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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Unforgettable Marinduque – Summer Escapes at The Heart of the Philippines

Man killed by Morion. Moriones festival Marinduque Philippines.
After the last few months' stretch of stress, new work adjustments -- and days of surviving my gray and gloomy cubicle – a simple reminder of a memorable summer gives me comfort. So I can’t help but wish for an awesome summer, hopefully as memorable as the previous one.

And while I can’t picture myself locked on my work area for the whole summer, I made plans although unsure – to visit my home in Mindoro for the Holy Week or just get lost somewhere – just to reboot my system. 

Also, I guess I already clocked enough work overtime and deserve an island holiday. Fortunately I was able to join some of my officemates on a trip to Marinduque. 

The trip gave me an amazing discovery that even though you are at a different place, you can still feel at home. 

I mean, there’s that distinct qualities of Marinduque that makes me think of Mindoro - the people, the ambience, the feeling of it being cozy and warm. Of course I know that those two islands are geographically and historically connected, but still every town and every place in the Philippines has its own character and it’s rare, at least for me, to feel “home” at a totally new and different place.

To give you reasons why you should also visit Marinduque, let me share here a quick recap of our trip, which of course I will feature each adventure on a separate dedicated post (if I have time.)

Feel the rush

Toploading of jeepney, a common scene in Marinduque Philippines
Jeepney toploading at Marinduque

This pre-summer Semana Santa long weekend break tends to be a signal to a dead-heat race to summer – something to rush toward, hopefully to experience as-many-as-possible awesome out-of-town breaks.

Hence, even if we know all about that avalanche of Metro Manila people, escaping the city going to the provinces like crazy prisoners - causing mad traffic, travel stress, anxiety and everything else - we still go for it. Well that’s part of the adventure right?

We took a bus from Kamias, Cubao going to Lucena and from there we boarded a RORO (ferry) going to Balanacan Port in Marinduque.

Colorful sunrise at the Balanacan pier
Colorful sunrise at the Balanacan Pier
It was a long and tiring night but at the break of dawn I saw picturesque islets as we approached the port and confirmed that it was well worth the trip.

Ferry leaving the Balanacan Port with beautiful islets at the background
Ferry (RORO) leaving the Balanacan Port

Passengers looking at the beautiful view at the Balanacan Port
RORO passengers enjoying the view at the port

At the Balanacan Port, we immediately took a jeepney going to Buenavista, our first destination.

Statue of Our Biglang Awa at the Balanacan Port in Marinduque Philippines
Towering statue of Our Lady of Biglang Awa on an islet - a beautiful landmark at the Balanacan Port

Exclusive resort beach-crashing

Ever heard of Bellarocca Resort? Yeah, that super luxurious and expensive, Santorini inspired exclusive resort in Marinduque.

View of the Bellarocca Resort in Marinduque
View of the exclusive Bellarocca Resort
With their cheapest room rate at around 30K Pesos per night? Well, that’s luxury honey.

Man on a motorized banca approaching Bellarocca Resort in Marinduque
Approaching Bellarocca
And all we want are some pictures! So, what we did (and it still makes me smile whenever I remember this) is we plan some commando island-espionage style boat trip around the island. While our motor banca sailed near and around the small island we took pictures here and there like certified paparazzi.

But what’s the use of those pictures without us in there?

Bellarocca Resort in Marinduque Philippines
The Bellarocca resort-crashers
So, all of us thinking about some Bellarocca photos to brag back there at the office and on Facebook of course, we did something out of the ordinary – dangerous and a little bit scandalous perhaps.

My first time resort-crashing adventure!! I will tell you more about it on a separate post soon.

Hot springing on a summer?

Well, this part makes us the certified travel nerds. With the scorching summer heat we still managed to enjoy a dip in a hot spring!

Marinduque Hot Spring Resort
Marinduque Hot Spring Resort once known as the Susana hot spring in Buenavista Marinduque.

After enjoying the hot pool, we immediately look for some refreshing cold water at the shower rooms to wash ourselves but… water at the shower rooms is even hotter!

So yes, we all had our share of the penitential activity for this season of Lent.

Antique dinner at the Casa de Don Emilio

After our skin-blistering hot spring encounter, we traveled going to Boac, Marinduque’s Capital, to do some food tripping and souvenir shopping.

View of the old houses in Boac Marinduque
Old Spanish houses around the town of Boac Marinduque
I immediately notice the old Spanish houses around Boac and I instantly feel that old Calle Crisologo effect on some street corners.

Appropriately, we end up dining at the old Casa de Don Emilio, an old Spanish style ancestral house turned into a restaurant and café.

Casa de Don Emilio restaurant in Boac Marinduque
Interior of the Casa de Don Emilio Restaurant above Kusina sa Plaza
Although the ambiance is old, their menu is not. They are serving cordon bleu, beef stroganoff, salpicao, nachos, tacos etc. probably to cater to foreigners.

We ordered pancit and pizza from the Kusina sa Plaza, the carinderia-type restaurant and café at the ground floor – or called “silong” as part of an old Colonial Spanish house. I also ordered halo-halo but to my dismay it is not available – or ice isn’t available daw. 

