Blown Away by Romblon’s Underrated Beauty


Returning to Romblon with warm recollections of my first visit a decade ago had me on the verge of excitement. Instead of the stomach-churning 12-hour ferry voyage from Batangas, I'm flying with Air Swift this time.

Alexa Pajarillo
The jaw-dropping sand bar of Cresta de Gallo

Pressed for time to fit all three major islands of the province: Romblon Island, the archipelagic municipality where the provincial capital is located; Tablas Island, the largest of the three and home to the province's commercial airport, Tugdan Airport; and our first destination, Sibuyan Island, into our week-long itinerary, we hurriedly headed to San Agustin Port.

In the Looming Presence of Mount Guiting-Guiting

As we hit the ground running and the looming view of Mount Guiting-Guiting, reputed to be the most technical climb in the country, reminds me of my long-shelved plan of hiking it and dominates the scenery, I marvel at the other factors that contribute to Sibuyan Island's attractive landscape.

Alyanna Bromeo
Almost wherever you go in Sibuyan Island, Mount Guiting Guiting always looms in the background

I look at the passing streams of clean rivers and blue-colored waters from the beachfront road as our van rolls by, and I start to wonder whether Sibuyan Island, which is referred to as the "Galapagos of Asia" due to its plentiful biodiversity and endemism, still faces the threat of nickel mining.

Michelle LIm
A soothing dip is always in order here at Cantingas River

A decade earlier, I recall my first visit to Romblon, when we sailed off to Sibuyan Island aboard a small ferry boat. As my friend Dazzle and I were conversing, she pointed out to me the abundance of whale sharks and dolphins in the waters between the islands. Suddenly, we both turned our heads to see a lone flipper, flipping its tail in the air before plunging back beneath the waters. She tells me, "You saw that? That and among many other things is why we should protect this island at all costs."

Marky Ramone Go
Are you counting your marbles?

Looking out the window of our van, I'm reminded of the lushness of Sibuyan. From its thick forests to its clear rivers and white sandy shore, I crossed my fingers that both the government and us travelers should do our share of preserving this island teeming with biodiversity.

Cindy Ongkeko
Lambingan Falls

With little time to sandwich the many waterfalls found on Sibuyan Island, namely Cataja, Busay, Gomot, Dagubdob, and Lambingan Falls, we decided to just visit the easily accessible Lambingan. Lambingan's cascades, although not that high, drop into a large dual-level pool where a small group can swim together.

Celine Arenillo
The water is so clean, alright

Dripping from a brief swim at Lambingan Falls, we continue to another natural water attraction on the island, the Cantingas River, said to be one of the cleanest bodies of water in the Philippines, sourcing its fresh stream directly from Mount Guiting-Guiting. Despite nobody from our group mustered up the nerve to leap from the 50-foot-tall concrete diving platform, we still managed to have a great time hanging out by the river and admiring the verdant mountainside.

Romblon travel guide
The other side of Cresta de Gallo's sandbar

Finally, after a couple of shelved plans to visit Cresta de Gallo, I set foot on its long stretch of powdery white sands on our second day in Sibuyan Island. The Spanish named Cresta de Gallo, which translates to "Rooster's Crest," after the spiky shape on top of a rooster's head that the island's sandbar is believed to resemble.

Mishi Magno
There is also a lighthouse on the island

After a short boat ride from Sibuyan Island, we reached Cresta de Gallo just after 8:00 in the morning, allowing us plenty of time to relax on the long powdery sandbar. I made the most of our time on the island by walking the entire edge, despite the risk of getting sunburned.

Marky Ramone Go
Had a blast flying my drone here

Leaving Sibuyan the following day without stepping foot on the jump-off trail to Mount Guiting-Guiting seems a little strange. Well, I guess that's one great reason to come back to Sibuyan Island, Romblon, in the near future—well prepared to meet the challenges of the mountain known as G2.

