On my first day on Romblon island, I visited the unique heritage sites of Romblon town, before checking in at Dream Paradise Mountain Resort, the accommodation arranged by Romblon Provincial Tourism. I had already rented a Yamaha Mio Soul scooter and was raring to see the rest of the island the following day.
With a total land area of only 87 sq km, Romblon island can be easily explored on two wheels along its circumferential highway. Circling the island nonstop would take no more than two hours. (For scooter rentals on Romblon island, contact Arnold Mendez at +63 928 4162999, ₱400 per day)
(Note: As of March 2022, Dream Paradise Mountain Resort is still the only accommodation on the island approved to receive tourists since tourism restarted. A booking confirmation from a DOT-accredited accommodation was required to procure the S-PASS to enter Romblon island.)
Hidden Spots of Ginablan
I woke up before sunrise the following morning to start my tour. The resort owner recommended that I visit Ginablan Bird Sanctuary, a nearby protected mangrove wetland that’s best visited at the break of dawn for birdwatching.
The sun was rising as I left the resort and reached Barangay Ginablan in a few minutes. However, the mangrove sanctuary was temporarily closed to visitors. I was about to leave, but I fortunately chanced upon caretaker Antonio Mago at the entrance, who gladly ushered me in to tour the protected area. We followed a narrow concrete boardwalk through the mangrove forest that opened to a lagoon.
Across the water, we immediately sighted a large flock of Philippine ducks (Anas luzonica), a threatened species endemic to the Philippines with only 3,300 to 6,700 mature individuals left in the wild. Past the lagoon stands a newly built concrete observation tower (still closed) near the beach were a fishing community lives. Along the beach, I spotted more birds like cattle egrets, collared kingfishers, and black-naped orioles.
After birdwatching, I returned to the resort for breakfast, and set out again for my round-the-island tour. My counter-clockwise route started from the west coast of the island, traveling down south, before detouring to the eastern mountain highway that would take me back to Romblon town. I navigated using Google Maps, and confirmed directions by asking locals along the way.
My first stop was Talipasak Beach, a secluded stretch of white sand, also located in Barangay Ginablan. Also known as San Pedro Beach Resort, this spot was recommended by the resort owner. I had the shoreline all to myself, so I decided to spend a couple of hours here to take advantage of the peace and exclusivity.
Rounding the South End
By 10 am, I departed Talipasak, and returned to the highway. Driving southwards to Barangay Agpanabat, I decided to stop by Reggae Vibes de Isla Romblon, a backpacker’s guesthouse just along the road. The laid-back seaside accommodation has a small restaurant that makes for an excellent food stop. Dining options are very limited on this side of the island, so Reggae Vibes is an oasis for motorists circling the island.
Aside from dining in, visitors can also take a dip in the small saltwater pool that surrounds the restaurant. While waiting for my order, I gave in to the temptation and went in for a quick swim. Sunbirds frolicking on the coconut palm fronds kept me entertained. Lunch arrived in no time: I had sizzling chicken with mushroom (₱170) followed by ice-cold halo-halo (₱70) for dessert.
Continuing southwards, I negotiated some unpaved sections of the highway. Rounding the southern of the island, I made it to Sablayan Point, a stone beach facing Sibuyan Island. Here, I met laborers collecting white marble stones by the bucket along the beach, working under the midday sun. They had to work fast, one of them explained, since the stones only appear when the waves are strong. They carried the stone-filled buckets under a tree where they sorted them by size and color.
Traversing the Marble Mountains
Up to this point, the highway followed a coastal route. where I turned left towards the eastern mountains of the island. The road climbed and meandered through forested valleys, dotted by communities. The first sign I noticed of the province’s famed marble industry at a road bend in Barangay Ilauran, overlooking a mountain side that has been cut away to reveal its bone-white interior of marble.
Nicknamed the “Marble Capital of the Philippines”, Romblon has been quarrying and processing marble since the late 19th century. While the province is only second-largest marble producer after Bulacan, its marble is reputedly of a higher quality.
At Barangay Ilauran, I visited a marble quarry that specialized in manufacturing large tables and funeral products like urns and lapida (tombstones). Walking down a steep path from the workshop, I reached a manufacturing plant, where massive blocks of marble were hauled from the quarry and sliced into slabs with giant circular saws, cooled off with jets of water. On the side of the path, an elderly craftsman chipped away at a chunk of marble, slowly shaping it into a round base for a table. I was fascinated by the tedious, labor-intensive process. It was my first time to see how marble was transformed into the final products.
Farther up the mountain road, as I neared Romblon town, I found other workshops that manufactured decorative sculptures. At Barangay Capaclan, I watched dust-covered laborers of David’s Marble Products carve statues of dolphins and Chinese guardian lions with power tools. Across the street, there was a showroom where the final pieces such as figurines and stoneware were displayed. Inside, two women were polishing a marble tray and seahorse statue. I bought two small shark figurines for ₱60 each as souvenirs.
Sunset at Bonbon Sandbar
Descending from the mountains, I reached Romblon town on the northern end of the island. (If you have a couple of hours to spare when you reach here, I recommend taking a self-guided heritage tour of the provincial capital.)
Heading west of the capital, I reached my final stop, Bonbon Beach – a stunning, undeveloped beach that stretches out into a sandbar towards Bang-og islet. When tides are at their lowest, the sandbar bridges the mainland to the islet.
This is most attractive beach on Romblon island, and one of the most beautiful sandbars I’ve seen in the entire country. There are no resorts, huts, or big trees along this long beach to provide any shade so the best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the oppressive heat. I hope this beach stays this pristine for generations to come.
As the late afternoon sun retired, groups of locals began to congregate along the beach, drawn to the orange glow of sunset like moths to a flame. Despite having to share the sandbar with others, the beach was large enough to find your own secluded stretch. The setting sun sank behind the tall mountains of Tablas island, painting the skies in bold hues of orange and purple.
It was a dramatic way to end my circumnavigation of the island. As night fell, I completed the loop by returning to Dream Paradise Mountain Resort and called it a day.
HOW TO GET THERE
Inter-island ro-ro ferries travel to Romblon island from Lucena and Batangas cities, a few hour’s bus ride south of Metro Manila. Starhorse and Montenegro have daily overnight trips from Lucena City to Romblon island. These ferries stop by other islands like Banton and Tablas before reaching Romblon . Montenegro has twice-weekly Batangas-Odiongan-Romblon trips, departing Mondays and Thursdays. Schedules frequently change, so it’s best to contact the shipping companies to confirm.
Please contact the Romblon Provincial Tourism Office for the latest travel requirements and other tourism inquiries. During my visit, I was required to apply for an S-PASS to enter Romblon island.