the middle of summer and it had been raining for a week already. I was spending most my time inside my room, staring at the computer all day because the weather outside wasn’t the most inviting. I was feeling bored all week … itching to go out of the house and do something more exciting. My phone’s ringing woke me up one morning and my friend (on the other line) mentioned that he was going to Caluya on that very day for a photoshoot/news coverage. I quickly screamed my excitement and jealousy at him and, consequently, he “invited” me. Well sort of … I dropped a lot of hints that I wanted to join him so he asked me to go with him as a polite gesture. I took his offer seriously … it’s not everyday that I get the opportunity to go to Caluya, one of the places I’ve been dying to visit.

A Sunset in Paradise

In case you’re wondering where Caluya is located, it’s an isolated town at the northern part of Antique Province. The town is composed of a group of islands approximately 36kms off the coast of Panay mainland. The most famous of the islands is Semirara, where one of the largest Coal Mine in Asia can be found. I’m sure you’re familiar with Boracay Island … Caluya is in the same area as Boracay but it’s another 3 hours away by boat from the mainland instead of the 5 minute boat ride to Boracay.


After a minute of planning, 10 minutes of packing and getting ready, 20 minutes travel time from my house in Iloilo City, I was already at the terminal for San Jose, Antique-bound vans. We arrived at San Jose, the capital town of Antique, after 2 hours and talked to some locals who organized the trip of us. It was still raining hard that time. We were advised us not to go on with the trip because of the bad weather. The locals even warned us that the waves in Caluya can get really gigantic or as locals say in the Karay-a dialect: “Daw simbahan ka bahul” (as big as a church). After a bit of thinking, we decided to push through with the plan anyways since we already spent quite an effort to get ready.

From San Jose, we rode another grueling 3 hour bus ride to Libertad, Antique, where we spent the night. At about 3am the next day, we woke up to catch the boat going to Caluya. Let me tell you about the boat. It’s made of wood and looks like a regular pumpboat (local motorized outrigger) but much bigger and can hold almost a hundred people + cargo. It was crowded, noisy, and really smelly. I’ve heard about this kind of ferries before. They’re called “Lancha” or Barge and to my knowledge, they’ve had a known history of sinking during big storms.

To our relief, it didn’t rain during the early morning hours. In fact, the conditions were perfect and picturesque with the calm sea lit softly by the full moon. We were seated at front deck of the ferry when a slight drizzle came. The rain started to get stronger. Since the benches inside the ferry were already too crowded, we had no choice but to seek refuge inside the ship’s “basement” (not sure what it is called exactly). It’s the part of the ship where they stuff the cargo like ohh say: Rice, Poultry and Livestock feeds, and Live Pigs …. yes! there were pigs, which stunk up the closed space but we had no choice. Good thing I was able to doze off despite the smell and the discomfort of lying over sacks of rice.

Natural Seaport
Our arrival in Caluya’s Natural Seaport

When I woke up, it was already dawn and my Caluya adventure finally started. We rode a tricycle from the port to the town proper where met the locals who toured us around. It was just perfect that the storm ended the very moment we arrived in the island. We were blessed with the summer heat during our whole stay in Caluya! I was very impressed with the raw beauty of the islands. The locals were also very friendly and accommodating. I had the best time spending my two days in paradise!

The first sunrise after the storm

Big wooden boat

Clear waters of Caluya near their natural seaport

Caluya’s Municipal Hall was surprisingly grand considering the isolated location of the town. It looked more like the reception building of quaint resort than a government building. I soon found out that Caluya’s local government is quite well off because of the tax revenues they get from the Semirara Coal Mine. Before setting off to explore the island, I noticed that most dwellings in town are concrete houses. This also surprised me because I was expecting a setting more akin to fishing villages in small islands I’ve visited before.


A glimpse of paradise

Seaweed Production


Seaweed farming is the main livelihood of the townsfolk. It was a great experience to visit one of the households and see a whole family in their typical day at work. Every member had a job to do and they looked very content. It seemed more like a bonding activity for the family than actual work. Our local guides told us that the income a family gets from seaweed farming is much higher than fishing. Many families of Caluya are happy with this because they can afford to send their children to school in the mainland.

Padre de Pamilya


They grow seaweeds by attaching the stems to a long string, which are suspended in the water using styrofoam. It’s amazing to see the vast seaweed farm systems spanning hundreds of hectares in Caluya’s waters. After the seaweed reaches its adult stage, they harvest and hang them on the side of the road to dry. The seaweed are then shipped to manufacturing plants in Cebu to be used as raw material.

