Exploring the Heart of the Philippines: MARINDUQUE

When there is time and a budget, I am always on a hunt for new places to explore. In my previous article about the different places I want to visit in the Philippines, I included Marinduque. Good thing I saw an event posted by GalaPh that they were planning to do a Marinduque adventure. I immediately signed up for the event and prepared myself for a great escape! Instead of planning the itinerary, GalaPH already organized van transportation from Manila to Dalahican Port in Lucena Quezon. Basically, the tour group organized everything for the entire trip to Marinduque and that was very convenient on our part. 

Nature lovers and adventurers find Marinduque appealing and a place full of fun and adventure. It boasts its rich agricultural lands, gigantic mountains, fertile jungles, picturesque islands, and beaches. Marinduque is a region situated in Luzon, part of MIMAROPA and is tagged as “The Heart of the Philippines”. During Holy Week, Marinduque celebrates its Moriones Festival. This place is definitely a destination you will find hard to ignore.

From food, beaches, caves, unspoiled islands, adventure, and many more; Marinduque has what it takes to be the next favorite destination of tourists. 

Here are the different places we explored during our 3 days and 2 nights in the Heart of the Philippines: Marinduque!

1. Sta. Cruz Boac Heritage Town

Ancestral houses are properly preserved in the town of Boac, creating a lasting impression to visitors of this town. Antiquities and old houses are dominant in Boac but sadly, some houses are in a state of dilapidation and will soon be demolished. 

2. Boac Church (Cathedral of the Immaculate Concepcion)

If you are looking for a place to find a great view of the town, this is the place to be. I am not a Catholic myself but I do admire churches specially the history behind them. This church was built in 1782 and believed to have saved the people from the Moros in the 18th century. On the side of the church, you will find a museum and stairs leading to the rooftop where you can get a nice view of the town and a perfect way to start your adventure on the Island.

3. Butterfly Farm - Gasan

The Island of Marinduque is home to a variety of butterflies and that's what we came to see as well. Unfortunately, we arrived during the wrong season and found none. But who knows, they may have lots now waiting for you to visit them. I don't mind visiting the place again on my next visit.

4. Saint Joseph Parish Church - Gasan

While in Gasan, might as well visit another beautiful church which is the Saint Joseph Parish Church. This is actually one of the most beautiful churches I've seen as well. The intricate detail of the door was a complete work of an art. The banahaw leaf inspired ceiling created a very refreshing and peaceful ambiance. And as you go out, you can also get a nice view of the town.

5. Malbog Sulfur Spring - Buenavista

When I heard about the Malbog Sulfur spring, the first thing that came to my mind was the smell of the Sulfur. But it wasn't that bad at all, anyone could get used to the smell easily. Sulfur is known for its healing properties that is why this place is also a very famous tourist spot in the Island. I thought, at first, it was hot but it wasn't. At the side of the pool, you will find a small lagoon or pool where you actually see bubbles coming out from the ground. This was indeed interesting and a fun place to swim with a lot of benefits! 

6. White Beach Resort - Poctoy 

A beautiful white sand beach, this was the place where we decided to stay on our first night. When we arrived it was very busy. This place seems to be very famous for both tourists and locals. They have rooms and cottages for rent here too. 

7. Hiking Luzon Datum (Heart of the Philippines) - Mogpog

Luzon Datum is a stone marker situated on the top of a mountain. To get to the top, you will need to hike for an hour. Depends on how fast or slow you walk. Make sure that you have water with you as it could be exhausting. But once you reach the heart of the Philippines, you will be welcomed with a stunning view. 

This is a very important marker used as the first point for all the map makers in the country. And to be able to reach the heart of the Philippines was a great experience and a bragging right! 

8. Spelunking at Bagumbungan Cave - Sta. Cruz

A one hour travel from Gasan to Sta. Cruz, will take you to the wonderful village of San Isidro where the Bagumbongan Cave is situated. A scenic Subterranean River was discovered by the tourism officers Marinduque last 2009. 

Before spelunking Bagumbungan Cave, you will have to listen to a short lecture conducted by your tour guides. You will be allowed to choose whether to go inside and see the waterfalls or just go back.

Inside the cave, you will experience a waist deep waters. The local government made a huge effort in preserving everything that’s inside. The towering and magnificent stalactites and stalagmites are real beauties! There are also flow stones that look truly amazing. Some bats and other creatures also live here.

Spelunking is a test of strength and endurance because it will take approximately 4 hours to finish the entire journey throughout the cave. You will have to go over slippery stones and do a lot of swinging with a rope. Wearing proper gear is a MUST. After the long trail, replenish your strength with fresh coconut juice and halo-halo.

9. Maniwaya Island

“An Island Of Your Own”, this small island is not overcrowded, unlike other beaches, giving utmost peace and harmony. Maniwaya Island is a famous destination in the province of Marinduque. The travel takes 2 hours by land and 30 minutes by boat. It’s the farthest among three islands, so expect a longer travel period. But everything will all be worth it once you reach the Island.

Maniwaya Island is slowly catching the attention of vacationers especially the ones coming from Manila. This island is indeed a real beauty yet it offers very affordable packages. 

10. Mongpong Island

Source: Jef Manalo

Situated farthest from the mainland of Marinduque, just about 1 hour from Buyabod port, Santa Cruz. White beach, crushed corals, picturesque sceneries engulf the majestic island of Mongpong.

