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Sunday, June 2, 2019

Revisiting Marinduque



Whenever people ask me how I fell in love with traveling. I always tell them I got inspired by Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” novel. An autobiographical narrative of Kerouac’s post-war road trip across the United States amidst the background of poetry, jazz and the emerging beat culture. Thinking back now, I realized the birth of my wanderlust occurred during my college years. This was a time when my friends and I journeyed to the province of Marinduque every holy week, to partake at the island’s iconic revelry---the Moriones Festival.

Soon to re-open Bellaroca Island

After witnessing the street parade of masked Romans and penitents culminating in the ceremonial ‘beheading’ of Longinus, we would cap Easter Sunday with a picnic at Ulong beach in the town of Mogpog.

Years before I first read the pages of Kerouac’s novel, the wanderlust bug has already bitten me in the island of Marinduque. Since then, I have been to many places and has overlooked the idea of returning to the island, until.

Cebu Pacific Air Launches Manila – Marinduque Flights

As luck would have it, I was invited to the maiden Cebu Pacific Air flight to Marinduque last April 1, 2019.  Through CebPac's subsidiary Cebgo, the inaugural flight also signaled the return of commercial flights to the province after a six-year absence.

A "Morion" kind of welcome greeted CebPac's maiden flight to Marinduque
"This is the first time that CEB is offering this route," spokesperson Charo Lagamon told the Philippine News Agency. Aside from boosting commerce and tourism, travel time to the island will be lessened to an hour at the most. "It would take passengers at least 8 hours to travel to Marinduque by land and ferry," Lagamon added.

Marinduque Loop

The entirety of our media trip was short and sweet. For two days, we simply rode a van and circled the island stopping at various fascinating places of interest. The experience was more than enough to remind me of the distinctive lure of Marinduque.

Elderly women performs the "Putong" ceremony
The night of our arrival, I was introduced to a cultural practice indigenous to the province: the “putong” ceremony.  Putong” translates to "to crown", and the ritual performed by elderly women is composed of a song of hope climaxing in a crescendo and a thanksgiving prayer for a blessed life. The rite ends with the performers tossing coins and flower petals to the guests before crowning them with a handcrafted crown made from nito (local vine).

Marl Butterfly Garden
The next day, we started our roundabout at the heritage town of Boac. Despite a fire that ravaged a number of heritage houses last year, a number of old homes still remains in Boac, which include decades-old family-ran restaurants that serves some of the island's known cuisines such as the kari-kari.

Poctoy White Beach
The main road of Marinduque which almost circles the entirety of this heart-shaped island took us to a series of picturesque landscape: The Tres Islands of Baltazar, Gaspar and Melchor whose surrounding sandbars radiates with golden sheen from afar. We also saw the popular high-end Bellaroca Island resort. It closed operation around the same time commercial flights stopped flying to Marinduque in 2013. Because of the new Cebu Pacific flights, the resort is now attracting numerous investors interested in re-opening it.

Mount Malindig
Other places we visited during our day-long road trip are the white beach of Poctoy, the heritage churches in Sta Cruz, Boac and Gasan, the Marl Butterfly Garden, Malbog Sulfuric Resort and a charming road-side spot where we viewed Mount Malindig. Towering 1,157 MASL, Malindig is a potentially active stratovolcano gushing sulfuric spring waters in nearby towns like Malbog in Buenavista.

Arrowroot cookies is a favorite pasalubong from Marinduque
We concluded our eventful Marinduque loop at the summit of 'Mataas na Bundok'- a 220 meter peak where the 'Luzon Datum of 1911' is located. Established by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1911, as the center of Philippine geodetic triangulations, Luzon Datum represents the 0.0 reference point of any mappings done in the country.

Me standing beside the Luzon Datum of 1911
Pretty travel bloggers, CebPac's Mich and Stratworks' Erika
Because we only spent a couple of days exploring, we missed out on the other mesmerizing set of nature Marinduque has to offer. From my earlier memories of this island, I recall numerous cave systems, the splendid Maniway Island and Palad Sandbar, countless waterfalls, the Ungab Rock formation and the list goes on. All the reasons for me to hasten my next return to Marinduque.

View of the sunset from "Mataas na Bundok"
Where to Stay In Marinduque

A few new hotels like the ones we stayed at Balar Hotel and Spa have been built in the province in the last couple of years. Old favorites such as the heritage house turned Boac Hotel (the first in the island) still remains. Find good deals at Agoda for your Marinduque accommodation needs. 

*Cebu Pacific Air flies from NAIA Terminal 4 to Marinduque every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

This article first appeared on the pages of the Daily Tribune on June 1, 2019

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