I was gone for the long weekend of Halloween to one of the country’s overlooked tourists’ destinations – Romblon.
A cluster of 20 islands and islets of 17 municipalities and 17 dialects, Romblon is the marble capital of the country, as taught to us in our childhood days. Its capital town, also named Romblon in the island of the same name was my recent discovery.
Romblon, Romblon is the heart of the province, geographically and politically. This town capital is an island situated in between the bigger islands of Sibuyan and Tablas. Sibuyan Island is known for its white sand beaches and for Mt. Guiting-Guiting, a favorite trek for mountaineers, while Tablas Island also harbors great beaches apart from being the gateway to the province by air.
But Romblon, Romblon beckons everyone with its own beauty – numerous unspoiled dive sites, white sand island beaches and caves, lovely people and its inland treasures of historical and religious significance.
My original plan was to go to the nearby Cobrador Island, still part of the town, but with limited time, I ended up exploring the inland spots. No regrets though, because with the short stint in the island, I have proven that Romblon is more than the marble as we used to equate it.
I commissioned Kuya Dodong, a trike driver, to tour and guide me around the town’s places of interests for a hefty amount of P500 which I later realized to be expensive. I was first brought to St. Joseph Cathedral of Poblacion, Romblon, Romblon. The church and its belfry is the oldest in the province. Originally built in 15th century by Recollect Fathers, the church underwent a major renovation and reconstruction to what it is now. But the old collection of antique icons and religious paintings still remain inside.
Then we went to the two old forts on the two adjacent hills near the port – the fortresses of San Andres and Santiago. The twin forts made of coral blocks and bricks were erected during the Spanish era to guard the town against the Moro raiders and Dutch pirates. To date, the two forts have already lost their old grandeur. The Fort San Andres now houses the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) Romblon observatory while Fort Santiago is almost gone.
After trekking the two hills, we then drove five kilometers to Barangay Lonos, to perhaps the most beautiful beach in the island – Bonbon Beach, a privately owned beach with white sand on a gradually sloping seafront that stretches up to approximately two kilometers. It is linked to an islet named Bang-og which is submerged on a knee to chest deep sandbar during low tide. The beach has no cottages and amenities, and since it is a private property, you need to ask permission if you have plan of docking or camping there.
From Bonbon Beach, we walked to the coastline, crossed the big boulders and reached a small strip of white sand beach named Margie, which is connected to another beach named Tiamban, only separated by smaller boulders. Unlike the other two, Tiamban Beach has cottages and structures.
After hopping beach after beach in Barangay Lonos, we drove for almost half-an-hour, passing some dive shops before reaching Barangay Talipasak where the San Pedro Beach Resort is located. San Pedro beach Resort offers a quiet and relaxed beach accommodation for as low as P600 per night on a fan room. The resort, owned by Ate Mina Mingowa (+639282730515), has eight room cottages, a restaurant and offers a secluded and private beach. We spent sometime in the resort listening to Ate Mina’s stories and some facts of Romblon. She knows a lot about the place, her hometown.
At noon, we left the Talipasak and drove back to the town, but Kuya Dodong brought me to the Provincial Capitol Complex first before ending the tour. By 1 PM, I was already at Romblon Deli, ordering a whole Hawaiian Pizza. I took the pizza to my room at Parc Bay Mansion and spent some time watching Living Asia Channel while pigging out the whole pizza that was actually good for six person. Shortly after, I went out and walked around the town center. There were a lot of atis vendors in the plaza, these atis came from Nagoso or Cobrador Island, according to one of the vendors. I walked further and passed by Romblon Plaza Hotel, the public theater where the youth leaders were busy preparing for their Halloween party at night, the plaza and the church before going back to my room.
I was actually thinking of my way home since Rapal Ferry to Batangas will depart late afternoon of the next day and Montenegro the day after Rapal. I already set my mind for a Romblon-San Agustion-Odiongan-Roxas-Calapan-Batangas-Manila route, but a few minutes before five, I went to my room’s window and saw the M/V Princess Annavell docked at the port. I quickly went down and asked around about its next destination. To my surprise, it was heading to Batangas in 10 minutes. Right then and there, I decided to catch that ferry. It was the perfect ferry, I said to myself. I needed to go home ahead of the others who will be returning to the city the next day. So I hurriedly packed my stuff and made my self ready to go in less than five minutes. The hotel staff offered his habal-habal, and I made it to the ferry just on time. The ferry staff told me to board immediately and pay for the fare inside the ship. The moment I stepped in, the gangplank was raised and the ferry left the port. Whew! That was quick! I didn’t even pay the terminal fee.
I spent only nine hours in Romblon and 34 hours in travel, 28 of which by boat on very rough seas. Honestly, I got afraid of the ride and I almost throw up of dizziness. But as Ate Mina says, the discomfort of going to Romblon is all worth it. I couldn’t agree more.
The hassle and buzzle of going to and around Romblon is perhaps one of the reasons why tourists seldom go there. Nevertheless, Ate Mina and I like the way it is now, a serene paradise unspoiled and unexploited.