Week #1: Exploring the Mind Museum

I’m still at Week 1 and already I’ve written about 3 adventures. This series is definitely motivating me to write more and explore more.  Science does comes alive at the Mind Museum. I’ve always wanted to explore this place even before it opened. The science geek in me knew I had so much to learn and enjoy in this place. And true enough I was not disappointed.  Armed with a Metro Deal coupon, I tagged my marine biologist friend along to explore. It was a fun coincidence that the travelling exhibit was about the coral triangle in the country.  What I loved about the Mind Museum is how science is creatively presented. For instance, viewing the newly discovered marine species involved placing wooden blocks in a panel that will detect the embeded digital media and flash it on a screen. It was like placing slides under a microscope.     The area I wanted to explore was the giant display of the brain. It was fun how you have to step on a description of the brain part located on the floor to have the appropriate part light up.     Equally fascinating for me was to see replicas of things I observed only under the microscope.

Top and Bottom Left: Bacteria culture in agar. Both of whom I also studied in Microbio. | Bottom Right: Mitosis phases which I observed for onion cells under a microscope

Another fun display in the Life Section was the Pockets of Life which shows how  large certain groups are due to the number of species belonging to them.     I am not a huge physics nor chemistry fan but I find it surreal being reminded of the names of famous scientists who have become household names to me growing up.

The exhibit asks you to pair a scientist with his famous work.

It was also wonderful seeing their famous experiments depicted artistically.

Left: Erathosthenes who measured the Earth’s circumference | Right: Thomas Young who established the wave theory of light contradicting Newton’s light particle theory

A visit would not be complete without marvelling at the giant TRex replica but it was not what fascinated me in the Earth section. I was more fascinated with the trilobite fossile replica. Trilobites are extinct arthropods considered to be the most successful animal having survived for 270 million years – from the Cambrian to the Permian era. I have always loved drawing them back in my Bio days.     I love how the Mind Museum infuses fun with science. To me, science is fun as it is but to many I know they find it a difficult subject. Even for me, not all Science is fun such as Math but the slides in the playground gives Math a whole new perspective. Though honestly, I don’t know the Math equation for these shapes.     The Mind Museum is a fun place to be. And I would love to go there again – and even buy a year-round pass. I might even volunteer to be a mind mover. I just hope they keep up the high quality of the displays. Already some areas are showing signs of wear. It was encouraging seeing some displays closed for improvement but there are many more due for repair. The interactive nature of the displays do call for regular maintenance.     The Mind Museum at Taguig Opens from Tuesdays to Sundays 9am to 6pm Visit mindmuseum.org for ticket rates and exhibit schedules

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Exploring an Old Gem

Eversince I heard about Paco Park and discovered it was where Toni and Piolo shot a scene from their movie Starting Over Again with Iza Calzado, I put the place in my must-discover list in Metro Manila. I know it sounds too showbiz cliche but beyond the allusion to a local movie I wanted to discover what this place had in store. I knew it was historical but why I didn’t knew. So one sunny Sunday, I found myself making the short trip to Paco Park.

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The park is actually an old cemetery back in the days when Intramuros was a vibrant city. It’s the final resting place of Manila’s high society. In fact I saw several tombs with gravestones still in Spanish. Although majority of the tombs have been sealed off, inhabitants probably moved, there are several which remained (I think).

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Paco Park is also the burial place of the GOMBURZAS and Jose Rizal before he was moved to Luneta Park. The martyred priests were buried in a common grave while Jose Rizal was buried in an unmarked grave. His sisters had to look for him in various graves and when they discovered the correct one they marked it RPJ then later had the body exhumed. Upon exhuming they realized that he was buried without any coffin. His urn was kept in the house of his sister Nerissa before being buried in Luneta Park in 1912.

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The park is a quaint, quiet place amid the bustling city. It’s a favorite venue for weddings although I find it weird to get married in a former cemetery more so to have your reception in the place. But when I visited there was an entourage having their reception in one of the enclaves and another one having their wedding pictorial long after their wedding ceremony has ended.

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Will I return? Probably. To go for a leisure stroll, some introspection perhaps or maybe to have endless chat with a special someone.

Paca Park is open daily from 7am-5pm although there’s a mass on the chapel every Sundays at 6:00am, 5:00pm and 6:00pm. Entrance is P10 but it seems if you are just going there for the mass then entrance is free. Though how they distinguish whose there for the mass and there to stroll around is beyond me.

