VOYAGE to Marinduque, Philippines!

26/05/2015 § Leave a comment


Torrijos

Mabuhay!

This time, I went to the land known for its beautiful beaches, panoramic sunsets, sweet mangoes, local delicacies, and friendly, smiling people. Maybe I’m over exaggerating the description but the words were really not my own. Anyway, you guessed it right – The Philippines, my beloved home country, bountiful of natural resources.

As Philippines is an archipelago with seven thousand, one hundred seven islands (at least as I remembered it), it is right to note which certain state/province/island I visited. My target this time was Marinduque, in the heart of the Philippines, known for its Moriones Festival.

Most of my friends asked me, “Why Marinduque?”. I understand where they were coming from. Out of all the internationally-known summer holiday destinations in my home country, and there were a number of them too, I just had to choose an island not-so-popular if not for their Moriones Festival. I wouldn’t have thought about going there at all if a good friend of mine did not happen to move there last year. I made a promise to visit her, and keeping true to my words, I did. And I did not regret doing so.

Marinduque is a lovely island, with kind and peace-loving people, fresh air from the mountains and seas, and a little detachment from my accustomed urban life. The roads are never busy which is a plus point for me as I got used  to living in Singapore. No high-rise buildings, or any establishment carrying international names (I mean it), except the basic banks and pharmacies. The beaches are simple but clean, and the waters are clear and calm. You get breathtaking sights by driving through the mountain roads, and an amazing experience by diving twenty-five feet below sea surface. And you can have a feast on delectable local island dishes and a variety of Filipino goods too, and only for a fairly cheap price. Really, what is there not to love about this island? Oh, one thing maybe. Internet connectivity is not that fast (well, it is Philippines), if you have any connection at all. Well, since you’re on a holiday anyway, why not leave your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram alone for a couple of days?

I would say that the island is definitely a haven for nature-loving people like myself, and for people who likes something with raw appeal. It is like a raw gem that needs to be polished for it to shine. There were a lot of things there that are worth visiting, and using the right method to appeal to the travel-loving people, its tourism will definitely blossom. I heard that tourist population who visited the island were actually lesser as compared to the previous years. Maybe the Department of Tourism needs a wake-up call soon. It just tears me inside thinking that the raw appeal of the island that I love will vanish one day.

Travel Period: 31st March to April 5th 2015

Yep, just in time for the Moriones Festival, which happens every year on Good Friday. I’m not one for crowded holiday gathering, but since I’m there, I might as well see it for myself. Honestly, I would have chosen a different travel period if I had known. But it’s not so bad from time to time.

Getting there: Warning: it is a long journey. But if you love long rides, you’ll enjoy this one.

There were a few bus lines that goes directly to the island coming from Metro/Mega Manila. I would suggest to book or buy your ticket earlier than your intended travel date, as there are limited buses that actually goes to the island proper. If you’re not lucky enough to get that Marinduque-headed bus, you could always take a bus that will bring you to Dalahican Port in Lucena, and you could get your ferry ride from there. There were bus lines operating to Marinduque island or Lucena coming from Cubao, Buendia, or Muntinlupa.

J.A.C. Liner is the one that I took to head to Lucena coming from Kamuning (Cubao), which left at around 1600hrs, and reached Lucena Dalahican Port at about 2100hrs. The ticket cost is 228PhP. Here’s the link for the JAC Liner bus line.

Once you get to the Dalahican Port, head to the ticketing counter for the ferry. I was instructed to take Starhorse Ferry headed for Balanacan Port. The ferry ride costs 260Php. You will also have to purchase terminal fee which costs 30PhP. Despite arriving at the terminal by 2100hrs, I unfortunately got the ferry departing at 2330hrs, instead of the one departing at 2130hrs. That’s two hours waiting time, so you might want to bring something to entertain yourself with. The ferry left Dalahican Port at midnight, and reached Balanacan Port in Marinduque at a little past three in the morning.

Besides Starhorse, there is another ferry operating to Marinduque coming from Dalahican Port which is Montenegro. And just for the note, there are also other ports in Marinduque besides Balanacan, so, do your research and know which port is closer to your intended destination.

