Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Weekend Getaway: Marvelous Marinduque

Marinduque, an island tucked in the geographic center of the Philippines, was a fascinating discovery for me. I didn't do much research before going there so I was awestruck to see old and charming Spanish houses lined in its laid-back town and posed against a backdrop of its flawless sea and mountain views. Secured, undisturbed, untamed, raw. This island province is promising, indeed. 

After spending a beautiful weekend there, I can say that there are more than enough reasons to visit this heart-shaped island besides attending the Moriones Festival, which it is known for. There's no need to wait for the Lenten season since this province offers year-round attractions that are often left out in the tourist trail. 

A boat parked on a silent beach at Gaspar Island

Anchi and I arrived in Marinduque on a crisp February morning. It was Valentine’s weekend and instead of heading to the lovers-filled mega malls in Manila, we opted to go off-beat and somewhere near Manila. We were the only tourists when we got there, exactly the kind of place that I was hoping to see -- peaceful and quiet.

The clean and muted streets of Boac

First on our agenda was to find a place to stay in. As we were roaming the streets, we found Boac Hotel which is conveniently located near Boac Cathedral, Pugutan Site and Kusina sa Plaza. The rooms are a bit small but comfortable enough for an overnight stay. It also houses Cafe Ma’ Mita which offers affordable meals. Adjacent to it is a souvenir shop where I bought my usual-take-home ref magnet and the famous pasalubong from the province – Rejano’s uraro cookies (arrowroot)

After getting all our things settled, we explored the town on foot. The poblacion of Boac is basically small and in less than two hours, we were done walking around. We passed by Boac Cathedral, an earthquake-baroque architecture that is still standing tall in that small town. I liked its red-bricked facade, high-ceiling interiors, and the golden retablo.  On the rear side of the church, near the Bishop's Palace, we got a bird’s eye view of the whole town.

Boac Cathedral

The golden retablo inside Boac Cathedral
Massive stone walls protecting the church

Marinduque's capital town, Boac, has a certain charm in itself. While we were lazily walking around its muted streets, I was telling Anchi how it strongly resembles the heritage walk we did along the old Spanish houses in Vigan, Ilocos Sur – just without the noisy tourists and the busy peddlers around. We were like transported to some bygone era...

I liked the local people of Marinduque, too. Those we've met during the trip were kind and helpful to us, and we had no issues asking for directions  or any problems with dishonest trike drivers. They speak Tagalog and some are well conversant in English so talking to locals was not a problem at all.

Cafe at Casa de Don Emilio
Kari Kari (the black one) is one of the local dishes in Marinduque

Casa de  Don Emilio

Typical houses lined along the streets of Boac
One of my favorite memories of that weekend in Marinduque was the dinner we had at Casa de Emilio, a restaurant located at the second floor of Kusina sa Plaza (just across Marinduque Museum). We ordered the province's specialty Kari Kari which basically tasted like Dinuguan for me. I loved the ambiance and the classic feel inside that ancestral house. They have on display some antiques and it somehow left me thinking how it must have been living in that grand house during its heydays.

Another thing that I liked about Marinduque is the fact that it has remained fast-food-chain-and-malls-free. I really appreciate going to places without these familiar business chains that already crowd the metro where I’m from.  It's nice having a break from the fat bee and the smiling clown that abounds Manila. Places devoid of these allow me to enjoy the local dishes and to buy pasalubong from local sellers.

Although there are no big malls and famous fast-food chains around the main town of Boac, there are eateries and clean carenderias available there. There are also a number of grocery stores around just in case you need something to buy.

Kids from Buenavista

A boy from Gasan
On our second day, we woke up to a crisp and clear morning in Boac. Since it was a Sunday, we heard the early morning mass at the cathedral and we were lucky to have chanced up the diocese’s Bishop celebrating the mass. He delivered a really long sermon that day. One of the things I like with backpacking Pilipinas is that whenever I hear mass from local churches, I also draw local perspectives from the homily of priests from each place. That day, the Bishop talked about local election matters. 

After breakfast, we packed our bags and headed to our next destination—Gasan, a town about an hour away from Boac. Almost lunchtime, we made it to Barangay Pinggan in Gasan,  the drop-off point to our island hopping adventure to Tres Reyes Islands. We hired a motorized boat to take us to these three islands—Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar.  Motorboat rent: P700.