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Travel Blogging – Is it for me?

Last month, I was fortunate enough to meet the top travel bloggers in the country including famous travel blogger Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet.  I invited them to take part in a tour around Bicol interspersed with meals from Bigg’s Diner and they were very kind enough to oblige.

As I got to know them, the blogger in me was rekindled and I longed to have this blog updated with regular posts. Further, I got into thinking, maybe I can be a travel blogger too? It seemed to me that they certainly had a great life being paid to blog about food and travel. But as Gael of The Pinay Solo Backpacker told me, it’s not all glitz and glamour. Still, I admired their guts to leave the corporate world behind and pursue their passion of seeing the world, one step at a time. But what impressed me the most were people like Chyng of No Virus, No Spam, No Kiddin’ who maintained regular corporate jobs and still managed to travel and blog about it! Now, that’s something I wish to emulate!

And so here I am, updating my blog once again and thinking of how I will back – blog my recent, biggest trip – witnessing the Marinduque Moriones Festival.  But more than that, living in a new place now (as part of training for my new job), I am led to appreciate the new sights and sounds that surround me each day. True, this is the norm for a lot of people, but to me, it is something new.

And with that my epiphany came! Travel blogging is not merely going to tourist-y destinations and trying to write about them, it is about documenting one’s own insight on the new things one is exposed of. And with that, I am back to the blogosphere.

 

PS. Having lots of time to kill also helps. 😉

Marinduque Sidetrip: Climbing Up Mt. Malindig

Marinduque is a mountainous island. It’s not a flat island, rather it’s an island with hills and mountain tops at the center surrounded by pristine white beaches along its coastal lines.

The highest peak in Marinduque would be Mt. Malindig located in Buenavista.

Originally, we have planned to climb up Sibuyao in Torrijos. We read in Sidetrip Magazine that it was the place less explored by tourists but which holds its own unique charm. Plus, there was a nearby falls – the Hinulugan Falls.

However, since the resort we got was nearer to Mt. Malindig, we decided to climb this mountain. And of course, so we can say that we reached the highest peak of the island.

Technically, we only climbed until the cell sites of Smart and the AFP Radio Control Tower. It was not the summit itself of Mt. Malindig. The summit was covered with trees and there was really not much to see at the top, except for forest cover. But nonetheless, it was a challenging climb – especially for a first-timer like me.

To climb Mt. Malindig, one has to take a tricycle from Buenavista town proper to Brgy. Sihi. Once in the barangay hall, ask around for a local official to help you look for a guide. Guides are usually barangay officials themselves (tanods or kagawads). That is their protocol. You only need to pay P50 as environmental fee to the barangay hall. They’ll give you an official receipt for that. Then you need to pay your guide which is P300.

In our case, they gave us 2 guides. We gave them P400 total. Our guides were really helpful and were patient with us plus they treated us to some freshly picked coconut when we were on our way down.

The climb is mostly uphill and there’s very few tree cover. We started climbing at 8:30AM. We were informed that the best time to start the climb is at 5AM. Because of the the few tree cover, we had to climb wearing our jackets and hats to protect us from the sun. Also, whenever we wanted to rest, there was no shady place where we can sit down so we just sat down at the nearest rock under the scorching sun.

The mountain is mostly a graze land with cows and carabaos grazing on rolling spots of grass. The place is also a farm for most of the locals so there are plantations of carrots, radishes, peanuts, etc. There are also a lot of coconut trees around.

My mom claimed that there must have been some illegal logging in the past and now the people have converted the barren mountain into a farmland. This can be very dangerous during rainy season as it could cause landslides and floods.

Indeed, along the way up, we saw patches of land which were burned. When I asked our guide about this (who also happened to be a farmer in the area), he said that they had to burn the land to get rid of the weeds to allow for the crops to grow. They also claimed the burned weeds act as fertilizer for the crops.

When we reached the top, we observed that most of the mountain side was indeed covered with farmlands. The only part of the mountain with natural tree over was the summit. The rest were covered mostly with grasses and coconut trees. This is true even for the adjoining hills.

It led me to wonder – is this simply the natural fauna of the place or have they really converted a thriving forest into a farmland? The caretaker of the AFP station at the top did mention that the government had awarded tracks of land to the locals.

