Located geographically closer to the Visayan group of islands, but politically grouped with an administrative region connected to Luzon, the province of Romblon has in the old days not really registered much on the radar of international tourists and local Filipino travelers – in the latter case, they likely only knew it before as the islands where the country’s marble comes from.
The advent of the information age has done wonders to transform its image into a secret exotic travel destination, to the point that its constituent island of Sibuyan is now occasionally nicknamed the Asian Galapagos due to its biodiversity. The fact that the province is actually really close to Boracay via Tablas Island has helped a great deal too.
Today it’s ridiculously easy and relatively inexpensive for you to get to Romblon and see its wonders for yourself. Here’s a quick rundown.
HOW TO GET THERE
Going by sea to Romblon is possible, if you’re not in a real hurry and are rugged enough to stand a 10-hour sea trip. Be smart and get there quicker thanks to the national flag carrier, Philippine Airlines, with twice weekly domestic flights every Wednesday and Sunday, from Manila to Romblon province, touching down at Tugdan Airport in the municipality of Alcantara, Tablas Island at 11 AM, with the flights returning to Manila that same day at 12 noon.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Land travel in the province is much the same as anywhere in the Philippines with jeepneys and tricycles aplenty. For transport between the primary islands of Romblon, Tablas and Sibuyan, as well as the island municipalities without connecting roads you can rely on ferries, pump-boats and motor launches. A small airstrip planned in Sibuyan will cater to small charter flights and general aviation.
WHAT TO SEE
The lion’s share of touristy sights to see in Romblon province can be found within easy reach in Romblon Island, around the provincial capital of Romblon (see what I did there?). You could start by checking out the product that put these islands on the map: marble, of the finest Italian-level export quality, and in a good spectrum of shades too. The Marble Shopping Center in the town center avails tourists with a wide variety of finished products from engraved key-chains to sculpture. If your tastes in the latter go really big, you’d do well to drop by in the slew of marble workshops only 20 minutes out from town, where you can commission some really huge pieces. Or you could explore the Spanish Colonial past of the town. Climb up the hill in town to reach the 17 th century Fort San Andres, built to protect the nearby settlements from Moro pirate raids; then drop in at the 15 th century San Jose Cathedral and Belfry, built by the Recollect fathers in limestone and brick.
Being an archipelagic province, Romblon is not lacking in pretty beaches to lounge around it. It’s nothing quite like Boracay to the southwest, but it’s guaranteed near unspoiled. Close to Romblon island is Bonbon Beach with a sweet 2-kilometer sandbar that connects uninhabited Bang-ug isle at low tide. It’s popular with locals and foreign visitors alike. On Tablas to the west you can visit the protected marine sanctuary in Looc Bay, home to a diverse species of sea life. Whether you plan to swim and snorkel with the fishes, or just feed them from the floating house aquarium at the center of the bay, you’re bound to have a blast. Tablas has beaches too, from the pristine Binucot Beach to the developed Aglicay Resort, where international travelers tend to go. On Sibuyan to the east their answer to Bonbon is the islet of Cresta de Gallo, with its own tidal sandbar and relative seclusion; only one family of fishermen make their home there.
Venturing inland of Sibuyan, you’ll find the floral and faunal wonders that give it the nickname of Asian Galapagos (other than the fact that the island was proven to not have been connected to any other part of the Philippines since ancient times). This has given it a menagerie of indigenous species of fruit bats, woodpeckers and pitcher plants. A short distance from San Fernando town is the Catingas River, considered the cleanest river in the country (and one of the world’s), where you can swim and drink through preferably not at the same time.
If these teasers have managed to whet your appetite for adventure, then don’t hesitate nor delay! When you’re in the Philippines book a flight from Manila to Romblon now! Let The Travelpedia take care of your booking needs. You’ll understand soon why, even after being opened up to tourism, Romblon retains the mystique of being a “secret” destination. Romblon’s so definitely worth it.
Special thanks to Philippine Airlines on Facebook, and www.ourawesomeplanet.com/.
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