(STAR) By Divine Sanchez-Ngujo - Best known for producing the sweetest mangoes in the world, Guimaras is one of the Philippines’ smallest provinces. Actually this island in Western Visayas is not so small when it comes to tourist attractions and activities.

First-time visitors will be awed by the island’s verdant landscape, and the characteristic rural ambience now enhanced with well-paved roads that are beautifully bordered with tropical trees. They will also be enamored with the warmth of the residents, who are more interested in showing their hospitality than hawking trinkets and other souvenirs.

Tourists can enjoy the scenic and magnificent white-sand beaches and coves dotting the island or relax in any of Guimaras’ inland, mountain or beach resorts.

For the more adventurous tourists, activities abound, such as rock climbing, mountain biking, spelunking and trekking. One tour of this kind is the Discovery Quest, which starts in Guisi, the heritage site in the southwestern part of the island.

Tourists assemble in Sitio Guisi, site of the ruins of an 18th-century Spanish lighthouse, the second oldest in the country. From there, tourists trek down to Basyaw Cove, where they can go boating or snorkeling or learn about mangroves and their importance to the locals.

After that, they pedal their way to Tagsing Cave or continue island-hopping. A rappelling session can be added to the tour. The exhilarating tour takes about eight hours and is capped with a sampling of local cuisine.

Guimaras, with its splendid coral reefs and marine life, is also an ideal spot for scuba divers. Nature trippers can explore the island’s unspoilt beauty, stunning rock formations, and white beaches, all of which make the island a perfect haven.

The most prominent tourist attractions and must-see locations include the Roca Encantada (Enchanted Rock) in Buenavista town. The imposing mansion on a huge rock is the summer house of the Lopez clan. Though modern looking, the mansion is actually 99 years old, and has been declared a heritage house by the National Heritage Institute.

The Costa Aguada Island Resort on Inampulugan Island boasts of its clean, white-sand beaches, a mini-zoo and a jungle park that is ideal for horseback riding. There’s also the Reyman Beach Resort in Alubihod, Nueva Valencia for its crystal-clear water and sumptuous food.

A trip to Guimaras wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery in the capital, Jordan. Founded in 1972, it is the only monastery of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, or Trappists, in the country. Here, visitors may request for a counseling session with an abbot or just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet, or shop for souvenir items and processed food made by the monks.

And, yes, the mangoes! Over 8,000 hectares of Guimaras is covered by mangoes, the main agricultural product. The variety grown on the island is acknowledged as one of the sweetest in the world, besides being the only one in the country that has been certified pest-free by the US Department of Agriculture.

Guimaranons are very proud of their mangoes, which have found their way into the discriminating American and Australian markets. And to preserve the reputation of their mangoes, Guimaras does not allow tourists to bring mangoes into the island. A tourist check at the port ensures that this rule is complied with.

A Manggahan Festival is also held in May to promote the mangoes and commemorate the founding of Guimaras as a province.

Add to all these great things to do and see in Guimaras is the island-province’s accessibility, technology-wise. Even if you are far from the crowd, you don’t feel isolated from the rest of the world. There is telecommunication service, and yes, the Internet.

These days, the expanded and upgraded network coverage of Smart Communications Inc. offers High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), and Guimaras is one of the many places in the country with the fastest HSPA coverage.

HSPA is high-speed broadband experience on a mobile device, such as a handset or a Smart Bro Plug-it USB modem. Tourists wanting to share their Guimaras experience with their family and friends back home may do so anytime, anywhere just by using a Smart Bro Plug-it USB modem.

Plugged into a laptop through a quick and easy process, the Smart Bro Plug-it USB modem connects to Smart’s HSPA network and delivers multimedia downloading and uploading at speeds of up to 2Mbps.

The prepaid Smart Bro Plug-it broadband kit costs only P1,995 and connectivity costs only P10 for every 30 minutes. Loading it is also as convenient as loading a prepaid mobile phone, since load for Smart Bro Prepaid is available from over a million Smart Load retailers all over the country.

With Smart Bro, there’s no limit to what could be discovered in Guimaras and wirelessly shared with the rest of the world.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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