|The port of Romblon with the Fort San Andres on the top of the hill on the left.|
|A welcome sign of Romblon at the Freedom Park just outside the gates of the pier which is already the main poblacion of the town of Romblon.|
Romblon is indeed a paradise waiting to be discovered. This I can say after visiting the three main islands of the province: Romblon, Tablas and Sibuyan and four other small islands of Cobrador, Lugbon, Alad and Cresta de Gallo. The island town and capital, Romblon is the crown jewel. It has a beautiful old church, a preserved fort, easily accessible beautiful white sand beaches and coves, nearby islands with gleaming white sand beaches which one can enjoy all to oneself and a treasure trove of souvenirs from marble products which are only found in the main island of Romblon.
Although part of the Visayas before, Romblon now belongs to the southern Luzon region of MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan). However, ecclesiastically Romblon belongs to the metropolitan province of Capiz. Being in the heart of the Luzon and Visayan islands the dialect spoken in Romblon is understandably a mixture of Tagalog, Ilonggo, Cebuano, Bicol, Waray and even Surigao. There are also differences of the dialects from one town to another. The dialect Asi is spoken in Odiongan, Calatrava, and in the islands of Banton, Simara and Sibale. The towns of Ferrol, Alcantara and San Jose has a dialect called Manacaran which is more or less similar to that spoken in Boracay. In Romblon, San Agustin and Sibuyan the dialect is called Unhan. Hence, for its liturgy Romblon has adopted Tagalog as the official language. It is just not financially viable to have their own liturgical language because of the different dialects. In some towns like Romblon they have a mass celebrated in Ilonggo. English masses are said aside from Tagalog.
Towns and Parishes
Romblon is composed of seventeen towns found in seven islands. Tablas is the biggest with nine towns: San Agustin, Santa Maria, Alcantara, Santa Fe, Looc, Ferrol, Odiongan, San Andres and Calatrava. Sibuyan is composed of three towns of Magdiwang, Cajidiocan and San Fernando. Then there are the island towns of Romblon, Corcuera (Simara island), Banton, Concepcion (Sibale island), and San Jose (Carabao island). Ecclesiastically, the diocese of Romblon has 26 parishes: three in Romblon, six in Sibuyan, twelve in Tablas and one mission station and five other parishes in the other islands.
Romblon is the last province in Luzon that I was not yet able to visit. Hence when during the Holy Week the office was closed, I took the opportunity to visit these fabled islands. Arrived in Romblon on board the ship Maria Diana of the Montenegro Shipping Line. The boat instead of passing by Odiongan which was the usual route went straight to Romblon because of the large number of passengers. Leaving exactly at five o’clock in the afternoon from Batangas, the boat arrived by two in the early morning the following day. We were surprised to see Bp. Narciso Abellana of Romblon himself with two seminarians there at the pier to meet us. Since we took time to leave the boat, they thought that we might have slipped away without being noticed by them. We drove to the Bishops Residence about two kilometers away from the pier coasting along the harbor until we reached the bishop’s place which is called Villa del Mar. The pier of Romblon is a natural harbor with deep waters. Just near the mouth of the harbor are two islands of Alad and Lugbon which shelters the harbor from typhoons. It is said that during the second world war, the Romblon pier was used as port for the American submarines. Driving around the harbor with the sea to our right and the town with its street lights to our left, I imagined being in a French Riviera. That first impression of the town would stay.
|The image of the Sto. Niño enshrined at the side altar of the Cathedral. It was stolen in 1991 when the Cathedral was being renovated. Was returned back in Feb. 9, 2013 minus the golden crown.|
Although, the principal patron of Romblon is St.Joseph, the feast of the Sto. Niño is the one which is popularly celebrated by the people. The image of Sto. Niño in Romblon is an exact replica of the image of Sto. Niño in Cebu. The story is told that in 1582 as the galleon was sailing back to Spain with the image of Sto. Niño on board, a typhoon forced the galleon to stop over in Romblon and take cover. After several days the galleon tried to resume its voyage but could not get out of the bay because of strong winds. After seven unsuccessful attempts, the sailors decided to leave the image of Sto. Niño in the town. They were able to leave after that. Since then, the Sto. Niño image has been enshrined in the church of Romblon. However, in 1991 while the Cathedral was being renovated, the image of the Sto. Niño was stolen. It was only after more than twenty years when the image was found in an antique shop that that it returned amidst fanfare to Romblon on February 9, 2013 minus the golden crown.
