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Monday, July 16, 2012

Romblon: The Island of Dr. Cobrador


Five-six or even seven hundred years ago when sea explorers approach a strange island, meeting a bloody resistance is a foregone conclusion. Drum rolls of war beat will accompany the sounds of shrieking bayonet and spear armed warriors running across the shore to meet the men aboard the incoming ship. The brutal battle that often ensues transforms the crystal clear blue waters into a sea of red. To the victors, a hell-raising cheer fills the air. To the vanquished, their decapitated bodies and pieces of flesh, reduced to an offering of feast for the lucky sea creatures. Fortunately, for myself, Dazzle, Josiah and voluptuous Pam, we were aboard a little passenger boat in the present day and the only drum roll we heard upon arriving at Cobrador island, was the one that accompanied a festive welcoming party composed of dancing kids in "Ati-Atihan" costumes.

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If the four of us were rendered hammered by the night's culmination of a 10 hour sea travel from Batangas to Romblon port, nobody among us was oblivious to it. The moment the sun arised, we quickly prepared to get our Romblon jaunt into a wonderful start. We boarded a small passenger boat at the port, Pam, Josiah and I sat at the roof to get a great view of the scenery. Dazzle, her kids, her mom and other  passengers took the crowded small cabin inside. The trip lasted 45 minutes to an hour, I couldn't exactly remember the length of the trip as I was busy churning my stiffed neck to every directions, directing my eyes to far and near, lo and beholding to everything I saw along the way.

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Incidentally, Cobrador Island is celebrating its town fiesta the day we arrived, thus explaining the romping stomping welcome we got. The island is inhabited by a small community which maintains a quiet life sustained only through fishing and farming. They have a small elementary school that fronts the white sand beach, a barangay hall and a small chapel with small houses scattered around. 

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Additional income coming from tourists could do wonders for the residents here. The island is surrounded by coral gardens suitable for snorkeling activities; the beach has white sands and crystal clear waters. The island is also a good jump off point for divers out to check the so called “blue hole”, an underwater phenomenon which comes in a form of a sink hole or a cave system that stretches deep into the sea. The Blue Hole was only discovered recently in the Sibuyan Sea. It is said to be the only one existing in the whole of the Philippines.

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We settled down and one by one took a quick swim, while the other visitors started feasting on the mouth watering spread on the long buffet table set-up at the shore. The residents of the islands also took advantage of the event to promote their island to the visitors. Dazzle's mom, Mrs. Myrna Silverio - who is the tourism head of the province of Romblon, delivered a speech thanking and egging the locals to continue with their eco-tourism program initiative and at the same time promising full support from the Provincial government.

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Lunch was good, oh wow thinking about it now while writing this and starving at the same time, I wish I'd go back to that moment. Seafood and vegetable dishes, pork adobo, kamote and other fresh fruits were laid out on the buffet table. I remember having my plate filled up and walking back to our nipa shelter already chewing a half piece of fried fish. In a small island that of Cobrador, I could instantly feel the unbridled hospitality. As I passes by smiling locals, I'd acknowledge them with my mini-smile and my signature eyebrow salute.

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Dazzle, Josiah, "the" voluptuous Pam and I spent the afternoon talking beside the house of one of the locals. We talked about how we all ended up on this same path. Our addiction to travel and past experiences on the road. We were all sitting in this small yard of a house made of wood. Surrounded by a brown fence and various plants planted around. All the while within our conversations, we could hear the whispers of the waves of the sea, while the wind tries to blow us into the dream world, to no avail.

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At around 3pm in the afternoon we explored a nearby cave system – which currently can be penetrated by spelunkers up to seven chambers with the rest are yet to be explored. It used to be an ancient burial cave as evidenced by the remains of a wooden coffin and few human bones found near the entrance of the cave. Sadly, most artifacts have since been stolen by thieves who frequented the cave in clandestine manner in the 1970’s. A set of guidelines and rules are now being set up to ensure the preservation of the cave and become a part of the eco-tourism program of the island.

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Our trek to the cave only lasted 15 minutes and we explored the cave for about half an hour. When we went back to the beach, the passenger boat we took earlier has already left, leaving us with the possibility of being stranded on the island for the night. I don't mind being stranded there. However, the kind Barangay Kapitan of the town offered his "Miami Vice" speedboat to take us back to the main island of Romblon, we agreed to shoulder the diesel as our means of fare in return.

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Before heading back, we went on a loop around the island getting up close with the majestic rock formations and coral gardens that surrounds the island. Coupled with the reddening sky of a day about to bid farewell, the surrounding landscape quickly turned dramatic and hopelessly romantic. When we saw the bright round shape of the sun on the horizon and appearing like it was rolling over the sea, as it finally sets in, we all agreed that it was the icing on the cake of a very beautiful and well spent day.

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It was only our first day in Romblon and the fact that I will be only staying for four days and knowing that Dazzle and Josiah will cover the whole province in 25 days, I was awash with regret about having to come home soon. However, I'll take anything handed down to me and this opportunity to visit Romblon is something that came in a silver platter. 

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