With colorful sea shells at Gaspar Island

Sunset in Gasan
Turquoise-colored waters 

The first island we reached was Gaspar Island. I liked the enticing clear blue-green water which I saw is ideal for snorkeling.  As the boat wades along, we saw birds gliding above the water and passing through the thick green mountain of the island.

We got to as far as Melchor Island, but due to nasty waves as we were moving towards  Baltazar Island, our boatman decided not to push further as it may endanger our safety. So we headed back to Gaspar Island and spent a good one hour bumming in one of its narrow sand strips.

Off to my secret silent spot

After enjoying the beach, the boat waded further and we saw beautiful rock formations along. The boatman informed us where the ceramics, jars and artifacts from the pre-Hispanic shipwreck was said to have been found. We were told that some of the wares were looted and those salvaged items are now found in Marinduque Museum. We were ashore after three hours of island-hopping. 

Still in Gasan, we went to Blue Castle Beach Resort where we decided to spend the night in. The resort owner, sir Ray, was very accommodating.  He was hands-on and even offered us a free tour to Gasan’s neighboring town, Buenavista. Aboard his top-down trike, we had an impromptu sunset drive to Buenavista and had a quick dip at Malbog Sulphur Hot Spring. Dinnertime, they served us a hearty meal and we had a long talk with him about his visions for the development of tourism in Marinduque. He is, I learned later on, a member of the provincial board. I really hope that his good vision for the province will materialize someday.

The amazing day was capped by soaking in the wide, clear pool at the resort.  Although its beach front has the grayish sand which is typical in Marinduque, Blue Castle Beach Resort is definitely a place I’d recommend in case you get to Gasan.  

The very inviting pool at Blue Castle Beach Resort

Quick dip at Malbog Sulphur Hot Spring

The following day, we raced back to Gasan town proper to visit the church. Although its building is remarkably new, this church is home to a 19th-century bronze bells. There were a few renovations being done while we were there but overall, the one that really caught my attention in the interiors of the church were the massive yellow fan-like designs etched on its ceilings.

Gasan Church

Interior of Gasan Church

From the church, we searched for the oldest house in Gasan. Among the many old houses in that town, that ancestral house can’t be overlooked easily since it has a huge Historical Site marker in front of it. I would have wanted to peek inside but no one seemed inside the house at the time we were there.

In front the oldest house in Gasan
Before heading back to Balanacan Port, we made sure to stop by Marinduque Museum. It houses archaeological artifacts, and showcases historical and cultural icons of the province. I learned a lot about Moriones Festival and the characters joining the Pugutan.

Most of the collections inside the museum are jars and plates excavated underwater from the remnants of a sunken pre-Hispanic Chinese vessel.

Marinduque Museum marker

On display at Boac Marinduque

Excavated plates at Marinduque Museum

Jars from the sunken Chinese vessel circa pre-hispanic time

Morions at Marinduque Museum

Inside Marinduque Museum

Marinduque Museum

It was almost late afternoon when we traveled from Boac to Balanacan Port. From the seaport, I got to see a fiery sun making its way to the horizon. The afternoon sunset gave me sense of warmth. Tired bones notwithstanding, I felt at peace inside. It was such an amazing trip... Something I'd remember for a long time. 

Magnificent sunset at Balanacan Port

That weekend in Marinduque was one that I would want to go to my archives labelled as “My favorite Travels.” It was an amazing weekend that I hope we get to do again someday.

How did we get there:

-We took the JAC Liner Bus (Php850) - Kamias Road Terminal, Quezon City to Dalahican Port, Lucena City (approximate travel time: 3 to 4 hours)  

-RoRo ride from Dalahican Port, Lucena City to Cawit Port, Boac, Marinduque (average travel time: 3-4 hours).

*Thank you, Anchi! :)*


  1. Awesome adventure! i makes me miss Marinduque and its people... i wanna be back there soon! :)

  2. Very nice! I love the Gasan church interior and the prehistoric wares, I think there were a lot of those recovered from marinduque in Ayala Museum.

    What the sermon of the bishop about anyway?

