Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Roaming Romblon: Sailing Away For Now

Roaming Romblon – The Heart of the Philippines 

March 27-31, 2013

(This is a personal travelogue of our five-day intrepid journey to heart of the Philippines… 
Long coastlines, isolated white-sand beaches, lonely lighthouse and rustic countryside hospitality…)

Sailing Away For Now


 Like a faraway thought, I too shall fly
The endless sky is my limit, the vast sea my guide
for there in the horizon I shall sigh
in this strange foreign land, emotions can run astride
(the vanishing sun  as seen at the view deck of MV Reina Del Rosario)

It’s was Holy Week again, the height of summer escapades for people wanting to flee the hustle and bustle of city life. For years now, I always find myself tagging along a backpacking adventure to some off-beat, almost unknown and overlooked destination in my country.


A Familiar Sight

Arriving late afternoon in the vibrant port of Batangas, I was not surprise to see the crowd of vacationers lining the ticket booths. The sight is almost comforting, reminding me of an old friend I see the same time every year. With great sigh, we entered the holding area and squeezed ourselves past the throng of people.

We did not miss a second to dilly-dally. Holding tight our pre-booked tickets, we rush straight to the waiting arms of MV Reina Del Rosario, an old Ro-Ro ship that will take us in a bumpy 12-hour ride to the island of Tablas. The ship is no Superferry, but we can’t be choosy. We have carefully planned for days our itinerary. Despite being the longest route, Ro-Ro ride is the most affordable and fulfilling of all.


 Faces fade in the haze of the vanishing sun
Curious stares and faraway thoughts spinning a trance
For there I see, wonder in the heart of some
a unknown story that has just begun...

(images taken at the busy port of Batangas and during the afternoon stroll
 in gangway of MV Reina Del Rosario while passing Verde Strait)



Aboard on a Trance

It was practically my first time to journey on such a long trip on sea. The infamous Verde Straight has been recognized for its treacherous waves, sinking large ships during turbulent weather conditions. Dark accounts of shark attacks in the vast depths of water surrounding Romblon has added notoriety to the region, influenced most tourists to shy away and choose the more popular destinations. The distance and remoteness further secluded these overlooked clusters of islands, more popularly known for its marble reserves.

We were already sailing smoothly, when we decided to move and explore the ship. I looked far from the view deck towards the setting sun. The sky was already painted with pulsating hues of amber. Outside, the cold salty wind added a sense of ease. We watched as the stars started appearing like diamond dots in the night and the full brightness of the moon blazed passionately in the dark. I have never really enjoyed the moon more than I have when I was aboard MV Reina Del Rosario. For a moment or two, it felt like I was in a trance.

The sail started becoming rougher, the winds colder. We opted to spend the night, eating dinner, in our beds. We filled our time sharing stories and cracking jokes. From where I was, I can hear the strong waves hitting our ship. I sighed involuntarily and ignored the images flashing in my mind. It was almost midnight, when I finally drifted to sleep.


Some journey are long, tiring and endless
crazy, but the experience leaves me breathless
For they say that traveling is writing a story
a transcript of things that blurs with fantasy 

(the colorful vista at the heart of Verde Strait during the dramatic 
moments of sunset and early dusk  )

Almost There

I was awakened by the sound of people walking past us. I slowly roused from my bed and looked around me. My friends were readying our things.

Half-asleep, I muttered softly “Are we near yet?” 

Bea, one of my friends, shrugged her shoulders and uttered. “Could be, it’s almost 4am.”

I nodded in understanding. We should have arrived at Tablas by around 3am, but from the look of it, we were still sailing. I laid down again and asked why we were behind schedule.

Bevs, who seemed to have slept a little, explained “I think there was an engine trouble hours ago. 

They kept on calling someone over the speaker. But I’m not sure.”

“Could be the rough sea… Bet they opted for a slower speed.” I reasoned out and drifted back to slumber.

It was past 5am when we finally started docking in an unfamiliar-looking port. I stretched my neck to have a glimpse of the area. The port was almost empty, devoid of any large infrastructure. The sound of siren filled the silence of passengers patiently waiting at the exit. As we finally started moving, excitement suddenly took toll of my heart.

Oh, so this is it.  

Finally, we have arrived.


On a More Personal Note 

(Tips and Tidbits of Advice):

1. Most shipping companies do not entertain reservations, so buy your tickets beforehand. Else, enjoy the long line in the port.
2. If on a budget, bring your own dinner. Prices on board rises exponentially once you set sail. Please, you've been warned. 
3. Camera flashes are not recommended (oftentimes prohibited) in the view deck at night/sunset. These might be construed as stress signals. So keep those cameras in NO Flash mode. 
4. Always know where the life-saving gears are stored. Before we even sailed, I already checked their location. 
5. If you’re coming from Batangas, the right side of the ferry is a good vantage point for the setting sun. It would be nice to choose your bed in this part.  

Actual Travel Expenses:

  • Bus, Alabang to Batangas (1 ½ hour) - 137
  • Ferry, Batangas to Odiongan - 648 (Student fare) + 30 (Terminal Fee)
  • Jeep, Odiongan Port to Sta. Fe, Tablas ( 1 ½ hour) - 150
  • Boat, Sta. Fe to Carabao Island (1hour) - 100
  • Total  - Php 1, 065.00

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