Monday, April 07, 2008

Romblon is more than marble

Romblon has always been synonymous with deposits of high quality marble that are reputed to be among the best in the world. But I would discover that Romblon is more than that. Gone are the days of tiresome ferry travel since Manila to Romblon flights are now available with regular SEAIR trips to Tablas three times a week.

For this route, SEAIR uses their 19-seater Let 410 UVP-E plane. But for the flight to Tablas last Saturday, I was on a fully-booked proving flight of SEAIR's Dornier 328 since they will be using this larger plane in the future given the high demand for flights to Romblon. Flights to Tablas are usually an hour but since we were using the Dornier, it was just 30 minutes.

At the Tablas Airport, I was met by Romblon Congressman Eleandro Madrona who was on his way to Manila. But he was kind to assign people to take me around his district. Our first stop for the day was the town of Odiongan where the Kanidugan Festival was being held. On the way, we stopped to check out the port in Looc where a regular ferry service to and from Caticlan leaves four times a week.

In Odiongan, we arrived just in time as the street parade was moving out of the central school. Kanidugan means kaniyogan and celebrates the abundant coconut produce of the town. As in most festivals in the country, the highlight of the Kanidugan Festival is the competition of various "tribes" or performing teams during the street parade.

After taking a few photos, we proceeded to the town of San Agustin to have lunch at the Madrona Residence in Brgy. Bachawan. Our plan was to take the 1 p.m. pump-boat ferry service for Romblon island which leaves from the port of San Agustin.

How to get there
SEAIR flies to Tablas three times a week. Flights leave Manila at 7:20 a.m. every Monday and Saturday and arrive at 8:25 a.m. On Thursdays, flights leave at 10:50 a.m. and arrive at 11:55 a.m. Call SEAIR at (02) 8490100 for booking.

The M/V Aikho from Caticlan arrives in Looc four times a week. It leaves Caticlan at 9:45 a.m. every Sunday, Wedenesday and Friday and arrives in Looc at 12 noon; and on Mondays at 8:00 p.m. arriving in Looc at 10:00 p.m. The two-hour ferry costs PHP200 one-way. SEAIR has regular flights to Caticlan.

There are also regular ferry services from Manila and Batangas to Odiongan, and from Batangas and Lucena to San Agustin.

Getting around
Jeeps are scarce in Tablas and there are a limited number of trips a day between major port towns. From the Tablas Airport in Tugdan, you can walk over to the National Highway to wait for a jeep to pass by. But this will need a lot a patience and jeeps are usually jam-packed like a can of sardines. If you have already pre-booked with a resort, it's best to arrange airport transfers with them.

San Agustin has daily pump-boat services to Romblon and Sibuyan. Aside from public transportation, another option to get there from the airport is to hire a motorcycle. But a trip from the airport to the port in San Agustin is said to cots about PHP800. For groups, a van or pick-up truck charter to the port would cost about PHP2000. Pump-boats leave San Agustin for Romblon twice daily at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and cost PHP85.

Part 2: Romblon, Romblon is a heritage town
Part 3: Romblon's food surprises
Part 4: Aglicay Beach and Trangkalan Falls in Tablas
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