The Philippines is a beautiful country, with plenty of islands and beaches. Yet, most visitors to Asia flock to Thailand and Bali. Beyond tackling popular things to do in Manila, the popular beaches in the Philippines are not that well known. This means, there are lots of undiscovered places, like Marinduque Island. Most Marinduque tourist spots are relatively unknown to foreign tourists and they are still being discovered by Filipino travellers.
On Marinduque, there are few nightclubs or bars and you’ll be hard-pressed to even find a souvenir shop.
If you’re looking for a longer Philippines itinerary put aside two weeks to explore across the country.
Although there are some cars on the roads, they are outnumbered by jeepneys (elongated jeeps with two long seats behind the driver), tricycles and motorcycles attached to a sidecar on a third wheel.
The current popular means of transportation on Marinduque Island is fascinating to watch and a fun and inexpensive way to explore.
For example, Buenavista to the airport in a jeepney costs 20 pesos (50 cents); Gasan to Buenavista in a tricycle costs 120 pesos ($3).
A more comfortable option is to hire a private van and driver to tour the island for about P3500 a day ($90).
On the subject of jeepneys, I was fascinated to learn that while most of the islanders ares farmers or fishermen, some are branching out into tourism.
A jeepney costs around $5000 to buy and is much more expensive than a tricycle, which costs around $1500.
As the region grows, there’s also the potential that many local folks will be running a souvenir stall, cafe or massage parlour.
Where is Marinduque Island?
Island is about 170km south of Manila.
Although it’s not that far, the island is a universe away from the traffic, skyscrapers and hectic pace of the capital of the Philippines.
The island is surrounded by Tayabas Bay, Mompoy Bay, Tayabas Strait and the Sibuyan Sea.
It’s a 959-sq-km volcanic island with undiscovered beaches, caves, hot springs and waterfalls.
According to local legend, a poor village boy named Garduke who fell in love with Marina, the daughter a local chieftain.
Marina’s father was opposed to the match so the couple eloped by sailing out into the ocean where their boat capsized and they drowned.
The spot where they drowned turned into the heart-shaped island of Marinduque and is right in the geographical centre of the Philippines.
Most passenger boats arrive at Balanacan, where you can get a tricycle, jeepney or van to Boac, Santa Cruz or Buenavista. Ferries are operated by Montenegro Shipping Lines and Starhorse Shipping Lines.
Where to stay in Marinduque?
There are local resorts on the island that cater to the locals, mostly in Boac or Gasan.
These local resorts are inexpensive and certainly not luxurious but if you’re on a budget they might be a good choice.
Marinduque Tourist Spots
A road trip around Marinduque is a great way to soak up the scenery and culture as well as visit some Marinduque tourist spots.
While driving around with, Marie Diaz, our guide, I felt like I was in South America.
The towns have Spanish names like Santa Cruz and Torrijos. And with family names like Fernandez, Reyes and Gonzales you could almost be convinced you’re in South America not Asia.
We passed bullocks in rice fields and villages (known as barangays).
Goats, dogs and children roamed the streets.
We learned that Marie grew up in Mogpog, a place that was occupied by Japanese troops during World War II.
It was obvious that Marinduque is one of the poorer provinces in the Philippines.
But the people looked happy, the streets were clean and the homes were neat and the gardens were tidy.
Most of all, the children seemed happy.
The island’s electricity supply is only turned on for a few hours each day and at night time, the villages are plunged into semi-darkness.
1- Boac Cathedral
Marinduque’s drawcard is its special brand of Catholicism and Boac’s main attraction is the Gothic Boac Cathedral.
The cathedral was built in 1666 in honour of the Virgin Mary, introduced to the island by Jesuit missionaries.
In the local lingo, the Virgin Mary is known as “Ang Mahal na Birhen ng Biglang-Awa” or Blessed Virgin of Biglang-Awa Immediate Succor.
We met lots of locals while were there.
Outside the Boac Cathedral, we bought banana que (deep fried bananas dipped in caramelized sugar), turon (banana jackfruit) and carioca (local doughnuts) from a local woman.
The snacks cost seven pesos each (18 cents)!
2- Boac town
I visited Marinduque Island in a group of five. As we walked the streets of Boac, it felt like the town had stopped.
Well, being a rather quiet place in the first place, there wasn’t that much happening anyway. But as soon as the locals spotted some foreigners, everyone came out to stare.
Tricycle drivers stopped by the side of the road to gawk and jeepney passengers craned their necks for a better look at our group.
Even the shopkeepers ran out onto the street to stare. Although the kids were cute, they were a little shy and ran away when we tried to snap their photos.
3- Marinduque Museum
The Marinduque Museum in Boac is not a bad spot to brush up on local culture and history.
There are a few exhibits, such as some 16th-century porcelain that was fished out from the ocean bed.
The museum is by no means high tech but the stories are quite fascinating.
At Buenavista (Spanish for good view), we stopped to admire the ocean views, sandy beaches and swaying palms.
The town is well named as the views are lovely.
Nearby at Gasan, the homes were more prosperous. Some were larger and constructed with concrete.
We passed a few shops that caught our eye.
Outside the local supermarket the sign “Glory to God, Sioland Supermarket, Gasan Branch”.
Right next to the supermarket, in a public space beneath a stairwell, was a fruit stall and a vendor selling western wedding gowns.
Of the few attractions on the island worth visiting, I wouldn’t say that the WHS Butterfly Farm near Gasan is a must do but if you have time do drop in.
The butterflies were beautiful to photograph but the farm was really a family enterprise that makes its money by shipping pupae and framed (dried) and live butterflies around the world.
1- Paadyao Cascades
A lovely spot to cool off is the Paadyao Cascades, where we plunged into a cool pool beneath the waterfall.
2- Tarug Mountain
The trek to Tarug caves is challenging and involves a bit of climbing at the start but the effort is worthwhile, especially if you make it to the peak of Tarug mountain. From the mountain top, the views are stunning.
Another huge attraction is the Moriones Festival, which is a huge Easter attraction held around March or April.
In 1807, the parish priest of Mogpog, Padre Dionisio Santiago, started up a festival based on the story of Longinus, a one-eyed Roman centurion who pierced Jesus Christ while he was on the cross.
The Moriones Festival craze took hold and these days, people from all over the Philippines flock to Marinduque during the Philippines Holy Week to watch the singing, chanting and street theatre.
The main event is a parade which includes the Via Crucis, or way of the cross, where Jesus Christ carrying a wooden cross is trailed by a group of barefoot devotees who whip themselves as penance for their sins.
It ends with the dramatic beheading of Longinus.