But beyond this observation, the whole climb was breathtaking – in two ways. It was breathtaking because the climb was all uphill and we weren’t even half way when I was already tired and panting. Tip: bring lots of water because there are no refill stations. It was also breathtaking because the view was simply amazing. You can see on in the middle rolling hills with patches of green grass and on both sides are coastlines with crystal blue waters. It was simply amazing.

The climb down was even breathtaking. It was faster because we were going downhill 99% of the time (and at one point it got scary because you might feel you would roll all the way down). It was also breathtaking because the view was even more magnificent since you were climbing down and you can see the entire view.

Our Mt. Malindig climb was the highlight of our entire trip. It was simply wonderful.

The people we encountered were also great especially our guides. I was just concerned that one of them did not see the beauty of their place since he asked me why we took the pain of climbing up the mountain which to him is not that ravishing. But he had wisdom with him when he said that after our trip, we would be going back to our usual stressful lives and in that sense, he is lucky to be living in a carefree environment.

After all, who would say that the farmers of Marinduque are not well off? The barangay of Sihi were dotted with magnificent stone houses one would not think would be present in the mountain tops. The farmers of the mountains own their own lands and some even had nine carabaos! They are rich, in their own ways.

 

 

Marinduque Sidetrip: Island Hopping

Marinduque, being a heart-shaped island in the center of the Philippines, still has several small islands around it perfect for the usual summer activity of island hopping.

We had 2 choices of island groups to visit. There is the usual Tres Reyes Islands located in Pingan, Gasan named as such because they were three islands close to each other. The islands are individually named as Gaspar, Baltazar and Melchor. Only Gaspar island has a beach strip where you can dock and swim. During low tide, a sand bar also appears. There are also several diving spots in the area. Since we were not interested in snorkeling – we saw in Biyahe ni Drew that the dive spots were not that filled with fish and we were not that confident of our swimming skills – we decided to visit another group of islands.

There is another group of islands located in Sta. Cruz on the other side of Marinduque almost opposite the Tres Reyes Islands. There are also 3 islands but each island is bigger and you can actually dock in each one. They all have white sand beaches too!

We went to Buyabod Port to catch a boat to Maniwaya and Mongpong islands – our destination. We decided not to visit anymore the third island, which happens to be the nearest too – the Pulo Island.

You can usually get a boat that regularly travels to Maniwaya and Mongpong. The rate is P70 for the boat to Maniway and P20 landing fee. Since we wanted to take a tour around the islands and when we arrived the regular boat scheduled had already left, we rented a boat to take us around the islands for P2,500. The boat is huge and can accommodate 10-15 persons.

The trip to Mongpong, the farthest island took us around 40 minutes. Circling the entire island took another 30 minutes. Our stop over was the Ungab Beach where there was a nice rock formation.

Photo Credit: Macky Garcera
Photo Credit: Macky Garcera

You can also take a swim in the clear waters of the beach but since we were in a hurry we just took pictures. There were a lot of cool rock formations where you can take pictures of. You can just ask your boat to stop and they will happily oblige. The rock formation we choose was the most famous one – it’s part of promotional brochures for Marinduque. It was breathtaking to be so close to something magnificent – a true feat of nature!

The place was also good for snorkeling. If only we had gears and we were confident of our swimming skills, we would happily stop at any dive site and dive. The water was so clear you can see the bottom.

Our next stop was Maniwaya island. It took us around 20 minutes to reach it from Mongpong. Maniwaya is the middle island between Pulo (the nearest to coast) and Mongpong (the farthest). In Maniwaya, you can see a lot of white beach stretches. It was wonderful! You can land in one of the resorts and rent a cottage or you can select a secluded beach and just dive out and swim in the sea.

We saw several resorts – one of them the famous Residencia which had jet skis, banana boats and the like. We decided not to check in there because frankly, the beach area was so small since the resort’s edifice was built too close to shore. We decided to go around the tip and visit the next resort – Palo Maria. The resort was more open and welcoming without the fences that characterized the other resort. Plus, there was a lot of beach front area to enjoy! Sadly, we arrived close to noon time and the sand was so hot. It was a gamble on our end to swim in the water.

Maniwaya island can well become the next Boracay because of its pristine white sands. Even the beach had very clear water and swimming in it was simply wonderful. We forgot about the sun at all!