Palm Sunday Mass
At seven in the morning we proceeded to the Cathedral for the 7:30 Palm Sunday mass which Bp. Abellana presided.
|Bp. Abellana presiding over the blessing of palms at the Freedom Park just in front of the Romblon pier. |
ST. JOSEPH CATHEDRAL PARISH
|The Altar retablo of the Cathedral. Except that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, Holy Trinity and St. Michael at the topmost, all the other saints are Augustinian saints.|
|The side of the Cathedral which used coral stones. The two doors are new installations with one on the side already with canopy in between the buttresses.|
|The Cathedral and the convento beside it.|
|The Cathedral and the belfry which is separate building on the right side of the Cathedral.|
|The bell tower.|
|The old convento. It still has old wooden floors on the second floor.|
|An Augustinian saint.|
|St. Augustine of Hippo.|
|The Our Lady of Lourdes just at the back of the tabernacle.|
|Another Augustinian saint.|
|Another Augustinian saint.|
|Another Augustinian saint.|
|St. Joseph with the child Jesus.|
|Could not get also the name of this saint. Must be one of the evangelist.|
|St. Michael the Archangel on the topmost tier and the Holy Trinity below.|
|At the back of the convento is already a rocky mountain made of marble. Here an image of the Blessed Virgin is carved out of the mountain side.|
|The carved image of the Blessed Virgin Mary carved from the marble rock behind the convento.|
Tour around Romblon Island
|Some of the marble products found along the road.|
|Another shop with carved statues.|
|Cut marble pieces.|
|Some of the marbles are being cut into small pieces.|
|Marble products being readied for distribution.|
|A circular saw cutting some big marble.|
|Large cut marbles.|
|Women also work as carvers of marble.|
|Mountain with pebbles.|
|Smaller pebbles on the mountain.|
|Pebbles being harvested from the mountain being flushed through a tube filled with water.|
|Pebbles being gathered.|
|Wood stone slates being quarried.|
|Wood stone slates of different colors ready for delivery.|
We passed by two other parish churches in the island of Romblon: Cogon and Agnipa. The Our Lady of Fatima Parish Church in Cogon was just newly built. In fact the church still has no ceiling yet. The San Antonio de Padua Parish in Agnipa was starting to build a new church in front of the old one. The floorings and the posts were already in place when we visited. Before going back to Villa del Mar we passed by the San Pedro Beach Resort in Talipasak. This resort is situated in a secluded cove with white sand and six native houses with 8 rooms with twin beds all situated on the hilly portion of the cove. We were scheduled to be billeted here by Wednesday.
OUR LADY OF FATIMA PARISH CHURCH
Cogon, Romblon, Romblon
|The Our Lady of Fatima Parish Church of Cogon, Romblon.|
|The side altars use different colors of the wood stones that are abundant in the area. It has no ceiling yet.|
|With marble altar table and carved bas relief of marble on the altar beneath the crucifix.|
|Painting of San Pedro Calungsod on the side of the altar.|
|The other side features also a painting of San Lorenzo Ruiz.|
|The presidential chair also made of marble.|
SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA PARISH CHURCH
Agnipa, Romblon, Romblon
|The San Antonio de Padua Parish Church, Cogon, Romblon.|
|The interior of the parish church of Agnipa.|
|A new church just in front of the old is being constructed.|
|Construction just started recently for the new church with the main posts already in place.|
|Convento of the parish of Agnipa.|
VILLA DEL MAR
The Villa del Mar is the name of the Bishop’s Residence of Romblon. It is about two kilometers away from the town of Romblon. It has been called as Villa del Mar because in the 70’s and 80’s during the time of Bishop Mondejar, the place was open to tourists. In fact it was the only presentable place to stay in Romblon. The place however, became the seminary at one time before it was moved to Odiongan. Then the buildings housed the Chancery. A Magnificat Center was built in 2000 which became the venue of the First Diocesan Synod of Romblon during the time of Bp. Bastes. The Magnificat Center is used as Badminton courts when not officially used. There are still guest rooms at the Villa del Mar but is no longer open to tourists.
|This building of the Villa del Mar now houses the Chancery and some rooms for the priests working full time at the Chancery.|
|Villa del Mar.|
|The Magnificat Center built in 2000 which became the venue for the First Diocesan Synod of Romblon.|
|The Marker in commemoration of the building of the Magnificat Center and the holding of the First Diocesan Synod of Romblon in Oct. 22-28, 2000.|
|The road leading to the Villa del Mar from the town.|
|The beach just beside the Magnificat Center.|
|Just a few steps from the Villa del Mar is the Bishop's Residence.|
|The dining area at the Bishop's residence.|
|The building on the right which housed before the seminary, now houses one of the retired priest in the diocese.|
|There are mangroves just in front of the Bishop's residence.|
|The patio fronting the beach at the Bishop's residence.|
|The private chapel at the Bishop's Residence.|
In the afternoon, Mark and I went to the Bonbon beach which is a beach with a sandbar that connects to the islet of Bang-og on low tides. This beach is just about a kilometer away from the Villa del Mar. The sand bar could be seen from the residence. We hitched a ride from a motorcycle that passed by the Villa del Mar and we were dropped off on a hilly part. We were told by the boy just to follow the trail through the woods and we will arrive at the beach. We found ourselves on the other side of Bonbon, just next to Tiamban beach. There were a number of people who were on a picnic on this beach. Just across the rocks which separated this beach from Bonbon, the beach was deserted. We had Bonbon beach all to our own. We were told that Bonbon is privately owned. There had been attempts by the town LGU to lease the property so that it could be developed. But they never succeeded. It is the white beach nearest to the town. The sandbar makes the beach unique and attractive. Before the sun set we tried to cross to the islet of Bang-og.
