Romblon is the often-overlooked province only known to most Filipinos as the source of Philippine marble. Which is shameful since its good condition — its islands, waters, and hills — take you back to the 1980s.
Romblon is an island province consisting of 20+ islands that’s conveniently located near the geographic center of the Philippines.
One of Romblon’s southern islands lies just north of world-famous Boracay island so if you’re planning to go to Boracay and you could spare a day or two, consider adding Romblon to your itinerary (specifically Romblon island) to get your hands on some of its marble creations to take back home.
FIRST STAGE: GET TO YOUR SEA PORT
Romblon is an island province. It consists of 20+ islands near the geographic center of the Philippines. Getting there requires you to start from a sea port. You can depart from either the port of Batangas or Manila.
The port of Batangas (found in Batangas City) is the major gateway to the south. From Batangas, you can ride ships that go to Palawan, Mindoro, Romblon, Iloilo, Leyte, and so on. Most major port destinations (like Puerto Princesa or Cebu City) are one or two nights away. The Philippines is a small country but it feels large because of the time it takes to go from place to place.
We started our trip from Alabang (in MetroManila) so it made sense to go there. Also, I find the port of Manila to be more confusing and riskier in terms of my personal safety (there are more bad guys in Manila).
From Alabang’s South Station — the southbound terminal for all passenger buses — we took an air-conditioned bus to the port of Batangas (cost: 140 php). The ride took 75 minutes. Once we got there, we asked to be directed to the ferry ships bound for Romblon.
SECOND STAGE: RIDE THE FERRY
It was a Friday so we sailed on master’s vessel (“m/v”) Grand Unity from the port of Batangas to Romblon. A single one-way ticket cost 900 php. This was for basic passage. There were bunk beds but they were all taken when we bought our fare. It wasn’t a problem since we were self-sufficient. We asked and obtained permission to spread a sturdy bed cover on the deck. That’s where we laid down. We brought our own dinner and drinking water. This self-sufficiency paid off since food sold on the ship was expensive, processed and of poor quality. The trip took longer than expected (11-1/2 hours instead of 10). It was late but this is the Philippines and nobody cares.
It was my companion’s first time to ride a ferry ship. The sensations were new to her. It wasn’t noisy but it was chilly. There was a steady and strong apparent wind since we were moving forward. That took some getting used to. The ship sailed smoothly for the most part although after 10 hours she fought not to become seasick.
The ferry was full. It was crowded — maybe even overcrowded. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn if it had sold more tickets than its legal capacity. How crowded was it? Rows of bunk beds that were 18 inches (45 centimeters) apart were filled with people. Most of our shipmates were Romblon inhabitants or former Romblon-ians who were returning to Romblon to spend the holidays back home.
After eating our own packed dinner we tried to sleep. The operative word is “sleep,” since needless to say, it was a poor quality sleep — less than an hour for each of us.
There was a pleasant surprise however. The toilets (the “head” in marine-speak) didn’t become filthy as the hours wore on. Water flowed freely and the toilet was uncluttered. No toilet paper though — that’s the norm in the Philippines.
ROMBLON’S WORTH IT
It’s a great destination because (1) it’s beautiful (2) it’s authentic and (3) it’s inexpensive. It’s also relatively clean.
And at sunset…