Our advice when going island hopping – make sure you come prepared in terms of food! When we went there, we only had knick knacks and what-not as our food. No one thought of actually preparing rice or viand or even loads of water prior to departure. Good thing the resort had some supplies left of canned goods and of course rice that they sold to us. Also, there were some fresh catch of balingkit (some type of snail) from a fisherman who happened to pass by. We bought some as well. We made do with our meager meal before finally heading inland to continue our exploration of Marinduque.

The sad thing with the islands is that it seems the government has lacked in implementing developmental guidelines. There were patches of beach front area which were obviously private properties and the owners decided to build houses right in front of the beach without even providing ample beach front. Some resorts also followed suit. I hope the government, this early on, can impose developmental guidelines in the area so that the development of resorts and residences in the islands would be more sustainable and Maniwaya won’t suffer the same fate as Boracay.

Beyond that, the islands were both amazing and captivating. We visited during high tide and we didn’t see the Palad Sand Bar. It is said that during low tide, the water in the sand bar is only up to 12 inches high. You can walk along the sand bar and see on either sides deep parts of the see with colorful fishes swimming through. During high tide, the sand bar is covered with water 30 inches high.

Another famous island in Marinduque, although costly to visit is the Elephant Island where Bellarocca Resort and Spa is located. It is the famed high-end resort whose rates are in dollars and only the rich and famous can afford to visit (well, unless you get a deal from a group buying site). The island does look like a Santorini from afar. It must be wonderful to experience what the resort has to offer but it has mixed reviews on the net. In any case, if you have money to burn, then why not spend it there?

Photo Credit: Macky Garcera
Photo Credit: Macky Garcera

Island hopping is never complete without some snorkeling or diving. It is something we wish we could have done. So if you are confident of your swimming and diving skills, go ahead and dive. Gears are available for rent and you can always inquire from your resort where you can rent some.

Marinduque is already a great island. Yet it is still surrounded with other beautiful islands. I would definitely go back there even if just to visit the same islands I went to or to explore the ones I haven’t visited yet.

Marinduque Sidetrip: The RoRo Experience

It’s was not the first time I rode a RoRo (roll-in, roll-out) ferry boat. I’ve rode one several times when I used to travel to Tacloban City. However, this is the first time I’m boarding a RoRo on a peak season.

My experience was not the most ideal one. I knew that going to Marinduque for the Lenten Season was going to be tough because surely the Philippines’ Lenten Capital would be swamped with people. That was why we decided to go there on the midnight of Holy Wednesday since surely the crowd would be less.

While it’s true that the crowd was comparatively lesser than the crowd on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, still we were met with a very long line and bus loads of people arriving at Dalahican Port in Lucena. We already missed the 12MN ferry and we had to take the next one which leaves at 1:30AM.

The port was crowded and even when one goes inside the building, after they check your things, you can’t find a single place to sit. The port building was jampacked!

When they finally announced that we will be boarding and when they finally opened the gates, there was a stampede. People ran to the ferry. I thought that we would all have enough rooms to sit in. I was wrong.

I was still on the lower deck where the vehicles were parked when I heard an announcement that it was already full upstairs. I was doubtful. I haven’t even claimed my seat. How can it be full? Surely, the ticketing office knows when to stop giving out tickets for that particular boat ride, right?

I was wrong again. I managed to make it to the stairs before finally I cannot move forward. My mom and sister, who were ahead of me managed to make it to the second deck but also close by the stairs. My brother was with me in the stairs. I thought they would make some people go down the ferry to lessen its load. I mean, the ferry has a maximum capacity, right?

Again, I was wrong.

The ferry started moving with me and my co-travelers standing by the stairs or the lobby – all jampacked like sardines in a can. There wasn’t even room to move!

The seafarers (the staff of the ferry line) had difficulty passing through the throngs of people. When asked why the situation was like this, they had no answer. When asked who their captain was and how they can ensure the safety of the passengers – again they had no answer.

Clearly, the boat was overloaded and no one wants to take the blame for it.

It was a terrible experience! Imagine travelling for 4 hours across the sea in an overloaded ferry, in the middle of the night, without assurance of safety. I was aghast that such a thing was allowed to happen. It seems as if they allowed as many people as possible to be crammed inside the boat – thinking they can still climb up the upper decks to find a spot – before they closed the boat, trapping this hundreds of people in.

