The road that connects the towns of Santa Cruz and Mompog have a series of twists and turns along the hillside. You will be treated with a lot of greens and scenic rural scenes along the way. It was a visually exciting road back to Balanacan Port enroute to Manila except for the cramped van that we were in that was careening through the zigzags of the highway. I guess that was how I can describe my first trip to Marinduque – it was full of twists, turns, and detours that kept me dizzy and tired but fulfilled.
The whole experience was like an amazing race episode of missed chances, rushing from one destination to another, and detours. In the end, we came in strong and we prevailed.
A Few Minutes Missed = Hours Lost
The hit show “Amazing Race” claim that ports are the huge equalizer in their game. Every minute counts for every participant to get through to any port, whether air, land, or sea. A minute missed can spell out equalizing the game as a starting line for everyone or some contenders.
The twist on my Marinduque trip felt that way when I missed the 4am RoRo trip to Marinduque by just a couple of minutes… just minutes! The JAC Liner bus that we took from Cubao straight to Dalahican Port took its time to enjoy the early morning drive that it cost us valuable exploration time in Marinduque. My hopes were even raised when I saw the RoRo still docked along the port. Sadly, it was not the case.
We were told that we had to wait for the next RoRo at 10am. “What?” was my reaction. The delay will cost me 6 hours of lay-over time in Dalahican Port that I was already thinking of what else I can do to kill time. Good thing that a new schedule was opened at 7.30am saving me precious time.
As I was trying to catch some sleep inside the departure area of the Dalahican Port, I noticed how clean and organized the passenger terminal. The staff are accommodating that they have allowed us to stay inside the terminal and even played a movie to keep us amused during the wait.
I completely missed out on the opportunity to enjoy the sunrise aboard the RoRo that we missed out. It was something that I was looking forward to. So I had to make do with trying to find a spot where I can watch the sunrise and take pictures of it. At least, I did try.
One good thing about the delayed boat trip was that I saw Dalahican wake up in the morning. I saw fishing boats running to and fro from the adjacent port. The adjacent port also had a lot of people checking on the daily sea produce brought in by fishermen. I could see that the area was really busy with business that I thought of checking it out soon.
Balanacan Port Welcomes You To Marinduque
My excitement started to grow as Marinduque loomed on the horizon. The slow tugging of the RoRo was not enough to lull me to sleep. I tried to entertain myself with the seascape and with the soothing sea breeze. It was a three-hour trip across Tayabas Bay and three hours is a long time for an excited guy.
We pulled out of the port an hour late, much to the excitement of everyone waiting for a ferry to bring us across. I was amazed at the sight of Lucena City as we pulled out of the dock with Mount Banahaw in the background. It was then that I noticed white objects that looked like plastic bags in the pier waters. I was disappointed to see a lot of it around as a sign of bad behaviour when I realized that they were not plastic bags but were actually jelly fish. There were dozens and dozens of jelly fish with some as big as serving plates. I shivered at the thought of getting stung by these big sea creatures. Unfortunately, I realized it too late that I was not able to grab a photo. But it is a great thing to watch out for when traveling to Marinduque.
Home to one of the oldest religious festivals in the Philippines, Marinduque is one province that catches the attention of tourists during the Holy Week because of its famed Moriones Festival. Locals dressed as “Moryons” parade around town to tell the story of the blind soldier Longinus who was known to have punctured Jesus Christ on the cross. He was later beheaded for professing his faith, after droplets of blood from Jesus Christ restored his eyesight.
Marinduque is the geographical center of the Philippines. It has earned the monicker of being the heart of the Philippines because of its location and the shape of its land mass, which coincidentally is also heart-shaped. The province is broken down into six municipalities – Mompog, Boac, Gasan, Buenavista, Torrijos, and Santa Cruz. Its locals are known to be very hospitable that it shares the top spot, with Batanes, as one of the safest places in the country. Locals speak in Tagalog.
The first thing that will greet you as you approach Marinduque are the islands that surround Balanacan Port. These islands are dotted with small white sand beach coves. The islands are natural barriers that protect the Balanacan Port. The iconic image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage stands on one side of the port like a guardian protecting it. The searing heat of the sun was not enough to quench my excitement.
As soon as we were allowed to disembark, I was at the forefront heading to the jeepneys and vans bound to the different municipalities of Marinduque. I read from blogs that there are times when a mad rush to these vehicles can be experienced when you visit Marinduque so you have to be on your toes.
And then a roadblock hit us.
My initial plan to go by the Boac-Gasan-Buenavista-Torrijos route was crushed when I was told that we had to take the Santa Cruz-Torrijos route. That meant that we would have to drop the plan to go around Boac and it was going to be another hour of van travel to Santa Cruz and then another hour to get to Torrijos. Sleepy and hungry, I had to let go of the initial plan and venture into the unplanned.
After spending an hour inside a cramped van, we disembarked at the Santa Cruz Public Market where we were to take a public jeepney to Torrijos. I was already dazed that we opted to just take another “breather” to gather our wits so we walked to the nearest small eatery to take our lunch. Our first decent meal since we started the trip.
Poctoy White Beach – Beauty and Music
Feeling the sands of Poctoy White Beach under my feet was a breath of relief. Finally, we were already at Torrijos, the farthest municipality from Balanacan Port. It was a little past 2pm when we arrived in Torrijos, after 14 hours on the road, that all that we wanted was to just relax by the beach. Poctoy White Beach is the pride of Torrijos. It is a 1-kilometer stretch of white sand complemented by gentle waves that touches its shores.
It is a public beach so you can expect the unexpected. Talk about having one videoke machine per cottage blasting out a tune. So it is like 10 videoke machines blasting out different tunes at one time. It was overwhelming. I could not complain as I would rather have that than be on the road for 14 hours.