We don’t have enough sleep yet from the previous night’s travel, so to kick our system with some caffeine, we ordered some coffee blends such as Java Chip Frappe, Wild Tribe Mocha etc. (Yes, it is an antique-house resto serving Starbucks-type coffee blends.)

Casa de Don Emilio and Kusina sa Plaza Restaurant in Boac Marinduque
Kusina sa Plaza and Casa de Don Emilio Restaurant
But to our dismay, it took them few decades to serve. It’s like we ordered it during the Spanish Colonial period and it was already the American liberation but our precious coffee blends are still not served.

So we cancelled all our other pending orders and left. It happens yes, but it’s really frustrating considering it’s our first time dining there.

Well at least, without the caffeine, we all had a good night sleep.

Hamos na Kayo sa Torrijos

Our next stop – the lovely and quaint town of Torrijos.

Moriones during the re-enactment of the crucifixion in Torrijos Marinduque Philippines
Colorful Morions as part of the characters during the crucifixion re-enactment 
Marinduque offers awesome beaches and fun but it is more known for its colorful staging of the Moriones Festival, the trademark revelry and a tourist attraction of the island.

Re-enactment of the crucifixion during Lenten Season
The first actual human crucifixion in Torrijos Marinduque. 
In Torrijos, we were able to witness the re-enactment of the crucifixion, with one participant portraying the role of Jesus, had his palms actually nailed into a cross. According to a tarpaulin announcement I saw during the procession later in the evening, this is the first time that an actual crucifixion was held in Torrijos. Well, that is cool because it is also my first time to witness such event.

Mermaids at the Torrijos Marinduque Freedom Park
Mermaids at the Freedom Park in Torrijos
In the afternoon, we visited the Freedom Park, formerly known as the Luneta Park of Torrijos. It’s a park on a beachfront with outstanding view of Mt. Malindig. It is like the smaller and cleaner version of Roxas Boulevard.

Lent procession in Torrijos Marinduque
Colorful and bright annual Lent procession in Torrijos. 
Before sundown, we proceed at the parish church to join the annual Lent procession. This is also the event when meet what we are looking for, the Morion.

It’s time for beach hopping!

It’s Sabado de Gloria, our third day in Marinduque and a perfect day for beach hopping.

Island hopping, Philippine motorized banca sailing in blue sea

Our first stop, the vanishing Palad Sandbar near Maniwaya Island in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque. What makes this site more exciting is not only because of its crystal clear waters but the fact that this very small sandbar formation is in the middle of the sea, which only appears at around 4 p.m. during low tide.

Palad sandbar slowly appearing before sunset.
CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE - Palad Sandbar
It took us almost 2-hour sailing via a motorized banca from Torrijos to reach this site. Unfortunately, it was not yet a full low tide when we reached the Palad sandbar so we just took a quick dive and head to Maniwaya Island to check some beaches there.

White beachfront in Maniwaya Island in Marinduque
Maniwaya Beaches - beachfront of Residencia de Palo Maria Resort
Residencia de Palo Maria Beach Resort in Maniwaya Island Sta. Cruz Marinduque Philippines
Residencia de Palo Maria resort entrance
We took our lunch at the boat then go to Residencia de Palo Maria, a hotel and beach resort in Maniwaya Island, for a quick rest.

Secluded white beach at Brgy. Mongpong Sta. Cruz Marinduque Philippines
Beautiful white beach at Brgy. Mongpong - you can have it all by yourself. 

Hoping to fit in more adventures on this short day, we left Maniwaya Island and head to another beach in Brgy. Mongpong Sta. Cruz, this time to search for a nice halo-halo.

Unfortunately, there was no halo-halo vendor on the area so we just enjoy taking pictures of the beautiful but abandoned long stretch of Mongpong beach.

Palad sandbar near Maniwaya Island in Marinduque Philippines
Palad Sandbar magically appearing before sunset
Since our beach craving is insatiable, we returned to Palad island sandbar hoping that it will be visible by now. Lots of other tourists are already swimming at the sandbar when we arrived, so we just took a quick dip then head back to Torrijos.

In the evening, we tried attending a beach party in Poctoy White Beach but we can’t find a tricycle going there.

View of Mt. Malindig from Torrijos Marinduque Philippines
Silhouette of Mt. Malindig before sunset.  
Being dead tired and our skin-burns tingling, we just decided to return home and rest. This is what I call beach-overdose.

Unforgettable Marinduque

Eastgate backpackers with other Marinduque island hoppers
I’m sure I will always remember, very vividly, this quick three-day getaway to Marinduque, especially that feeling of being beach-overdosed – too much sun and fun!

Ako ngani ay mapunta ulit!







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About the Blogger

Yodi Insigne
Yodi de Veas Insigne is one of those delusional sorts who imagines himself a useful contributor to the greater blogosphere (Well, that's what he's trying to accomplish).

He started blogging for three reasons:

1. He always felt he has something important to say,
2. Books can make him cry,
3. He want to sleep at night.

He is a certified bookworm, travel junkie, shutterbug, movie freak, Mangyan freethinker who sleeps a lot and think a lot. He got a little vice, which is black coffee and cashew nuts. He got colorblindness on yellow and green - and he freaking loves it!

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