This year, we thought we’d do something different for Holy Week. For 25 years, I’ve spent Holy Week the same way – except perhaps when I had work at the call center but that’s beside the point. And so, we decided, that what better way to spend the Lenten Season than to visit the country’s Lenten Capital – the heart-shaped island of Marinduque.
We decided to leave Naga City the around 3pm of Holy Tuesday so we would reach the Lucena Port by midnight of Holy Wednesday to catch the first ferry to Marinduque. We wanted to avoid the large crowds at the port which is typical when visiting a place due to its festival. The bus trip, which normally takes 6 hours, took us almost 10 hours (!) since our bus was stranded due to engine failure at Tagkawayan, Quezon.
Lesson learned: Do not trust Raymond bus when you are on a tight schedule. We were supposed to reach Lucena by 10pm so we can hitch a ride to Dalahican Port but instead we reached it at 12MN and had to rent a jeep to the port.
Upon arriving at the Dalahican Port in Lucena, there were already a lot of people lining up to buy tickets at the two ferry lines going to Marinduque. One ferry company – Star Horse – had a longer line since it had more regular trips than its competitor – Montenegro Shipping Lines. We took turns in the long queue but since one of our companions was very maparaan we got tickets long before our turn at the ticket booth. And as such, we caught the ferry leaving at 1PM instead of the one leaving at 4AM.
Sadly, the ferry we rode was OVERLOADED! My breath was caught in my throat as I was literally stuck standing in the stairs leading to the second floor with my brother right in front of me and a total stranger behind me and then the boat started moving. Apparently, every inch of space was already full. When one of the cabin crew who passed by was asked why they overloaded the ferry, the answer was that “Pasensya na po, Peak Season kasi.” (Sorry. It is peak season). And for the most part of the evening, cabin crews were nowhere to be found. I kept saying a silent prayer that time, asking the Lord not to let the ferry sink and to preserve our lives.
Thankfully, the ferry did not sink and we reached our destination. Upon inquiring with locals, I learned that this is common practice with ferry operators especially if the water is as calm as the night we traveled. Indeed, the full moon was reflected in the clear waters and the ferry moved at a very slow albeit steady pace. But I still think that tranquil waters is not an excuse for any ferry to overload and put their passengers lives at risk. Good thing, we were traveling at the wake of dawn so we got to focus on the wonderful changing of the sky colors instead of the pain and discomfort we were suffering.
Upon arriving at Balanacan Port, which was the only operational port at that time (Marinduque has 3 ports) we took a long jeepney ride of about an hour and a half to our resort located at Buenavista. The resort owner was very nice in his welcome and offered us a better room than the ones we initially booked. He placed us in the dormitory room with common CRs and since we were the only ones occupying the dorm, we had the CRs to ourselves. Other guests arrived towards the end of our trip to share the CR but by that time we didn’t mind.
Since we were tired from traveling, we decided to rest for a bit before heading to our first itinerary – exploring Gasan Town Proper and Boac.
Around 10AM, we decided to head out to Gasan, the nearby town to Buenavista. When we were planning the trip, we initially thought that it was relatively easy to get jeepney rides to take us from town to town. Afterall, Marinduque was a small island. To our disdain, we discovered that jeepneys travel in intervals of 30 minutes and going from one town to the next will average an hour in travel and that is with the jeep in full speed. Had we known, we would have considered bringing a private vehicle to the island.
Upon arriving at Gasan, we were already hungry so we decided to stop by the first resto we saw – Barabossa Pub. It was a German Pub serving (I guess) authentic German sausages which we didn’t get to try. Instead, we tried familiar dishes like Fish Sinigang and Chicken Sisig. The closest thing we got to German was the German sausage sisig. Verdict: Everything was spicy! For me it was ok, nothing too spectacular. For the others, it was not so good. Curious enough, we saw other tables enjoying huge cheeseburgers and pizza. So we resolved to go back again and try those other dishes.
After lunch, my sister had some work to do (meet clients) at the pub so we went out to the streets to do some exploring. Ancestral houses were plenty and most of them were converted to commercial spaces on the first floor and living quarters in the second floor. As we were tinkering with the souvenirs in one shop, we heard a commotion in the municipal hall and saw a group of Moriones about to go around on a parade. Immediately, we rushed to them to try to capture the scene when one Morion was kind enough to get out of the pack and pose for pictures. It was exhilarating to see my first batch of Moriones. Later in the day, I spotted a lot of them milling about in the streets in every town we went too.
There was quite a lot of them. And they all came in a variety of sizes. The Moriones Festival commemorates the tradition in Marinduque wherein men (and sometimes women) don of costumes of Roman soldiers who persecuted Christ during his last hours. The most amazing part of their costumes are the wooden masks which are hand carved and unique to every Morion. To them, it was not just a display, it was also a mode of repentance for their sins. Donning the costumes can get pretty hot from the looks of it.
