The Island of Romblon is part of the mini archipelagic province of same name, Romblon, in spite of its smaller size compared to its gigantic island neighbors, Tablas and Sibuyan, still has many adventures and experiences to offer to its visitors. Famed for its rich marble supply, the quarry industry has provided livelihood to the locals and littered the main alleyways with marble souvenirs. The small island is also dotted with beautiful resorts at its fringe, offering views of its next door islands. Romblon Island excites me with its off-beat yet serene vibes, would be happy to take the long road to this another paradise island in the Philippines.
Taking the night ferry from Batangas Pier, we nonchalantly perched on one of the cold seats in the passenger-packed departure area while waiting for the boarding announcement. Despite the late hour, the airconditioned chamber is buzzing alive with many TV monitors exhibiting different locals channels, passengers chitchatting, the in-house food stalls apparently awake with their catchy signage and children running around freely. There was a momentary delay, however, shortly, we found ourselves queued to board. passing through a platform, and then, laying our bags down meters away from us for canine sniffing before the actual embarkation.
It is my very first time for a long haul transit via a large ship. We found our personal nooks in an airconditioned public cabin. The first few hours is a nuisance to my ears with the cacophony of passengers around. The ship has an open bar on its stern and we chose to lounge there prior the ship left the port. With few cans of beer, we enjoyed the first few hours of the voyage, and called it a night. We returned to a now more pleasant and quiet yet artic cabin, with the aircondition units at its full blast. The free linens did not help and our “malongs” were our effective protective barrier against the cold indoor draft.
My eyes peeled when I heard the captain’s call through the paging system – we are prepared for docking. We hurried on deck, and from there, we can see the Romblon Island, with its main town area, squeezed between the mountains chock-full of thick forests and deep blue sea. The atop the hills are decked with apparently equidistant windmills. In my mind, “sure there are tons and tons of marble supply there”. The ship already on its full stop, the platform lowered, and now, passengers started pouring on the dry dock.
At the gates of the seaport, we are welcomed with abundant drivers offering their tourist services. We already had a contact arranged, and we waited for him, while we have our first Romblon breakfast.
Soon as our driver arrived on his tricycle with a back-to-back sidecar, enough to fit the four of us. Our heavy backpacks are bound safely on the sidecar roof, and shortly we are to circumvent the Romblon Island.
We passed by the St. Joseph Cathedral. I am amazed by its architectural features. The thick buttress and church, along with the detached bell tower are lined with thick bricks. The second tier of the bell tower features arch windows from adobe bricks with top exterior wall overlaid with modern concrete. The large dome perched high above and is a prominent structure around the town area.
Next destination are the factories where the intricately designed marble souvenir and items are quarried and painstakingly carved. We arrived on dusty workshop littered with fine white dust and plenty of WIPs – statues, trinkets, and more.
We have met a marble shop owner and sculptor, Sir Wilky Tiologo. We are happy that he had taken his valuable time to show us around his workshop and sample works. I also saw one of his staff, currently wet polishing a dragon designed figurine sculpted from a brown-colored marble. With the fine details, they are able to create from an incredibly solid material, I am more than amazed by their craftsmanship – that patience and persistence to create such a piece of art. Another feature of the roadside workshop is their own personal treehouse – best spot to rest after a whole day’s toil. A good tip too, it is best to purchase your souvenir here, prices are lower compared from the town center, plus, you are able to help the directly the producers. I bough leaf designed soap dish for a our kitchen sink. We bade goodbye to Sir Wilky afterwards.
The provincial road now winds through deep the mountainous core of the island. Cool wind swept our faces when we passed through a forested area. The sun has already poised itself high and the summer heat already creeping. We passed by more roadside quarry sites and spotted more on view, creating huge bald spots against the mountain slopes, exposing light brown to almost white craggy walls of marble. We stopped at one and took pictures with the barren side.
We saw another marble processing center and it features a gigantic rock cutter, that has, approximately, 15 feet diameter of solid metal disk that creates inches thick sheets of marble. They are used mostly with table counter tops and other home and garden decors. We halted our drive since we want to witness the actual rock cutting. The machine released earsplitting noise as the disk starts to inch through the rock. Beneath the machine steady stream of milky white fluid, water mixed with fine white dust, flows through the channels away from the workshop area. It was my first time to experience such process.