|The other side of the Bonbon beach had people on the beach. This is just beside the Tiamban beach.|
|The Bonbon beach separated by these rocks is deserted.|
|The rocks separating Bonbon to the other beach.|
|Bonbon beach with no people around.|
|We had the white sand beach of Bonbon to ourselves.|
|Some thorny shrubs found in the area.|
|Being near a sand bar, there was not much vegetation except for some sea urchins.|
|Bang-og islet connected by a sandbar during lowtides.|
|The sand bar of Bonbon Beach.|
|Sand bar of Bonbon beach.|
|We crossed to the Bang-og islet. |
|The waters were shallow in places where the sandbar was already covered by the sea because of the rising tide. |
|Bang-og beach at dusk. At the end one can see the Magnificat building at the Villa del Mar where we were staying.|
My other companions, Ronnie and Josh joined us in the evening. They took the plane from Manila to Tablas. Since they could not catch the one p.m. boat from San Agustin, Fr. Nars Miñon, our host and guide in Romblon suggested that they hire a special boat. Fr. Nars who was in Odiongan joined them as he decided not to go to Batangas anymore for the Holy Week. He had planned to take the boat from Odiongan but since the boat went straight to Romblon, he contacted some boatman to pick Ronnie and Josh from San Agustin. They arrived as we were crossing back from the Bang-og islet to Bonbon. The boat which went directly to Villa del Mar passed us by.
After supper, we decided to walk to Marlins Place which was a resort a few meters away from Villa del Mar. Had some coffee, beer and pizza. Since they close by 8:30 in the evening, we could not stay longer. Although it was alredy passed nine when we left.
|Marlin's Place as seen from the sea.|
SAN PEDRO BEACH RESORT IN TALIPASAK
After a day's tour to Sibuyan island, we were back to Romblon the following day. We arrived in Romblon from Sibuyan island by 2:30 pm after two and a half boat ride. After just a short stop at Villa del Mar to pick up some things we were off to San Pedro Beach Resort in Talipasak where lunch was waiting. Fr. Nars had the surprise when lo and behold the owners of the place were there to meet us: Ms. Mina and Ms. Yola Mingua. They just arrived that morning from Manila aboard the 2Go ship. These two elderly ladies most of the time now reside in Manila because of health conditions. When Fr. Nars was trying to book for us, he was told that the place was already fully booked for the holy week but a special consideration would be given us. A twin cottage at the end of the resort was indeed reserved for us. We had a good rest after that late lunch until we had dinner. Just near our cottage there was this private nook overlooking the beach where I spent some time reading. The place in Talipasak is really a beautiful place for rest, for meditation and for retreat. In fact, Ms. Mina was telling us that they offer the place also for retreat to some nuns and priests. When there are at least four of them, the place would be closed to other guests to give the retreatants a quiet place for meditation. Ms. Mina was saying that one time a Jesuit came for a retreat. It was there that he decided to leave the priesthood. Hence, it became a joke already for priests to go to Talipasak if they want to decide to leave the ministry. What is more, the owners made it their apostolate to offer the place to priests for free.
Talipasak is twelve kilometers away from the town of Romblon. One can hire a tricycle in going there. The rate for the rooms in Talipasak with twin beds is only 800 pesos. They have also have a restaurant with good menu and affordable rates. The contact number is 0928 273 0515. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sensing that I was not feeling well, Fr. Nars suggested that we extend our stay in Talipasak which I readily consented. So instead of crossing to Tablas, we spent another day in Talipasak. Went snorkeling in the morning just before breakfast. Then just rested the whole morning while Fr. Nars, Mark and Josh went to town. They were back just right after lunch. We joined the bishop in the Holy Thursday commemoration of the last supper at the Cathedral. Had dinner also at the Cathedral. Meantime, Josh had wanted to cross to the Lugbon island which he did with Mark while we were having the ceremonies at the Cathedral. They later joined us for dinner at the convento.
|San Pedro Beach is a private cove with white sand and clear waters with coral vegetations.|
|The other end of the cove.|
|Some marble tables for picnickers.|
|The restaurant by the sea. Ms. Mina and Ms. Yola would personally serve their guests when they are there.|
|The pathway leading to the cottages.|
|Just near our cottage was a nook ideal for reading and meditation. It overlooked the Marble beach, a small resort besides San Pedro Beach.|
|The view of the sea from this private nook.|
|This is the private nook ideal for reading and meditation.|
|The cottage is made of native materials of bamboo and amakan. But inside the room is concrete with marble floorings and also the bathroom.|
|The twin beds.|
|Some of the corals that could be seen in Talipasak.|
|Another view of the sea as seen from the cottages.|