General Info about Guimaras
AREA: 604 sq km
NO. OF TOWNS: 3 (Buenavista, Jordan and Nueva Valencia)
Between the islands of Panay and Negros and accessible by pumpboat from Iloilo is the small island of Guimaras, known to Visayans as the site of the much-admired Roca Encantada (Enchanted Rock), summer house of the distinguished Lopez family of Iloilo. The house is perched on a promontory overlooking Guimaras Strait. Across the promontory is a picturesque group of coral islets called Siete Pecados (Isles of the Seven Sins), a curious counterpoint to the attractions of spiritual value in Guimaras. Near the capital town of Jordan is a Trappist Monastery, the only one in the Philippines; and Bala-an Bukid (Holy Mountain), a favorite Catholic pilgrimage site where a 30-minute climb up a stairway leads to a huge cross and chapel at the top. The town of Nueva Valencia, 20 kilometers south of Jordan, is host to Catilaran Cave, from where Ming jars have been unearthed and where on Good Friday the pangalap ritual is held. Hundreds of devotees recite prayers in Latin while crawling through the half-kilometer-long cave in the belief that they shall acquire supernatural powers, particularly for use against evil spirits.
A brief history:
Archaeologists and geologists believe that Guimaras was once connected to the Pany mainland. As far as historical documents can attest, Guimaras was known as "Himal-us" during the pre-Spanish period. Guimaras was an integral part of the Iloilo province established by the Spaniards. During the Filipino-American War, the US Army maintained a military reservation, known as Camp Jossman, in Buenavista as headquarters of the American forces in Panay. During this period, General Douglas MacArthur, then a first lieutenant, built the wharf at Buenavista. Guimaras was created a separate province on May 11, 1992.
"Hiligaynon" is widely spoken among the inhabitants. Residents of some barangay´s in Jordan and Nueva Valencia speak "Kinaray-a", a Hiligaynon variant.
Commerce and industry:
The economy is largely agricultural and the major crops are rice, coconut and fruits, especially cashew nuts, mango and kalamansi (a variety of Citrus).
In the country only Trappist Monastery located outside Jordan, the monks grow kalamansi. A plant Jordan processes mango into juice, jam and preserves. The town is also the site of a sugar refinery and bulk-loading sugar and molasses terminal. Limestone also abounds, used by a cement plant in Buenavista.
Other industries include fishing, charcoal- and basket-making, and hat, mat-weaving from pandan and buri palms.
Getting there and away:
The 25 minutes ferry ride to Jordan departs from close to Iloilo post office ca. every 30 minutes