I felt the thirst and we hurried to find a local store in search of bottled soda. We found one on the next community. We continued to drive southwards and, shortly, we saw the sea and the neighboring Sibuyan Island with the treacherous Mt. Guiting Guiting brimming through the horizon. Soon when we reached the Sablayan Point, we hurried to the sea bringing our cameras. We are welcomed with turquoise colored waters splashing through rocky coast on the left side and crashing on the brown pebbly shore on the right. Beside the shore, there are huts that offer cold Halo Halo. We ordered each and consumed while we enjoy the cooler ambiance.
Moving on the next destination is the Apunan Lighthouse. It is situated at the lower-left flank of the island. The lighthouse structure is perched on top of a rocky cliff with impressive views of the clear inviting waters below. We entered the lighthouse complex whilst there is a noisy party happening nearby. The sun is already blazing on its full strength and we hurried to find shade. The administration building seems to be in ruins, however, a family was able to maintain, if not restore its integrity. The middle-aged man with identifiable sunburnt skin welcomed us with a smile and required us to register in their logbook. After this, we hurried around within the complex. The sky turned almost completely cloudless and the warm humid wind started to blow. From the view deck at the edge of the cliff, we are able to easily spot a huge Moral Eel foraging on the rocky portion of the beach. The sea in front of us blazed between shades of deep blue to light turquoise to crystal clear at the shallowest portions. We left the lighthouse complex with now gurgling tummies.
The Reggae Vibes would be our next destination to have our late lunch. We arrived on a huge hut structure with its facade adorned with attributable green, yellow, and red cloth.
It is a beachfront resort with huts that Millenials would love, designed with sleeping quarters at the attic and open designed living quarters below it. Upon stepping on its reception area, we are greeted with smiles and we hurriedly ordered our lunch – bowl meals. We waited outside under the shade of coconut trees, a patio just outside the reception building, perched on a raised platform and facing the sultry sea on full view. It took time to prepare but the rewarding view kept us entertained. We ended our hearty lunch with a huge bottle of almost frozen soda.
The next destination is about half an hour drive and we slog back to the tricycle and we sleepily traversed. We arrived at Tiamban Beach Resort, and excitedly ran to the shores after paying for entrance fees. There are many tourists here since of its proximity to Romblon town proper. We did not stay long here because we are excited to see the famed Bonbon beach. After arriving finally on our last destination for the day, we excitedly alighted from our ride.
Bonbon beach is one of the few public beaches I know, maintained by the government, and easily accessible from Romblon Islands town center – drive between 10-15 minutes approximately. Upon registration, you will be reminded by the resort staff of the regulations which goes around the principle of Clean As You Go.
During low tide, the sandbar extension of Bonbon beach extends reaching the nearby Bang-Og Island. It is best to marvel at the sunset here while enjoying the clear waters of the public beach. We spend most of the remaining daylight here frolicking around.
We spent the night at El Krimphoff Resort (Contact Number +63 998 433 8937), located about 20 minutes away from the town proper. A two-storey villa fronting the rocky shore was our accommodation for the night. The following day, we left Romblon Island on a 3:00 PM Ferry via Navios Lines bound back to Batangas Pier. Prior to boarding, we visited San Andres Fort, located on a hill offering a commanding view the town proper. We bought essentials at the nearest store to the gate of the port. Momentarily, we are in the private cabin we reserved. With heavy heart, we waited for Captain’s call to disembark and take a long trip back to Luzon Mainland.
Romblon Island can be circumvented and explored within a day, but there are many spots and destinations that could take days just to visit all. Its smaller islands and islets its northern rim are just part of the many adventures you can experience with the province. Should you wish to visit Tablas and Sibuyan Island, there are daily public boats plying these routes, including Carabao Island. Romblon was the 80th province I visited in completing the goal to visit all 81 provinces of the Philippines.
Photos in Navios Lines Sea Vessel bound to Batangas Pier
Looking into visiting Sibuyan and Tablas? Check the blog of Joan’ s Footprints.