The roosters here have no sense of time.
Jotted awake at 4am by one cockcrow, it quickly became a chain reaction as the rest of the birds followed, seemingly taunting you to go back to sleep, but my mind had already become active with the day’s thoughts and foremost of which was to murder some fowls.
Located some 260km south of Manila, the province of Romblon comprises 3 main islands – Tablas, Romblon and Sibuyan plus four other small island municipalities of Banton, Simara, Maestro de Campo and Carabao Island (touted as the next Boracay).
Contrary to popular perceptions, getting to Romblon is relatively easy. Zestair has a thrice a week flight that lands in Tablas Island from the domestic airport in Manila; while the more adventurous can take the cheaper overnight Montenegro ferries that ply the Batangas-Sibuyan route. Once in the provincial capital, smaller ships and numerous bancas are available to other island destinations.
Hotel accommodations in the town are currently limited to a few four story buildings, but numerous seaside resorts abound. Apart from boats, principal means of transportation around the island is via motorcycles, mostly 2-wheels for families and 3-wheels for public conveyance.
Known as the marble capital of the Philippines, the province is source from simple marble tiles to the finest hand-crafted marble pieces. Craftsmen started as young as 12 years old and hone their skills by making small figurines of dolphin, elephant, birds and the likes. Marble art can come as life-size statutes, spread eagle, mermaids, Buddhas, and coiled dragons that required several months of work and could fetch tens of thousands of pesos.
Seemingly trapped in a time-warp, here you will find not a single familiar fast food chain, no shopping malls, no well-known drugstore, only a single bank and I don’t recall ever seen a telephone set either. If you want to get away from the stress of modernity, Romblon is definitely one place to be.
Chosen by the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) as Heritage Province for 2012, rustic Romblon was host during the opening celebration of heritage month that falls on May each year.
Supported by the local government, the celebration opened with an exhibit of historical artifacts at the provincial capitol building; it then lead to a culinary journey of the province’s unique seafood dishes of mostly crabs and shrimps; a colorful cultural presentation follows and finally capped with a dinner sonata at St. Joseph Cathedral, Romblon’s oldest Catholic Church declared as a National Cultural Treasure.
The next day started early with a guided tour of the church and its belltower, the old municipality building which is now the police station, two 18th century Spanish stone bridges, Fuente de Belen (a water fountain), ruins of Fort San Andres and its 205 steps, marbles sites, and a lecture plus a sumptuous buffet lunch at a nearby resort of Punta Corazon.
I would have gone with the group to Banton Island scheduled on the last day if not for some prior commitments in Manila. The island is said to be a treasure trove of heritage sites which included burial caves, wooden coffins that yielded the oldest burial cloth, a limestone fort and a church.
This was my second trip to Romblon, the previous being the climb to Mt. Guiting-Guiting in Sibuyan Island (being referred as the Galapagos of Asia with its rich flora and fauna), yet the reasons to come back never seems to end? Apart from the heritage structures, the province boasts of many pristine beaches and dive sites, including the recently featured blue hole in Tablas; in both trips I have yet to swim in its waters and had developed an appetite for sarsang uyang.
Romblon beckons and I have a feeling it won’t be long till I set foot again in its shores.
VRs taken on May 2-3, 2012. The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org