Counting Marbles and Picturesque Sights

After a couple of nights on Sibuyan, we proceeded to Romblon, an island municipality, where we spent the next few days discovering the town, neighboring islands, and beaches. Near the town’s center, one can easily hike to a top of a hill where the 17th-century Fort San Andres, the surviving one of the Twin Forts of Romblon, still stands overlooking the bay of Romblon as well as the islands of Tablas and Sibuyan.

Romblon Travel Guide
The 16th century fort overlooks the whole bay of Romblon, making it the perfect defense structure

The Twin Forts of Romblon were built by the Spanish in 1644 to serve as a watchtower and defensive point against the valiant Muslim raiders and the Dutch, which at that time were engaged in an 80-year war against the Spanish.

Audrey Tagonon
Saint Joseph Cathedral Parish

A heritage walk around the town center of Romblon takes you back in time as you come across a number of heritage houses spanning the late 19th century to the pre-war years. This also includes the 16th-century Saint Joseph Cathedral Parish. Though much of it now is from the many renovations done in the late 18th and 19th centuries, it has a fascinating story about how its image of the Santo Niño de Romblon went missing in the middle of a typhoon in 1991, only to be found being sold in an antique dealership in Aklan province by a devotee who recognized the image and had it properly identified by experts and scholars.

Audrey Trinidad
Just one of a dozen of old houses remaining in downtown Romblon, Romblon

By late afternoon, we made our way to Romblon Wind Farm located on a hilltop in Barangays Agnay. Here, three 136-foot wind turbines run by ROMELCO (Romblon Electric Cooperative) produce a total of 900 kilowatt hours of renewable electricity. As we drew to a close on yet another unforgettable day of exploring Romblon province, we watched the breathtaking sunset from this vantage point.

Erica Yu
Windmill Jamming

More pristine white sands and azure-colored sea water awaited the next couple of days. Cobrador Island,  a diver's paradise and home to a "blue hole," an underwater phenomenon that resembles a sinkhole and extends deep into the sea, was our next stop. Beachgoers can enjoy the long white shoreline of the island as a fun natural playground, while adrenaline seekers can find thrills in Takot Reef, a small islet off the waters of Cobrador, where they can cliff dive from a platform into the clear blue waters filled with colorful corals below. On land, a cave system believed to be an ancient burial site where remains of wooden coffins and human bones were discovered decades ago can be explored.

Yuna Lachica
Some of us took turns jumping from the platform of Takot Reef.

Bon-Bon Beach, with its picturesque Y-shaped coastline, is conveniently located near the town center of Romblon.  The ace up Bon Bon's sleeve lies in its expansive, velvety sandbar that extends a kilometer away to Bang-og islet, creating a truly breathtaking sight, especially during low tide.

Marla Espino
The long powdery white sand bar of Bon-bon beach

We wrapped up our exploration in Romblon, Romblon by counting marbles, like countless of all sizes. Near the Romblon marble marker in the town’s plaza is the Marble Shopping Center where one can find all sorts of items made from marble ranging from mugs, lamps, vases, sculptures of various sizes, and even tombstones.

Rica Velasco
All sorts of items made with marble can be bought here 

Before flying home, we made one last beach stop this time at Looc Marine Sanctuary on Tablas Island. This hidden gem is home to a diverse array of over a hundred underwater species, just waiting to be discovered by adventurous snorkelers. From Binucot Beach, we were transported by boat to a pair of wooden pontoons situated in the middle of the sanctuary. From there, we were treated to a breathtaking sight of an abundance of fish, all without the need to take a plunge into the water.

Monnette Santillan
Visitors here often snorkel with the marine creatures and are amazed by the colorful corals

Exploring the province of Romblon in just a week barely begins to uncover the multitude of natural wonders, thrilling adventures, and rich historical and cultural experiences it has to offer. As I board our plane back to Manila, I can't help but feel a burning desire to return, especially with the majestic Mount Guiting-Guiting calling me to conquer its challenging summit. It's set in stone. I’m definitely coming back.

This article first appeared on Esquire Philippines