It was the Saturday before Easter and an invite from an office friend started me on a nine-day roadtrip south of Luzon. The first stop, the marble industry capital of the Philippines, Romblon.
My journey started at ten in the morning at Cubao’s central bus terminal. It was the start of the annual exodus that occurs every holy week and the station was packed with people queuing for a ride back to their hometowns. After a quick meal at KFC, it was time to go.
The bus ride to Lucena was uneventful. I loaded my iPod with every R.E.M. albums I can get a hold of thinking I’d try a different roadtrip soundtrack this time. An hour into the playlist and I was already switching back to good ol’ Jack Johnson. I love R.E.M. and all, but they’re not just roadtrip material.
A quick drop at SM Lucena to refill my water bottle and I was again on the road dodging high-priced offers from tricycle drivers to Dalahican Port. Fifteen minutes of patient waiting later and I was hitching a ride at the back of a jeepney; backpack, beltbag, tripod and snorkeling gear (life vest included) in tow.
Blue waters and the heat of the three o’clock sun greeted me at the Dalahican Port. The one and only trip to Marinduque was still half an hour away and my companions for the trip haven’t arrived yet. There was nothing much to do but take a few photos and wait. I would have explored the nearby coast but it was just too hot even with my hat and arm warmers on; I was basically stuck at the port.
D and his cousins finally arrived, and after a few introductions we were off to Marinduque via a RORO ferry.
We rolled off Lucena’s port at four in the afternoon and we were still at sea as the sun started to lower itself down the horizon. I bought a Php45.00 cup noodles and a Php15.00 La-La chips just for the occasion. I sat myself at a deserted part of the ferry and watched the sun set.
It was fully dark when we arrived at Marinduque. After negotiations with tricycle drivers, we were soon speeding down its dark coastal roads en route to the makeshift port of Buenavista.
Just our luck, there’s no boat heading to Banton that night. Well, not really true, there was a boat but it was a small one, an 8-seater outrigger boat and they were asking for a price higher than we originally expected. It was either we take their offer or spend the night sleeping at the park. We negotiated further and we settled for a price of Php4,000.00. We were five in the group so it’s Php800.00 for each us.
We hauled our things into the small boat and started the 40-kilometer crossing to Romblon’s Banton Island. I had no clue that I was about to embark on the strangest trip of my life.
The sea was ultra calm, the water almost mirrorlike in its placidness. An hour into the ride and Marinduque had already receded into darkness; there was nothing around for miles but the gloom of the sea. Our boat moved sluggishly through the night, I’m not sure why we were traveling so slow.
With only the moon as our light, things started to get creepy. Thick mist started surrounding our boat. We were alone for miles around; it was just the placid sea, the bright moon, the creeping mists and us. It was like we were crossing the River Styx of the ancient myths.
The strange haze kept on for hours until D pointed to a mountainous outline barely visible on the horizon.
Four hours (which was supposedly just two hours) into the ride and we were chugging along the rugged coast of Banton. Dark swooshing outlines of coconuts were now visible above the cliffs of the island.
We docked at the port of Banton past one in the morning. It was dark everywhere, not one streetlamp burned, not one house window lit. A bat swooped down as we alighted the boat, welcoming us.
After fifteen hours on the road, we were finally in Romblon.
T R A N S P O R T A T I O N B R E A K D O W N
Cubao, Quezon City to Lucena Grand Terminal
Jac Liner - Php210.00
Lucena Grand Terminal to SM Lucena
Jac Liner - Free
(since I boarded a Jac Liner already, the driver said I don’t need to pay anymore)
SM Lucena to Dalahican Port
Jeepney - Php15.00
Tricycle - Php80.00 (Another option besides the jeepneys)
Dalahican Port, Lucena to Cawit Port, Marinduque
RORO - Php340.00
Terminal Fee - Php30.00
Cawit Port to Buenavista
Tricycle - Php350.00 (divided into five of us)
Buenavista to Banton, Romblon
Outrigger Boat - Php4,000.00 (divided into five of us)