    1. And a lot of those wares found in Marinduque were looted, we were told. :( You have to bring me Ayala Museum, kidd. Libre! haha

    2. Elections-related. Parang voters education yung sermon. :)

  3. Parang Calle Crisologo sa Vigan ang mga streets ah.

    1. Yes bek. Almost similar, but without the crowded tourists and the peddlers. :)

    2. Pero painted (with green) ang ibang old houses? Based sa 2nd photo. Baging house lang ni Rizal. :p

    3. OO me pintura na din yung ibang bahay. pero most retained naman yung old structure.

  4. i've never been to Gasan and the sites are just awesome. you have good visuals. i like it! the people of Marinduque are really hospitable - hospitability that is beyond the usual. i must say that traditional Filipino values were kept in this colonial heritage province. It is truly the heart of the Philippines.

    1. You are spot on! More than the beautiful places there, the most that really caught my soft spot in Marinduque was the warmth of its gentle people. Must be because of the unhurried life they have there. :)

  5. Heart of the Philippines. My mother's hometown. :-)

  6. Thank you for this wonderful post about our province. Please do come back nd visit the other side - Torrijos, Sta. Cruz and Mogpog. I can tour you around. And yes, we are a province of gentle people. We may not have the posh bars and high-end resorts, but we know how to entertain our guests. :)

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  8. Thanks for the appreciation. I hail from Gasan and there are indeed other places you must see. we also offer lodging. pm me- 09265538487

  9. Thanks for the appreciation. I hail from Gasan and there are indeed other places you must see. we also offer lodging. pm me- 09265538487

  10. Thanks for the appreciation. I hail from Gasan and there are indeed other places you must see. we also offer lodging. pm me- 09265538487

  11. Thank you very much for this wonderful article and for the kind words.. I am glad that you enjoyed your stay. We have more to offer and I will be more than happy to be your personal tour guide. I can also help you out with the itinerary without spending that much. To all of you who may read this post: MAKE MARINDUQUE YOUR NEXT TRAVEL DESTINATION and experience a JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE PHILIPPINES.. :)

    1. Raoul: how can I contact you? Might need help with my itinerary :)

  12. I'm glad I saw this blog. Because of this I'm planning to go to Marinduque next month. :)

  13. Thanks for visiting our beautiful province! please come again....marami pang hidden paradise dun.

  14. Hi! I am interested to visit Marinduque this coming week, I wonder if you have a draft itinerary for this weekend getaway (and estimated price as well) Thanks :)

  15. It's been a decade since i visited the Tres Reyes Islands. We went swimming at Gaspar Island that time. But now i was amazed when we docked in the 2nd largest island which really good for snorkling and diving. There were chambered caves in limestone formation and coral reefs. It's like a paradise island that we didn't see before. Although reaching these islets were not easy because of the strong current of the water only few people trying to see the place. It's good to go there early in the morning and must go back before 12noon because of the water current in the afternoon. It was a great adventure!

  16. I must say it is a good write up about Marinduque, my hometown! Good pictures and great destination but its seems you a have a short time visiting there. Perhaps, 4-5 days would allow you to visit all the towns and other must-see destinations. Thumbs up!

    Billy of Galaero Escape Travels

  17. Planning to go on a solo and budget trip this Fri to Sat, hopefully. This helps a lot.

    1. Hi, were you able to go to marinduque alone? I am also planning to go there this weekend but i am having difficulty looking for accomodations.. i hope i can get info from you. Thanks.

    2. Hi, were you able to go to marinduque alone? I am also planning to go there this weekend but i am having difficulty looking for accomodations.. i hope i can get info from you. Thanks.

    3. Hi sir john, were you able to go to marinduque solo? I am also planninh to go there this weekend. I just want to ask where you stayed and your budget. Thanks.

    4. Hi sir john, were you able to go to marinduque solo? I am also planninh to go there this weekend. I just want to ask where you stayed and your budget. Thanks.

    5. Hi sir john, were you able to go to marinduque solo? I am also planninh to go there this weekend. I just want to ask where you stayed and your budget. Thanks.

    6. Hi sir john, were you able to go to marinduque solo? I am also planninh to go there this weekend. I just want to ask where you stayed and your budget. Thanks.

  18. Hi gracielle, i am planning to go as well as a solo backpacker this weekend. Where you able to get some details? Pls reach me at 09994489767 rachelle here

  19. Nice write up about my hometown Marinduque. :)

    Hope you can visit again our province and see other places that you were not able to see yet. There are other good places, destinations, tourist view and falls our province has to offer if you will give it a week or more for a stay-vacay. :)

  20. My bf and I are planning to go here. Ano po kaya ang magandang puntahan? meron po kaming 4 days. Thank you

    1. marami po. check the places i've visited, lahat maganda. :)


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