We are supposed to visit this island but due to weather, the boatman decided to go back instead for our own safety. And suddenly a friend of mine, Jef Manalo posted a photo of him at Mongpong on a clear sunny day. I was so jealous! Haha! So on my next visit, this is the first place I want to visit. 

11. Palad Sand Bar 

This small island is ideal for swimming but be sure to plan your visit to this island because the sandbar only appears when it’s low tide. But either way, you are sure to get a great experience here! Do not forget your snorkels as this sand bar is also a great spot for snorkeling. 

I am very thankful that I found the post of GalaPH on Facebook. I don't know If I would be able to explore the whole Island by myself. It was a great crowd and we all bonded so well in the end. There are so many memorable things happened during our adventure and one of them was sitting on top of the jeepney and greeting almost everybody we saw along the road. 

It was so much fun that from the day we started all the way up to the end of our adventure, we were all top loading! 

If you are traveling as a group and would like to tour around the island, you may contact our Jeepney driver RUDOLF at this number: 09084186130. And if you want to check on the future tours of GalaPh, you may check their Facebook page.


Exploring the Underground River and other tourist spots in Puerto Princesa, PALAWAN

Known as “the city in a forest”, Puerto Princesa boasts as its number one tourist attraction, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. It is also tagged as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a Heritage Site as well. That is why when I found out that I would be visiting this beautiful island of Palawan again, the Underground River was on top of my bucket list! 

From the main town of Puerto Princesa, we drove for another 45 minutes to Sabang Boat Terminal. This is basically the drop off point if you want to go to the river. My advice is when you arrive in Puerto Princesa is to go to a travel tour and organize your trip to the cave with them. It saves the hassle of queuing up which takes so much time. The place gets busy most of the time so make sure you have someone who can take care of everything for you. That's a big comfort! 

It was overcast when we arrived and the waves were a bit rough. So if you are very sensitive to sea travel, take some motion sickness medicine. 

The trip normally takes around 20 minutes maximum to the subterranean river. And when we arrived, we walked through the some forests and after a few minutes, I finally met one of the world's wonder!

While the underground waterway is really more than 8km long, tourists are only permitted to go just 1.5km upstream into the area. It's conceivable to continue 4.3km upstream after securing a permit from the Subterranean River National Park Office in Puerto Princesa which can be secured no less than two days ahead of your visit. The limestone cave, where the river passes by, is one of the longest safe river-traversed passages on the planet. 

The cave incorporates real arrangements of stalactites and stalagmites, and a few expansive chambers, including the 360-meter-long Italian's Chamber with roughly 2.5 million square meters by volume. It is one of the biggest cave rooms across the world. The lower part of the waterway up to 6 km from the ocean is liable to tidal impacts. Until the 2007 disclosure of an underground waterway in Mexico's Yucat√°n Peninsula, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River was rumored to be the world's longest underground river. 

The zone likewise speaks to the natural surroundings for biodiversity preservation. The site contains a full mountain-to-the-ocean biological community and has probably the most critical woodlands in Asia. It was recorded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site on December 4, 1999. 

The tour took us around 2 hours including the boat ride. It was a great boat ride. The boat man was quite humurous as he explained and showed us the different parts of the cave. Just don't open your mouth while looking up as bats poo may land straight on your face. They said the smell was really bad but when we went inside it wasn't bad at all. I wish we could carry on until the end of the river but then again we were only allowed up to a certain area. It was a great tour and I could not wait to bring and show them this great wonder that we all can be proud of. 

Part of our tour is a buffet lunch in one of the restaurants around Sabang Port Area called GUSTO GRILL. Aside from the buffet lunch, what struck me most was an exotic food that I haven't tried before and that is the TAMILOK. It is basically a type of worm, slug, I dont know! But it was slimy and eaten raw dipped in vinegar. Well I am not always here so I decided to give it a go! 

So I asked this nice lady that I wanted to try it, so she prepared it in front of me and explained a little bit where they get them from and how should it be eaten and much more. It was interesting and at the same time was intense as I haven't tried any exotic food ever in my life!

Verdict: Ok for the first! It was difficult to swallow and was very slimy. I like the vinegar dip but it's ok for the first try! I challenged everyone to be brave and try it too! I felt like I was in fear factor! Lol.. 

Aside from the famous underground river, Puerto Princesa is famous for its many attractions. 

1. Mitra’s Ranch

One of the most visited tourist destinations in Puerto Princesa, Mitra’s Ranch is exclusively owned by late Ramon Mitra Jr. This charming place is very relaxing and perfect destination to chill and unwind. The serene atmosphere is also the favorite of visitors. 

2. Baker’s Hill

Source: http://palawan-business-directory.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/bakers-hill-puerto-prncesa-5.jpg 

A bakery and theme park combined together makes a perfect getaway for hungry tourists. A variety of foods and snacks are available here. You should also try their dish and desserts, only found in Baker’s Hill. They also serve exotic food, Tamilok, which is very popular with tourists and locals. Delicious foods are not the only thing you can find here, souvenir shops and a mini zoo.

3. Kalui Restaurant 

Never leave Puerto Princesa without stopping by and have a sumptuous meal at this restaurant. What I like about this place is that you don't need to spend that much to experience great food. Enjoy local and fresh delicacies at a very artistic ambiance which made this place one of the most visited restaurants in Puerto Princesa, Palawan 

4. Immaculate Conception Cathedral

Source: https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5060/5580605051_ebd96b76f2_b.jpg 

This blue-colored cathedral is another famous destination in Puerto Princesa. It has pointed symmetrical arches made of Gothic Craftsmanship Style. It is a good reminder of Medieval European era.