On our sixth Random Road Trip, we decided to head to a place that was everyone’s backyard, but relatively few people have gone to. Known as the heart of the Philippines, the island of Marinduque is situated just 50 kilometers off the coast of Lucena, but aside from the Moriones Festival during the Holy Week, it is usually looked over as a tourist destination in favor of its more well-known neighbors like Mindoro, where Puerto Galera is located, and Boracay.
Getting To Marinduque
Getting to Marinduque is relatively easy by taking a JAC liner or Jam liner bus . We took the latter by going to their bus station near the corner of Kamias and EDSA. It costs P228 each going straight to Dalahican Port in Lucena. From there, it costs P260 for the ferry ticket per person, and another P30 terminal fee (going back costs just P22 from Balanacan port in Marinduque). It’s a relatively event-free ride, but the waters can get bumpy when it’s rainy, so take seasickness pills if you must to get you through the 2.5 hour ride. On the other hand, it’s worthy to note that these ferries have the best rest rooms I’ve ever seen on local public transportation, rivaling even that of many commercial establishments in Metro Manila, as I was able to comfortably do my business with their bidet-equipped toilets. When you arrive at Balanacan Port in Mompog, after exiting the port area, you should be able to find several jeepneys that you can ride to the next town or, like in our case, hire the whole jeepney for the day.
Luzon Datum, Mompog
Our first destination was the Heart of the Philippines. In 1911, Station Balanacan or Luzon Datum was established as the geodetic datum origin. In human-speak, that means that this particular spot in Marinduque became central to all mapmakers and geographic surveyors in the whole of the Philippines, making it the geographical center of the Philippine Archipelago!
The Ancestral Town of Boac
After our brief afternoon climb up Luzon Datum, we were back on the road before sunset. A few hours later, we found ourselves having dinner amid old Spanish ancestral houses and establishments in Boac. Boac is Marinduque’s provincial capital, and where most commercial businesses are located. We spent the night at a resort about half-hour’s drive South of Boac but came back here for breakfast and to tour the streets during the day.Also in town is the Boac Cathedral, which is where the Katipunan flag is said to have been baptized in 1899. This old church built in 1792 still stands today with its bell tower and holds regular masses. Perhaps more impressive is the intricately detailed wood carvings on its large wooden doors on its main entrance.
Bathala Caves in Sta. Cruz
Energized with a full breakfast, we hit the road again to the North Eastern part of Marinduque to the Bathala Cave system. There were three caves we went to: Cathedral or Church Cave, Python Cave, and Secret Cave. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go to the Lagoon Cave since it was raining earlier, and the guides told us it would be impossible and dangerous.
So named because of its large theater-like cavern and various religious imagery you will find with its rock formations. Shine your light on the ceiling, though, and you will find bats numbering in the tens thousands! In the next chamber of Cathedral Cave, you have to be quick on your feet as sometimes it rains with bat poop and the pungent odor permeates the chamber in its entirety! Python Cave
Also called Snake Cave, it’s named Python Cave due to its namesake inhabitants, depending on the season and weather, you will find several pythons inside this cave. We found SEVEN pythons sleeping in the cave. So the next time you come here and find less than that, be careful, a snake might be lurking just above your head waiting for its next prey! Secret Cave
The third and final cave we entered in the Bathala Cave system was called Secret Cave, probably because of the inconspicuous entrance that required you to enter a small hole and climb down an almost vertical face down about 2 or 3 meters before you were greeted by a strong breeze and a small but dank cavern. Depending on who you are, the Secret Cave may or may not be scarier than the Python Cave. It all depends on what you rank as creepier: snakes or bats and cockroaches, lots of them. But it was the first time I’ve seen an albino cockroach, so it was cool too! You can get in touch with the tour guides at the Bathala Caves by contacting Rency at 09292577650. Guide fees cost around P400/group and a local tourism fee of P50/person.
Ka Ambo’s Famous Crispy Pata
Exhausted from all that spelunking, we headed to the town proper of Sta. Cruz, where you will find Ka Ambo’s Crispy Pata, said to be the best crispy pata in the whole country! Ambrosia Reynoso, or Ka Ambo as they fondly call her, was kind enough to entertain us in her home at Burgos street while one of her children cooked the crispy pata in the kitchen (P300/order). Mind you, this is her home and not a restaurant, but you can have your crispy pata to-go and have it served at a nearby eatery or restaurant.
Poctoy White Beach
We stayed at Poctoy at the end of the 2nd day. The beach itself wasn’t maginficent, and it was quite crowded, but it did offer fun and relaxation with the rows of cottages, inner tube rentals and kayak rentals. Once the vacationers started going home, we had a wonderful time taking pictures on the beach, and afterwards had a boodle fight for dinner at Rendezvouz Inn where we were staying. The more adventurous of us learned how to pitch a tent and we had an awesome camp under the moon!
Sta. Cruz church
It was our last day and we were going home. But we made sure to make a quick detour to see Sta. Cruz Church, and had some refreshing ice scramble as well! Sta. Cruz church is a massive church built in 1714 and is an impressive sight with its stone and brick walls and its adjoining bell tower.
Our final surprise to our participants to wind down our adventure was a quick trip to the Paadjao cascades where we waded in the cool waters, climbed the cascades, and some of us even dived from atop a low rock formation! I suggest you go there while you have the chance, since the land the Paadjao Cascades sits on has been bought, and who knows how the land will be developed.
Of course, our Random Road Trips wouldn’t be complete without our crazy rides! And we’ve had quite a few of them on this trip: We took the bus early morning from Manila, boarded a ferry in Quezon through rough seas, and rode the jeepney both inside and topside!
- Check out www.marinduque.gov.ph for general information about traveling to Marinduque.
- If you ever find yourself in Marinduque in need of a jeep, call our driver Chris. You can negotiate with him the best price on the island! His number is +63 999 979 5447.
- Luzon Datum and the Bathala Caves charge a local tourism fee of P50 per person, while Poctoy charges an environmental fee of P30 per person.
- For help and other concerns while you’re in the island, you may contact Roxanne Ricabierta. She is the owner of Shirley’s eatery Videoke And Shirley’s Lodging House, a small backpacker-friendly hostel in Mompog, and she acts as the unofficial tourism office of Marinduque. [email protected] 09497812761 or 09297315367
Credits to Evie Go, Kin Pena, Jaytee Macaraniag, and me for the photos. And to Paola Tuyor for the awesome group selfie below!
Thanks to Sheena and Kin Pena, Cielo Gamboa, Sam Santiago, Chad Gonzales, Ana Auxilian, Genesis Mendoza, Katherine Bacero, Ghislain Barro, Paola Tuyor, Lia Hernandez, LadyAnn Canlas, Mark Valencia, Evie Go, and Mimsie Alconcel for joining us! These Random Road Trips wouldn’t be as fun if it weren’t for all of you!
Special thanks to Eva Narvaez for the assistance she provided us during our first day in Marinduque!