Tablas Island piqued my interest when Philippine Airlines launched their flights to this relatively unknown island last year. There must be more to this place than just the infamous Romblon marbles, I thought to myself. So I booked a trip a couple of months back and explored this beautiful island for 5 days.
Romblon has three major islands: Sibuyan, Romblon, and Tablas. Tablas (where I chose to stay) features sloping lands sometimes even rough to rugged terrain. Immediately, I loved how simple and rural the island is plus it sort of reminded me of my hometown back in the early days.
Where I stayed:
Wanting to book somewhere secluded and cheap, I found Aglicay Beach Resort (affiliate link) where a room for 2 went for roughly Php 524 per night. Located in Alcantara, the resort is behind two mountains and is approximately 40 minutes away via tricycle from Tugdan Airport.
The resort itself has their own cafe that serves typical lutong bahay at Manila prices (Php 100-250 per viand). If you’re visiting as a group, you won’t get bored as there’s a tennis court and volleyball court.
Camping is also encouraged with a fixed rate of Php 100 per pax, just bring your own tent and supplies. I visited during summer but the resort was still very secluded with most locals visiting for day trips only, I was the only tourist at the resort for the duration which I welcomed since I wanted to disconnect and reflect.
Here are the activities I did in Tablas that will hopefully inspire you to come visit, too:
Snorkel in Looc Fish Sanctuary
I was more than excited to test drive my new mask and snorkel. I hired Kuya Louie, the tricycle driver I met at the airport, so he can take me around while I “studied” the areas for my scooter adventure the next day.
A fee of only Php 100 (Php 50 goes to the volunteers) payable at the tourism office gives you two hours of snorkeling (bring your own snacks) in the sanctuary. It only takes less than 10 minutes to get to the sanctuary via boat that accommodates about 10 people.
Immediately you’ll spot sea stars and fishes near the floating shelter, but venture a little north and you’ll enjoy the coral garden and giant clams. I was told the Lemon Sharks sometimes make an appearance though am not sure about that now since I didn’t spot any (but I would have loved to).
While the marine life isn’t that diverse, it’s a good experience for first-timers as snorkeling here is probably the cheapest I’ve encountered. Imagine paying only Php 100 for 2 hours — true value for money for newbies.
Visit Mainit Falls
Located in Bgy. Patoo, Odiongan is Mainit Falls purportedly famous for its warmer waters. A trip to this undeveloped spot requires a 40-minute tricycle ride and a 30-minute trek up the hill.
We initially got lost and in the process wasted time (there are no road signs and the best you can do is ask the locals where it is), until we came across a group of kids who showed us the exact location of the falls. They patiently guided us up the hill and back down, and did not require payment! But I gave them change and some mints that I had in my bag.
Stock up on marble
The marble industry in Romblon suffered during 90s when there was a flood of synthetic tiles in the country, but the local government is now making efforts to sustain and further promote this natural resource. The best place to get some is in Odiongan.
Varying shades of marbles ranging from white to black are available for purchase. These keychains are Php 20 each (free engraving), larger marble statues go for Php 300 and up.
Marble purchases are not allowed as carry-ons but they gladly provided a box and wrapped each of my purchases carefully. I also got an eagle sculpture for my Dad.
Visit the Parish of St. Joseph, the Spouse of Mary
Whenever I visit a new place, I make it a point to pay my respects and stop by a local parish church. I passed by the Parish of St. Joseph as part of my tricycle tour. Remember, it’s a custom to request for 3 “wishes” when visiting and paying homage to a new church. I always give thanks that I arrived safely and have met generous and helpful folks whenever I travel.
I basically learned to be more courageous and self-aware. Tablas Island is very provincial which makes it all the more charming — and sometimes scary. As much as I loved the remoteness of this island, my senses were also further heightened as I’ve experienced locals following me around. My understanding is they aren’t used to solo travelers, more so if you are female. They were all very curious as to why I was travelling alone: Did I have any friends? Was I broken-hearted? Was I lost and do I need any help at all?
While some were helpful, others were definitely trying to take advantage of me being alone. So girls, just be mindful and aware at all times.
The scooter drive also reinforced my belief that heights frighten me but in the essence of trying to go out of my comfort zone, I trudged on even when I was so scared and sweating buckets while driving up and down the mountain. If I became sloppy or too cocky, I could’ve slipped and fallen off the cliff. All I was thinking while driving was how much of a loser I’d be if I chickened out now. Wow, how I wish this same courageous spirit would apply to my normal work life.
Lastly, I realized that even the littlest of things can bug me. Like when I was looking for brewed coffee (because I try hard to stay from 3-in-1 variants and Aglicay only had this type of coffee), I almost wanted to throw a fit but had to compose myself because “Dayo lang ako, wag mag-inarte.”
So I was very thankful that the resort in Binucot Beach had brewed coffee, so much so I wanted to kiss Ate Nimyang for making sure I got a full mug while lounging at the beach despite the brownout.
All in all, what a wonderful experience in Tablas Island. No other place has made me feel elated, scared, insecure, accomplished, proud, and grown-up all at the same time. Definitely one for the books!