The best way to enjoy Poctoy is walk the beach. We took the time to just enjoy the place and take pictures of the place. The white sand beach have spots where you can also enjoy posing around rock formations. On one side of the beach, you will get an amazing view of the beach with Mount Malindig, the highest peak of Marinduque, in the background. Interestingly, the water is clear and the waves are friendly on this side of the island.
As the sun sets in the late afternoon, the tides pull out further towards the sea, revealing rippled sandbars and the rocky bottom of Poctoy Beach. You will then sea locals walking around looking for edible sea clams. The still waters allowed me to capture great silhouette and reflection shots. The low tide also revealed the residents this beach – sea urchins and starfish. So take extra caution when taking a dip.
One of the biggest surprise in Poctoy was its evening night skies. The local videoke party style was still on full blast that getting some sleep was a challenge. The water was back so there were those who braved the waters for an evening swim. I was not up to it as I was afraid of stepping onto an urchin. What caught my eye was the amazing view of the night sky. I think I just saw the Milky Way.
Maniwaya: The Beautiful Detour
Mornings are best enjoyed by watching the sunrise and Poctoy White Beach delivered graciously. It is one of those activities that I get to enjoy lately. There were a couple of travelers who were also up, some still dazed from the previous night’s videoke run, ready to watch the sun rise from the horizon.
As the sun rose in glorious hues of yellow, red, and orange, I started clicking on my phone, capturing the moment. It was an amazing sight to watch that I just had to pause from taking pictures just to enjoy the moment. The beach also came into life early and in no time two videoke machines were in full blast. I guess I already had too much videoke moments that we decided that it was time to get to our next detour.
The night before had us facing another tough challenge – planning on how to get to Tres Reyes. That was the planned itinerary but getting to Gasan, the jump off point, was proving to be a hassle. So we asked around and met Kuya Dario who was nice enough to give us a reasonable price for a roundtrip tour of the three islands. It was during the deliberation that he mentioned that he could also bring us to Maniwaya. The place rang a bell and in no time, we closed a deal that completely gave us a new trip detour - Maniwaya Island.
After an hour and half of sea travel, we touched down at Maniwaya Island. Being “roasted” under the sun with a couple of saltwater splashes was not enough to dampen our mood as soon as we stepped onto the white sand of the island. Well, I guess it would have helped if the Kuya Dario’s boat had a little cover to shield us from the sun, though. But seeing the sheer beauty of Maniwaya Island gave us the assurance that we made the right decision the night before.
Maniwaya is an island off the coast of Sta. Cruz. It is starting to get attention from travelers because of its pristine white sand shores and clear turquoise waters. The island is positioned to be one of the tourist’s spots at the forefront of Marinduque’s tourism drive.
I have to agree that when I stepped onto the shores of Maniwaya, time stood still. Its beauty just captivated me. The island’s hues of blue, turquoise, and white was enough to mesmerize you that you just have to savor the moment that you are in paradise. It gave me a quick feel of summer when we just stayed under a shade of the tree just watching the hours pass, on the shores of Maniwaya.
Taking a dip in its cool clear waters was the best way to cap off our short visit to Maniwaya.
Home Stretch: Sta. Cruz, Marinduque
It took us another 45 minutes aboard a motorized banca and a 15-minute tricycle ride to get us to Santa Cruz. We were now on the homestretch but not without making a short stop in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is one of biggest municipalities of Marinduque and serves as the industrial, commercial, and educational capital of the province.
Since we were there only for a short period of time, we opted to just make a quick go of the town.
Santa Cruz Plaza
Sitting atop a hill, the Santa Cruz Plaza stands out at the center of town. The white-washed town hall sits adjacent to the plaza’s open space where facilities for recreation are located. It really gives you that rural town vibe. Business establishments surround the plaza.
You would definitely know that you are in Marinduque because just right in front of the plaza stands a huge “moryon” bust. It gives premium to the rich cultural heritage and faith of the locals.
Santa Cruz Church
Just a few meters away from the plaza stands the Santa Cruz Church, the oldest church in the province. Built in 1714, the church, the church serves as the center of the Christian faith in the municipality.
I read that the church have gone through renovations and that gave the façade a fresh look. I really liked the brick façade of the church as it gave the church the century old feel. Sitting beside it is a five-story bell tower that is still in use to call the faithful to the church or into prayer. The old house beside the church, which I presume was probably once served as a convent, is the only reminder of the church’s old age.
I was really in awe when I stepped inside Santa Cruz Church. The interior was just magnificent. It is probably one of the most beautiful church interiors that I have seen. The painted ceilings stand out with its details that I kept on staring upwards to appreciate its beauty. The three-tiered retablo was also a sight to see with all its saint images standing side by side. The church was just a beauty to see.
Post Travel Notes
As I watched the sunset aboard the RoRo on our way back Lucena, it was only then that my body started to feel the strain of the weekend trip. It was a whirlwind trip with every twist and turn possible. I was amazed that I was able to handle the stress of the whole trip.
But it was one hell of a trip that I enjoyed. I saw the rugged beauty of Marinduque and felt the warmth and the hospitality of the locals. It was also one destination that I felt really safe all throughout the trip. I must say that despite the roundabouts of the trip, Marinduque is a paradise to watch out for.
Getting There: You can take a Jac Liner or Jam Liner bus to Dalahican Port in Lucena City. You can take a RoRo to Balanacan Port in Marinduque. From Balanacan Port, you can take a van to Sta. Cruz where you can take another jeep to Torrijos. You can then take a tricycle to Poctoy White Beach.
For boat arrangements from Poctoy, you can contact Kuya Dario at (0907) 2897878.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.