Another option is to take your car with you for a more comfortable and faster drive. You could park the car at Dalahican Port, or bring it with you to Marinduque, charges applies of course. If you are travelling in a group, it would be better to bring the car with you so you could travel from one place to the next in a more comfortable manner, given that you know your way around the island.

Total travel time: Five hours by land from Manila, plus three hours by sea from Lucena. Please consider the waiting time too.

Additional info: There is actually a small local airport in the island but no airlines has been en route to the island. You could wait for a budget airline to set its eyes on the island, and I guess the travel time would take about an hour or lesser.

Accommodation: I did mention that I have a friend who is staying in the island, but her place is actually an establishment that accommodates travelers. So I practically stayed in a room at Lucky Seven Pension House in Boac, the capital municipality of Marinduque. As I got a free accommodation, I could not quote the room rates.

I’m pretty aware that I’m making my visit on a holiday period but I did not know that it would be a really busy period for my friend as well. I did not get to go island hopping and see a sandbar but I still managed to enjoy my stay.

Day 1
My friend participated in the Marinduque Expo 2015, wanting to get more business for her restaurant. It is held at the Moriones Plaza just next to the Boac River. And while they were doing the preparations, I took a little tour of the area, mainly to see the Boac River.

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I would say that the river, though not grandiose, was beautiful with that mountains, and clear skies backdrop. And for someone used to living in a city filled with high-rise buildings, ‘beautiful’ is an understatement. I heard that it was a lot better before than it is now, if not for the oil spill-slash-mining issue that caused a pollution, hence deteriorating the beauty of the river. It’s been years now and the river has managed to somehow recuperate itself from the damage. I would love to see how the river is used to be like though.


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Note: The sunset is also worth seeing from the river. It’s not like the beach-kind-of-sunset with the endless horizon in view. But how does the silhouette of the trees and mountains against that big reddish sun, orange-y sky with pink and purple clouds sound to you? It’s was awesomazing for me! I witnessed it, and it was definitely lovely.

Laylay Beach

We also made a short trip to Laylay Beach. It’s about ten minutes drive from Boac, and the closest one to the municipality. Do not expect a white powdery sand kind of beach. It is just a normal beach that happens to be closest to the place I’m staying at. Nonetheless, it is still a nice and clean beach with a good view of the sunset. There was also this port-like ruin that has never been maintained, adding a rustic charm to your sunset viewing drama.

Before heading back to Lucky 7, we also visited the Boac Church. It’s already nighttime and I could not exactly appreciate the vintage and rustic appeal of the old church at that time. I like old buildings against a crisp and clear blue sky. What’s more? I’m inappropriately dressed so I did not dare tour the inside of the church. I took a peak though, and it is really pretty inside.

Day 2
The highlight of my second day in Marinduque is the visit to Kawa Kawa Falls at Sta. Cruz. The falls is not the big and tall kind, but more like a series of small falls connected by streams and lakes which makes it more appealing. The spring water is really cool and the kids I am together with enjoyed it. You get to take a dip in the water coming from the mountains, and I would like to think that it’s full of minerals and somewhat healthy. As the place is in the middle of the mountain, it is surrounded by trees and is shaded, and the breeze is just as fresh and cool as it could be. At least you would not get a terrible sunburn here as compared to when you go to the beach.

Kawakawa Falls

From a high point of the falls,  it’s like an infinity pool surrounded by mountains and trees, which I would say is a lot more refreshing than going to a rooftop infinity pool in the city. Getting to the high point is the problem though. You will have to take a short climb over the rocks, which could get dangerous, and if you happen to fall you’ll just drop at the lake, which I heard is pretty deep. But I managed to do it, painstakingly so, and I’m actually glad that I did. The sight is simply breathtaking.

We also visited Camp Freedom Eco-Adventure Park at Bunganay for a little extreme experience. I tried the wall climbing and Zip Line, with the peak point having a great view of the sunset. I also tried wall climbing and it was real hard work.