When I relayed this incident to our resort owner, he said that the shipping lines usually practice this especially during peak season. Indeed, that was the answer of one of the staffs when we asked why the boat was overloaded. I asked if there was no Coast Guard who checks against this thing. Afterall, there were tents of Lakbay Alalay everywhere in the ports. The answer I got was that the coast guard were given a cut for every extra passenger the boat can fit in. Likewise, the ferry lines attempted such a feat only when they know the sea is calm and they won’t get into any mishap.

Given that the trip was pretty uneventful and we all got to our destination safe and sound, but I don’t think it justifies what had happened.

How can Marinduque promote further its tourism if the ferry lines that travel to it promote overloading? And will they wait for an accident to happen before they actually implement strict rules against it?

(pics to follow)

Blue Castle Beach Resort: Our Home in Marinduque

When going to a foreign place, where you rest at night is just as equally important as how you get there. That’s why, when we planned our trip to Marinduque we made sure that we were able to book the best accommodation possible. After combing through various resorts and hotels – we called and texted each one of them – we finally settled into the one who was the most hospitable and accommodating with even just a phone call.

We didn’t plan to stay at Buenavista. We planned to originally stay at Torrijos then thought it best to be at Gasan or Boac. But I must say we were not wrong in selecting our resort in the laid back town of Buenavista. Most travel blogs advised to get hotels near Boac where all the action is located or in Torrijos where the white sand Poctoy Beach is located, but we defied them and choose a resort in a town that no travel blog has ever mentioned.

The view of the resort from the beach front.
The view of the resort from the beach front.

Blue Castle Beach Resort is charming in its own way. It is your usual resort with the usual amenities – pool, rooms, a beach front – but what set it apart if the hospitality we got from its owners, particularly Mr. Rey Salvacion. Truth be told, he offered to fetch us from Cawit Port so that was really our target port to go to. However, Cawit Port was under repair so we had only one port to land in – Balanacan Port. Because of the distance, we had to travel almost 2 hours to the resort. We were jittery that maybe the jeepney won’t know where the resort was located. But we realized we had no reason to worry. Mr. Rey was in communication with us the entire time, despite the ungodly hours (we were travelling during the wee hours of the morning).

Upon arriving at the resort, he welcomed us warmly and showed us to our rooms. We originally choose the two nipa huts by the beach front which can accommodate 3 persons per room at P1400 per room. The nipa huts already had a restroom inside and had an electric fan for cooling off. Mr. Rey offered us the dormitory room which would allow us to have private access to 3 restrooms and was more spacious than the nipa huts we choose. For P3,000 per night good for more than 6 pax and with airconditioning – it was more than what we bargained for.

The Nipa Hut. This is cemented inside and can accommodate 3 pax with own restroom and electric fan.
The Nipa Hut. This is cemented inside and can accommodate 3 pax with own restroom and electric fan.
Our dorm room. This is the other half of a larger dorm room.
Our dorm room. This is the other half of a larger dorm room.

Need I mention that we also have free breakfast every day courtesy of the resort? And our breakfast was heavy and fulfilling that we can last until noontime without eating another bite.

Free Breakfast Daily - what more can you ask for?
Free Breakfast Daily – what more can you ask for?

Mr. Rey was also very hospitable and accommodating and helped us figure out our itinerary. He polished our rough itinerary with what is logical and feasible. Originally, we planned to go to all these places without even really knowing the logical order (or the time efficient one) by which we can all visit them. He was also accommodating enough to fetch us from Gasan whenever we were out late into the night and had difficulty getting a ride back to the resort.

On our second day at Marinduque, he acted as our tour guide and helped us explore the entire island and the nearby islands of Maniwaya and Mongpong. His stories and words of wisdom were a treat as it further reflected the warmth and hospitality of the people of the island.

The Pool by the Resort
The Pool by the Resort

Blue Castle Beach resort had one feature unlike other resorts – it had a very deep pool. The shallow part of the pool was 5 feet (way higher than me) and the deep part was 10 feet. I swam in the pool but really, I just stayed by the access stairs which I can easily handle.

The view by the beach is also magnificent – I believe all the more in the mornings since from there I can already view the nearby islands of Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar on one side and the majestic peak of Mt. Malindig on the other side. It was a sight I can easily get used to waking up in the morning.

The function hall by the side of the beach
The function hall by the side of the beach

On our last day at the resort, Mr. Rey made sure we tasted the delicacies of the island. He served us puto and suman along our usual breakfast fare. It was a treat to taste a different version from the usual ones we have at home. Indeed, we were fortunate enough to find our piece of home away from home in the beautiful island of Marinduque. We’ll definitely be back.

