Text and images by Mary Angela Barlongay
In Romblon, life is startlingly simple. There’s no traffic, no pollution, minimal crimes, and no Internet (sometimes 3G signal is bad too). It’s nature’s way of telling you to take a break and see the beautiful sceneries, experience its beautiful beaches, and taste the well-loved cuisine.
Compared to its neighboring island, Boracay, Romblon is a quiet and peaceful province found at the heart of the Philippine archipelago. “When you go to Romblon, unlike in Boracay, where there is a festive mood and a lot of partying going on especially at night, in Romblon you are going to have quiet and soul-searching activities,” said Eduardo Firmalo, governor of Romblon. “There is that family feeling that you are safe. It’s quiet and not over crowded. You will have your privacy and you will really enjoy the different set-ups and amenities that can be found in Romblon,” he added.
The beautiful Cobrador Island with its white sand and crystal blue waters.
Aglicay Beach Resort in Tablas Romblon is only 45 minutes away from the airport.
The Catingas River is dubbed as one of the cleanest rivers in the country.
Romblomanons are experts at creating beautiful sculptures and figurines made of marbles.
A seafood feast with one of Romblon’s famous dish, sarsa, which is made out of small shrimps mixed with young coconut and chili and is wrapped in coconut leaves.
Marble production is one of the biggest businesses in Romblon.
Known for being the country’s marble capital, Romblon has been the number one producer of fine quality, top-of-the-line marbles, which are turned into sculptures and structures and exported to European and other Asian countries. With the islands bounty of marbles, it has become the main livelihood of Romblomanons. “It has created a domino effect. It has improved the living conditions of our people. In 2010, when we first started, the poverty level in Romblon was 56 percent and as of this year, the poverty level has gone down to 30 percent. And we intend to make it as low as 15 percent in the next two to three years. It has really improved the lives of our people for the last six years,” said Firmalo.
But Romblon has offers more than just marbles, they also have pristine white beaches, beautiful marine sanctuaries, clean rivers, picturesque mountains, and lush forests where fireflies can be glimpsed dancing at night.
Romblon is filled with historical and religious sites that have been preserved for centuries. Considered as the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Romblon, Saint Joseph Cathedral was one of the 26 colonial churches declared as National Cultural Treasures in 2001 by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). It is the product of the talented artisans of Romblon. It was built by Recollect fathers in the 15th century, while its campanile was built between 1640 and 1726. The church was made of coral bricks, and is surrounded by religious paintings, antique icons, and stained-glass windows. It is the most well preserved Agustinian church in the region.
Every year, Romblomanons celebrate a traditional festival to honor their patron saint, Sto. Niño. But in 1999, the miraculous image of the Nuestra Señor Sto. Niño de Romblon was stolen, gone for almost 21 years. In 2013, it was found in Kalibo, Aklan by Romblon’s government officials when it was said to be sold to an antique collector.
Another historical site found in San Agustin, Romblon is the Fort San Andres. The Spanish fortification was built between 1573 and 1644–1760 in defense against the Dutch pirates who were kidnapping Romblomanons and turning them into slaves. The fortress overlooks the land and the sea, making it the perfect guarding place to catch intruders who are trying to get to the island. With the help and funding of the NCCA, the restoration of the Fort San Andres is almost finished. The only thing missing now is its roof.
World Class Beaches
This gorgeous island, with its turquoise blue waters and white sands, is only a 45-minute boat ride from San Fernando, Romblon, and with a 25-peso environmental fee, you can already enjoy one of Romblon’s best beaches—Cobrador Island. You can enjoy different water activities here, like snorkeling and boat riding. The island got its name from the Spanish word “cobro,” which means “collection (of money), cashing (of a check).” Since Cobrador is the last island in Romblon, tax collectors would collect tax from all of the boats that would pass through it. Although the island inhabits almost 52 households, it still remains clean, thanks the promotion of eco-tourism in the island. Residents have been practicing recycling to help reduce the continuous growth of plastic in the island. With the amount of plastic wrappers and bottles the whole town has collected, they were able to build a plastic library that is now being used by the students.
How to get there: You can rent a bout from San Fernando for P2,500 to P3,000. You can also ride on service boats used by the students who are studying in San Fernando for 30 pesos (one way). The boat leaves Cobrador at 6 a.m. and arrives in San Fernando at 10 a.m. You can also rent cottages at the island for 300 pesos or a room if you want to stay overnight for 500 pesos.
If you want to feel like you own the whole island, the Cresta de Gallo is the place for you. With its crystal clear waters and coral sands, this island is the perfect spot for a relaxing day under the sun. Its stunning beauty captures the hearts of all its visitors. Bohol and Cebu better watch out, because Cresta de Gallo has a breath taking beauty unlike any other. It’s a two hectare islet with a long sand bar, and is already in the process to become a marine sanctuary. The local government of Romblon is still in the works of improving facilities of the island to accommodate more people. They plan to add canopies, tables and chairs, and umbrellas to make every visitors place more comfortable.
To easily reach the island, you can coordinate with the tourism office; email@example.com; 09178417643; you can also rent a boat maximum of five people for P2,500 while their biggest boat can be rented for 5,000 pesos.
Canringas River is dubbed as one of the countries’ cleanest river. They say that the river is so clean, its water is good enough to drink. For adventure seekers, you can also jump of a diving cliff of around seven feet tall. For those who aren’t into swimming, you’ll definitely appreciate God’s wonderful creation in this pristine river.
“We have everything your favorite tourist sites have—beaches, beautiful sights, hospitality and friendliness of the locals—but we also have something you can’t find anywhere else, our diving sites, the historical significance of our churches, Fort San Andres, and marble creations that our children and grandchildren can inherit from us,” says Firmalo.