Day 3
On my third day in the island, we drove for about one and a half hour to the other side of Marinduque, Torrijos. It’s located exactly opposite of Boac in the map. Torrijos is the area with the only white beach, known as Poctoy White Beach. It was already pretty packed when we arrived at the public beach, so we decided to have our lunch at Beach Club Cagpo, and enjoy the private white beach there. And by private, I mean we almost have the beach exclusively for ourselves.

Torrijos

The waters of the sea here is very clear that you can see the sea urchins (and avoid them), the sea grasses, small fishes, and even small crab. As the water is so clear, the kids get to see live fishes swimming in their natural habitat. Man, they even tried catching them. I believe that it is a good experience for them, especially with the techy lifestyle these kids are living.  And we even saw blue starfishes near the bay. Aren’t we lucky?

The best part for me is that the beach is so picturesque. I took a lot of shots of the beach with that backdrop of the mountain, clear blue skies, and white fluffy clouds. Since September last year, I was looking forward to a sunshiny, summery day at the beach. I did not quite get that when I visited Phuket, so I’m ecstatic when I finally got it. Oh wait, actually that’s the second best part. The best part is actually the experience and the things I got to see twenty-five feet below the sea surface. Yep, Scuba Diving!

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We waited for the dive master at Beach Club Cagpo, and the moment I saw his boat arrived near the bay, I knew it’s time for me to enjoy myself to the fullest. Marinduque is a pretty good site for diving as its underwater world, and the nearby islands is teeming with life. It’s so colorful down there with all the different kinds of corals, fishes, starfishes, sea slugs, and a lot more. The seas are calm too, which makes it a lot better, and safer. It’s good that the Dive Master Freedom is a friend of my friend so I got a special rate.

low tide

Day 4
Good Friday. It means it’s the day of the most awaited Moriones Festival. I was never religious to begin with, but everyone being so excited on a Good Friday just seems so wrong to me. But I’m on a holiday high, so I was part of the excited crowd too.

Moriones Festival is actually a reenactment of the day when Christ was put up into the cross. From the moment he was made to carry his cross and walk around the town up to the point he was nailed and left on the cross. The whole scenario was reenacted to show the people how it looked like during Christ’s time. The people acting as Christ and the other two guys somewhat think of this as doing penance for their sins. Throughout the holy week, Morions are roaming around the town, and people garbed in old days’ clothes are parading as well. I refer to it as Pre-Moriones though I am not exactly sure what it is about.

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Before the main attraction in the island started, I took a stroll and visited the Boac Church which sat on a hill. Though I say hill, it’s really close by from where I was staying at. I was awed to see how beautiful of an old structure the church was, standing strong against time, watching how its surrounding change while it remained its old, beautiful self. I have a penchant for old buildings. I love how they look so archaic and looks so out of place in this modern times. And just as I thought, the church looked ten times better during daytime whilst the sun was high and the sky clear and blue as it can ever be.

Boac Church

Food to try:

Doray’s Espesyal Saludsod (A MUST TRY!)
Saludsod is a local delicacy that is like a street-style pancake made of arrowroot flour and shredded coconut meat. It was creamy and buttery, with texture coming from the coconut. I actually can’t get enough of it. I was lucky that there was the Marinduque Expo because I have no other idea how I could try it. The best part: it’s only 7PhP per piece. And try to catch a cart selling iced fresh coconut juice for your drink. Your full snack will not even cost you 5bucks.

Arrowroot Cookies
Crispy, crumbly, and buttery cookies made from arrowroot flour. It’s a local product, and popular as souvenirs. My friends in Singapore loved it.

C Grill and Resto
This is the restaurant that my friend runs and only started operations last year. Formerly known as Lucky Seven Rooftop, the place was given an uplift and a completely different look. They serve breakfast, especially for the guests of the pension house, lunch and dinner, officially open from 1100-2300hrs.

The restaurant offers an all-day breakfast menu with choices of longanisa, tocino, tapa (beef), bangus (milkfish) or hotdog (sausage) which is served with garlic rice, fried egg (sunny-side up) and tomato slices. I did not really had my breakfast in the restaurant but in the house, so I couldn’t say much about it.