 

You can contact Mr. Rey Salvacion at this number: 09391723869 or visit their Facebook Page.

The reception area by the resort. Inside are single or double rooms with their own restrooms and the owner's family's own quarters.
The reception area by the resort. Inside are single or double rooms with their own restrooms and the owner’s family’s own quarters.

The Land of the Moriones – Experiencing Marinduque (Day 1)

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.

roro jampack

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.

The interiors were nice and functional although it gets crowded when there are a lot of people.  The food is mostly spicy.
The interiors were nice and functional although it gets crowded when there are a lot of people. The food is mostly spicy. Photo Credit: Macky Garcera

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 moriones came in all forms. What amazed me the most was the intricate details in their masks.
The moriones came in all forms. What amazed me the most was the intricate details in their masks. Photo Credit: Macky Garcera

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.

The Lepidoptera Farm was a nice park but with very few butterflies. Other local parks were also nice. I find them functional for the local community.
The Lepidoptera Farm was a nice park but with very few butterflies. Other local parks were also nice. I find them functional for the local community. Photo Credit: Macky Garcera

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!

boac old houses
The ancestral houses have been converted to commercial and government spaces (note SSS building!). However, they retained their charm giving Boac that old village feel. Photo Credit: Macky Garcera

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!

MAC_9740
Imagine a dozen of them! Parang 300 lang! Photo Credit: Macky Garcera

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

 

The Churches of Marinduque


Marinduque is rich with religious history. In every town, there is a main church or cathedral, usually on top of a hill. We were able to visit 3 churches: the Boac Cathedral, the Gasan Church and the Sta. Cruz Cathedral. All of the churches shared similar structural features reminiscent of centuries-old Spanish-inspired churches.

The first church we visited was the Gasan Church. To get to it, from the National Highway we had to climb up a steep road then a series of stairs. Once we reached the top, the view was rewarding. We got a glimpse of the Gasan beaches and the Tres Reyes Islands while a cool breeze relieved us of the heat from climbing up the steep staircase.

The church itself is magnificent. To get to the church proper, we had to climb another set of stairs. But once done, the church interior was wonderful. The ceiling had intricate fan carvings while the altar had coves which housed different saints. Beneath the church were the catacombs but we no longer explored it.

 

The Gasan Church
The Gasan Church

Later that day, we visited the Boac Cathedral  which is the oldest church in the island built in 1656. It is situated on top of a hill in a place they call Mataas na Bayan. Before you can reach the cathedral you have to make a steep climb first towards it. But the steep climb is worth the effort. At the top of the hill is the cathedral’s compound which includes the church itself.

The Boac Cathedral
The Boac Cathedral

Last on our list was the Sta. Cruz Cathedral. Like all the other churches, this was also perched on top of a hill. But it was easier to reach because it was not the lone structure uphill. Most of the town was built on a hill so we didn’t really feel the uphill climb to reach the church unlike the others.

Sta. Cruz Cathedral
Sta. Cruz Cathedral

 

Churches would always be part of our heritage and culture as Filipinos and thus when visiting new places around the country, churches also become a major destination. One can’t help but marvel at their historical architecture and the faith of the community attached to it. In the case of Marinduque, such faith is always tested as I can imagine the hardships the people go through to make the uphill journey every Sunday or every time they wish to attend church.

 

Getaway: Marinduque, Philippines

When visiting a new place, one can always go the easy route and book a travel tour package through an agency. Although such travel packages are not readily available for Marinduque. Most packages available are centered on Bellarocca Island. Since we wanted to watch the Moriones Festival, we opted to be adventurous and create our own itinerary. We haven’t visited Marinduque before and we do not know anyone from there so our sources were travel blogs, Sidetrip Magazine and the official Marinduque Tourism and Marinduque Government site. Since, I haven’t found any single authoritative and complete travel guide to Marinduque, I decided to create one with the hopes of helping some future adventurous traveler create his own adventures in Marinduque.

So here is a compilation of my travel blogs as I explored the beautiful island of Marinduque.
The first few articles will detail our itinerary and provide tips for if you want to visit the place as well. The succeeding articles will tell you in detail about our experiences in Marinduque and my personal reflections on them.
So enjoy as you read along and may you discover, just as I had discovered, the beauty of the heart-shaped island ofMarinduque!

The Wonderful Places of Marinduque
The Wonderful Places of Marinduque