The highlight of the festival is during Black Saturday when a re-enactment of the beheading of Longinus, the Roman centurion who first saw Christ resurrected is done in major plazas in various towns in Marinduque.
After the photo-ops with individual Morions and giant Morion replicas in the Gasan Municipal Square, we headed on to the Gasan Church which was perched atop a hill. Apparently, almost all churches in Marinduque are on top of a hill overlooking a great view.
Before we reached the Gasan Church, we were approached by a friendly tricycle driver who offered to show us around Gasan. Although we preferred to walk and explore the town on foot, since it was mid-day and we had “oldies” with us, we took his offer. After Gasan Church, he brought us to Lepidoptera Farm – a butterfly farm also nestled in a hilly part of Gasan. The farm was more of a park with beautiful plant arrangements interspersed with butterfly cages. However, the cages did not contain a wide assortment of butterflies and I was disappointed with them. I just took the time to admire the park and pose for pictures.
After the Lepidoptera Park, he brought us to Reyes Park which had several more giant Morion replicas and a tiangge selling souvenirs. Since it was a bit early in the trip to buy souvenirs, I did not buy from the tiangge thinking I could find possibly cheaper ones in other towns or I could always go back. Wrong move. I never got to go back and I regretted not buying one souvenir which I did not see elsewhere. In any case, most of what was sold was reasonably priced once I got the chance to compare prices with other tiangges in other towns.
After Reyes Park, we went to Guingona Park (yes, one town had many parks) which was a sort of bay walk area of Gasan. It had a very small lighthouse, which is functioning, I believe and wonderful marble tables where people could sit. There was also a mini playground for kids. What interested us was the hanging bridge which connected a residential area to the park over a small estuary. We had a cool time taking pictures in the area.
After leaving Gasan, we proceeded to take another jeepney ride to the capital town of Boac. On the way to Boac, we were met with re-routed roads due to the Holy Wednesday procession. As such we had to pass by the river bed. It struck me that their rivers were very dry. When we asked the jeepney driver about it, he said that recently, they experienced a huge flood and the entire riverbank was filled to overflowing. It even flooded the bridge which was really high. Looking around, I saw piles of garbage stuck in the river’s edge which the driver also complained about.
Arriving at Boac proper, we got a Vigan feel of the entire city. Everywhere we look, we saw ancestral houses converted mostly to commercial spaces. Had the streets been made of cobblestones, I would really think I was in Vigan!
We visited the Boac Cathedral which was again perched on top of a hill. Upon going down, we saw the Holy Wednesday procession and when the group of Moriones passed by, they sent shivers down my spine. I had a mental picture that I was seeing the entire cast of 300 pass by me. Why? Check out the pic!
After the procession, we stopped by the main shop of —-, original makers of the famous Arrow Root Cookies which is the delicacy of Marinduque. Arrow Root is a type of root crop grown in large quantities in the province. The cookies taste a bit like puto seko with less milk.
By the time we finished, it was already late so we opted to have a late dinner at Kusina sa Plaza. The place was featured by Drew Arellano in Biyahe ni Drew and it also had a lot of reviews in the blogosphere.
The place was nice. The ambiance of an old house was there but the comforts of a casual dining restaurant was present as well. The foods took some time to prepare and since we were hungry we were a bit impatient. Our halo-halo which was supposed to be for dessert came first and since we were famished, we finished it in no time and made it our appetizer. After a while, the real appetizer came – Ugong soup. It tasted sour and I didn’t quite like it but it was supposed to be another delicacy in the area. After that, more familiar products came. I ordered pasta (as usual) which was Penne Marinara and was surprised that it tasted sweet! Being accustomed to the sour spaghetti taste of Italian spaghetti, I did not like it as well. Other items ordered were alright. All tasted sweet to our discriminating palate. Overall, we liked the ambiance but not the food.
After the late dinner, we were pleasantly surprised that we couldn’t get a ride out of Boac. No wonder, all the blogs we read said one should stay at the infamous Boac Hotel. It was just 9 in the evening and already no jeepneys would take us even to Gasan. So we rented a trike and just enjoyed the uncomfortable ride to Gasan where our host – the resort – gladly fetched us and brought us back to our home sweet home for the night.
Day 1 done. Up next, day 2.
Itinerary and Cost:
Bus to Lucena (6 hours): P425
Jeep to Dalahican (20 minutes): P70 each x 6 = P420
Ferry to Balanacan (4 hours):
Jeep to Buenavista (1 1/2 hours): P115
Accommodation at Blue Castle Beach Resort: P3,000 per night for 6 persons (Dorm Room)
Jeep to Gasan (30 minutes): P25 each
Lunch at Barbosa: Aprox. P150-P200 each
Tour Around Gasan: Trike for P200 (including optional tip)
Jeep to Boac (30 minutes): P25 each
Dinner at Kusina sa Plaza: Approx P200-P250 each
Rented Trike to Gasan: P300