Seaweeds at the Roadside


Seaweeds at the Roadside

Brgy. Imba

Getting the seaweeds dry

While waiting for our boat to Sibato Island, we got curious seeing some of the locals gathering near a coconut tree. We went in closer and found out they were prying open a mound of colorful sea urchins. It turns out that the sea urchins, known to them as “tirik” is a favorite local delicacy. An orange colored meat is revealed after opening a sea urchin. I did have my first taste of sea urchin. You can just eat the meat by scraping it with your fingers. It was just slimy at first but then had an after taste of salty and sweet flavors. I liked it very much! The spikes do not sting so you can pick them up with your bare hands. The sea urchins are scattered a few feet from the shore and there’s so many of them that you can probably collect a whole sack in less than an hour.

Seafolk Delicacy

Unfinished Seaport

Sibato Island is a 15 minute boat ride from the main island. White sand beaches border the whole coast of Sibato Island. The fine texture and sugary white color of the sand is very comparable to Station 1 of White Beach in Boracay. Strolling along the shore made me reminisce the beauty of Boracay that I experienced during my visits to the island when I was still a kid, at a time when White Beach was still pristine and undeveloped. The islands of Caluya is personally one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to.

Sibato Island

Native Houes

Captured Turtles

Virgin White Beach of Sibato Is.

Footsprints in the sand

Spot the different

Harvesting Sea urchins!

Starfishes ^_^

I’ve known about Caluya before for it’s famous Coconut Crabs. The locals call it “tatus” and they celebrate their “Tatusan Festival” every April. It wasn’t in season during our visit so we didn’t have the chance to get a taste. We did manage to find a local, who still had one tatus for show. It was huge! and I was a bit scared because it looked like a mutated spider with claws. It’s sold in Caluya for P500 per kilo. I was informed that prices in Iloilo City go as high as P1,500 per kilo and much more expensive in Manila restaurants. There are also Coconut Crabs in other places in the Philippines (like Batanes) but the people in Caluya claim that their blue colored variety is the tastiest.

Tatus Cave

Fish Seller

Colorful fishes for sale at the sidewalks

Coconut Crab or 'Tatus'

Coconut Crab or 'Tatus'

We stayed at a pension house near the municipal hall. I enjoyed my stay there because it’s located along a gorgeous white sand beach. Caluya is so blessed to have this kind of setting just within the town proper. During our first night, we had a bonfire along the shore. Our Caluyanun friends brought a few bottles of tanduay rhum and tirik as “sumsuman.” They had different ways of cooking tirik like “grilled” and “adobo na tirik.” Both of them tasted great but eating it raw and fresh from the sea was my favorite.

Beachfront in Caluya Poblacion

Beachfront in Caluya Poblacion

Virgin Beach

After my Caluya adventure, I was still feeling  the urge to see more sights and wasn’t prepared to go home yet. I was at the mainland already (in Libertad) with the bus headed back to San Jose parked in front of me. I asked the locals for other transportation options and found out about the jeeps bound for Caticlan. I decided to go on another impromptu trip, this time, to Boracay. My journey continued and I experienced another first …. going to Boracay via Libertad – Buruanga coastal road!

Caluya Ferry Schedule

Banton Liner Services – MB Banton Liner 7

  • Libertad (Antique) to Mindoro via Caluya/Semirara
    Departure: Libertad; 4:00A.M.
    Weekly Schedule: every Saturday and Tuesday
  • Mindoro to Libertad (Antique) via Caluya/Semirara
    Departure: Mindoro; 10:00A.M.
    Weekly Schedule: every Sunday and Wednesday
  • Contact No: 09103663983, 09293905448, 09184035938

Banton Liner Services – MB Banton Liner 6

  • Libertad (Antique) to Mindoro via Caluya/Semirara
    Departure: Libertad
    Weekly Schedule: every Sunday and Thursday
  • Mindoro to Libertad (Antique) via Caluya/Semirara
    Departure: Mindoro
    Weekly Schedule: every Monday and Friday
  • Contact No: 09127546748, 09289492658

Travel Time and Fares

  • Iloilo to San Jose, Antique by van (2 hours) – P125
  • San Jose to Libertad, Antique by bus (4 hours) – P103
  • Libertad to Masanag Wharf, Caluya by ferry boat (4-5 hours) – P220
  • Masanag Wharf to Poblacion, Caluya by tricycle (30 minutes) – P40

Where to Stay in Caluya

  • Caluya Pension – located within walking distance from the Caluya Municipal Hall (right side facing the building).
  • Banton Lodging House – located near the wharf

For more inquiries contact:

  • Caluya Liaison Office
    Address: San Nicolas Bldg. T. Fornier St., San Jose, Antique
    Landline: (036) 540-7024
    Email: [email protected]