I could guarantee the dishes that are usually served for lunch and dinner though. They were superb. I tried almost everything in the menu during my stay there and none of them disappointed me. I’m not saying this because the restaurant is owned by my friend, but because I love to eat good food, and I want to let the world know about it. The place is pretty easy to miss if you have not heard about it, but you could ask the locals for a good hangout place, you’d definitely get this restaurant for an answer. Or ask for Lucky Seven, and they would definitely know it.

The menu consists of western, Filipino and Asian flavors. My favorite dishes were the Chicken wings, garlic-parmesan flavor in particular, Onion rings, and sisig. I’m not fond of sisig, and I only ate it once of twice before, but when I tried C Grill and Resto’s version of it, I was just craving for more. And I ordered these favorites of mine more than once during my stay. There were a few more items in the menu that I love but that would make this really long.

Another good thing about the restaurant is that they also offer international beers, and not only your local brand of San Miguel. They also have international and local cocktails that you might want to try. Refer to the staff on duty for more information.

Here’s the link for more information: C Grill and Resto

Cafe Ma’Mita
The restaurant is located at Boac Hotel and offers your local Filipino dishes. We ordered Tamarind Soup with Prawn, Grilled Tanigue (Mackerel), and Grilled Squid, my ever so favorite. And guess what? Everything is just so delicious we wiped our plates clean. I liked the grilled Tanigue the best! You should try it.

Kusina sa Plaza
I wasn’t able to have a proper meal here, but because I just have to visit this place, as per several blog recommendations, I dropped by one hot afternoon to finally have a cup of espresso-based coffee. I decided to order a small sized Kusina Special Pizza too. It was good with all the toppings you normally put in a special pizza, but not overloaded, and the ingredients just blend well.

The exterior of the place looked like and old house, but there is a signage so you definitely would not miss it. It’s just across the plaza too.

Beach Club Cagpo
Beach Club Cagpo is a resort and restaurant. They have a couple of rooms available for renting, and when you dine in the restaurant, you also get access to that white, powdery sands of the beach. The food, however, takes a long time before it could be served. It would be best to place your order, given that you know the menu, before arriving at the place so that when you arrive, you will only have to wait for a little while.

The food taste, quality and serving size is totally satisfying so it is worth the wait. It would be advisable not to go here when you’re-so-hungry-you-could-kill so as not to give yourself a bad experience. By the way, we ordered Burger, grilled pork, grilled squid, pancit bihon, carbonara, and some hearty breakfast platter for the kids. The grilled squid surprised us because it was so thick you’d hardly believe it’s actually squid.

Budget:
Accommodation – Free
Fare – 518PhP from Manila to Marinduque. My fare is yet again taken care of on the way back to the city.
Food – mostly taken care of by my friend.
Scuba Diving – since this is a special rate, I’ll keep it a secret.

I did not exactly spend so much on this trip as my friend took care of almost everything for me.

Must try’s/do’s:
1. Scuba Diving. Under the clear water of the sea surrounding Marinduque is an underwater world teeming with life and colors. I’ve never seen so much starfishes in my life, and it’s the first time I saw different kinds at once. But that was just a teaser. Once you actually go twenty-five meters below sea surface, you’ll get to see lots of colorful fishes, sea slugs and corals. It’s a very beautiful world down there.

2. Visit Boac Church

3. Road trip. You’ll love the mountain sights.

4. Beach Lounging at Poctoy White beach, or at any beach near your place. I’d recommend Beach Club Cagpo for a more serene experience.

5. Try Saludsod. You’ll never find that anywhere else in Philippines.

6. Buy Lea’s arrowroot cookies.

7. Take a picture with a Morion, if you visited during Holy Week.

Things to note:
1. Please make sure that there are no typhoons nearing Philippines on your planned date of visits to the island. Marinduque does not generally get affected by strong storms, thanks to its geographical location. But should there be any storm signal in the port of disembarkation from the island, you’ll get no ferry rides at all.

2. Forget internet connectivity or mobile data. Once you’re in the mountains, you’ll get no connection at all.

3. Do not forget to bring you sunblock. It gets really hot sometimes, though the wind is still refreshing.

 

Check out my Flickr for more photos.

How about a visit to my home country then? Marinduque is just one of the several islands Philippines has to offer.

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