Guimaras is a province 15 minutes away from Iloilo and can be reached by riding a pump boat. Guimaras is known around the globe for producing the most luscious and the sweetest mangoes, thus they have an annual celebration termed as Manggahan Festival, (Mangga is the local term for mango.)
Manggahan Festival is a month long celebration of Guimaras’ rich culture, and their feast of thanksgiving for having bestowed a rich land where delicious mangoes are being grown. Originally, it was just a week-long celebration of Guimaras as an independent province since May 22, 1992, but through the years, with all the success that the province has attained, Manggahan Festival has evolved to a more vibrant and fun- filled month long event.
How to get there
From Iloilo City, take a jeepney (SM City Proper Jeepney) from SM City or in front of University of the Philippines Visayas Iloilo City Campus or a cab that will bring you to Ortiz wharf. (There are other ports in Iloilo, so make sure to instruct the driver that you are going to ORTIZ wharf) From the wharf, you board a pump boat and for only Php 14.00 you will be transported to Jordan, Guimaras in less than 20 minutes.
When you get there, you will be swamped by a number of tricycle drivers and jeepney drivers offering you different discounts which at first will sound cheap and convenient, but if you are on a tight budget, take the public jeepney. If you are after convenience, you can always rent a minicab or a tricycle depending on the number of passengers. If you want the tricycle for yourselves, the price range is between Php 100.00- Php200.00 going to Guimaras Provincial Capitol. If you want to save, from Jordan wharf, take the San Miguel jeep and ask to be dropped at Guimaras Provincial Capitol. The fare is only Php 13.00 and will take you around 30-45 minutes.
Manggahan Festival Events
There are tons of events that will provide entertainment depending on your interests. Just check out their facebook account: Manggahan Festival for updates and details of the activities because they vary every year. A few favourite events are the Cultural Show, where in different groups from different baranggays perform a dance showcasing their colourful way of life in Guimaras and always highlighting the mangoes. What got my attention and what sets it apart from other tribe competitions is that it is in the form of a dance drama. This 2014, I have witnessed how the young performers danced gracefully in their very colourful costumes then suddenly shift to a sort of like voice choir presentation then end with an energetic dance.
Another favourite event is the Mango All You Can. Yes, you got that right – eat all the mangoes your sweet tooth and your tummy can handle. The registration fee is only Php 100.00 and you are given 30 minutes to eat as many mangoes as you can. Some participants are really competitive while most are there to experience the world’s juiciest mangoes and have a picture taken with Mango Man, the official mascot for the Manggahan Festival. It is fun to this activity with your friends or family after having lunch in one of the food kiosks nearby. There are food stalls offering native dishes – I really enjoyed their squid adobo, and their boneless bangus.
For a month, there are exhibits of handmade and indigenous products, a fair in the plaza, where you can buy mangoes ranging from Php 70.00 to P 85.00 per kilo. There are also other mango products like the mango otap, mango ketchup and cashew nuts products as well.
Apart from what I have witnessed when I was there, other events such as the marathon, Mr. Guimaras, Mutya ng Guimaras, fireworks display, exhibits at the museum, street dancing, and a lot more can be done or seen in the humble province of Guimaras. The highlights are usually scheduled on the third week of May.
If you happen to visit Iloilo especially in May, you will not regret including Guimaras and Manggaahan Festival in your itinerary, and please do not go home without tasting the best mangoes the 1995 Guiness World Record’s Sweetest Mangoes!