Excuse the typos.. first draft
Part 1 – Tablas
We booked Romblon based on the description of an old Rough Guides Philippines book. If i remember right, it might have said that Romblon is a place that’s underrated by most guideboks, and an adventure seeker’s dream. Wanting an entirely new experience, we jumped head on and booked our flights without blinking an eye.
To say that online information on Romblon is hard to come by would be an understatement. I had expected to fill the information gaps on the latest Lonely Planet by consulting with travel blog posts or TripAdvisor but mention of Romblon is few and far between. Except for a poorly maintained “official” travel site, there was nothing else to rely on except for the guidebook and a few online snippets here and there.
We boarded the Seair service van right outside the airport and made the 30 minute journey to Looc, Romblon. The driver took us directly to our resort, for 150 pesos each person.
Although our Lonely Planet was the latest edition, the section on Romblon might not have been updated since one of their recommended accommodations, which we reserved, turned out to be a ramshackle pit, to put it mildly. Roda Beach Resort seemed to have some charm, according to the description on the book. We expected to stay somewhere basic, but as my partner put it, these were rooms that made him want to cry.
I won’t lie, it was depressing. I hate to say it because the owner was quite helpful, and at 600 pesos a night, it wasn’t really extortion. But they really should not be renting that place out in that state. The “restaurant” area was bare except for a few stray dogs and monoblock chairs. The rooms were just concrete enclosures, with a bed and a sorry looking monobloc chair and table below the aircon. Outside, oddly enough, there were two heavy machineries between the rooms and the restaurant, and it seems like they’ve halted a quarrying operation behind the resort midway.
Between the halted digging and the bare facilities, Roda Beach Resort in Romblon just seems to be… well, deserted. It was as if the owner half-heartedly decided to open a permanently closed resort because we asked for a reservation. Anyway, the man that she entrusted us to was helpful enough and was actually encouraging us to move on after a night and not the two that we had originally planned.
Neil and I walked along the beach as I remember it being mentioned in the book that Roda Beach Resort shares a beachfront property with another resort, Gishelle’s, with the attached Poka Grill Bar and Restaurant. After walking a few meters on a stunning, deserted white beach, we came across it, but lo and behold, it was empty. Not a soul in sight. We kept shouting “hello?” hoping that any staffer would poke their head out the window but nada. We clambered up a road that led to a small cluster of houses to ask around, and a woman came from one of the houses.
We asked her if she knew whether anyone was in Gishelle’s but she said she didn’t. However she did say that they had rooms for rent if we wanted to see it. Neil went ahead while I asked the occupants of a small hut if they knew the caretaker for Gishelle’s. She gave me a number but it just seemed like too much work to move there.
To cut a long story short, we decided to move to Mabelle’s Inn in Looc, Romblon. We finished the food that was cooked for us at Roda’s beach resort, which, after much deliberation between the staffers, came up to 1,500 pesos for lunch. It was maybe half a kilo of shrimp and three big grilled fish, and fish sinigang. It was a LOT of food for four people, and I didn’t even ask for the shrimp. If you do decide to eat in Roblon resorts, many will not have menus. You just specify how you would like your fish cooked and they will do it for you. A tip though, to avoid being overserved, be specific about what you want and how much food you want. Otherwise you might end up paying for food that you never ordered in the first place. That, and check the prices prior to ordering.
Mabelle’s Inn, Looc Resort
Phone number: 09153101447
Lugging our bags, we made the trek to Mabelle’s Inn. It was infinitely better than Roda Beach Resort, and for 750 pesos a night (aircon) it was still a steal. The room was immaculately clean, with wooden flooring and fresh paint. Neil and I stayed at the “Pink Room” which was, of course, pink. Double bed, private bath. There was also a small wooden table and chairs, with a little pot of fake flowers. It wasn’t much, but it seems thoughtful. Like the owner really taked pride in her property.
The woman who helped us settle in is named Tita, lovely and helpful. Brought us beers at the beach and took our orders early on for dinner. I just said any kind of non-bony fish, grilled, and one steeped in coconut milk. That night, a feast awaited us, the bigest slab of grilled fish you’ve ever seen, and a coconut milk dish exactly as we ordered. We ate at an outdoors patio, with cats swirling around our feet. The dish was yum-yum-yummy, and Tita was on call to get us water, coke, beers, bananas. And although Neil was nervous at first and asked to confirm the price for such amount of food, it only came up to 610.
I also made arrangements for transport through her, as the main house had an owner-type jeep out front. Our plan is to spend one night in Looc, move on leisurely the next day, do some sightseeing on the way to San Agustin Pier. We wouldn’t bother catching the last ferry at 1 in the afternoon and we will instead stay at a nearby inn.
I feel a bit bad that we didn’t do Looc Marine Sanctuary anymore, but we had decided as a group that we were just going to relax in the nice deserted white beach near us. Aside from a man who was combing the beach for sea urchins, there wasn’t another soul in sight. The white beach’s shallow part seemed to stretch on forever. As Neil decided to try and swim to the channel, he was so far out of sight yet when he stood up, the water only still barely reached his torso.
The beach is fringed with mangroves to the right, and weathered, dried out trees stood like sentinels over them. A really beautiful and calming sight. I walked along, taking pictures, picking up hermit crabs, the fine, white sand like velvet under my feet. There was no sound except the gentle lapping of the water on the shore, the wind rustling the leaves and birds squawking to each other. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was finally having some real “me” time. This is by far the closest to the little patch of earth that I have always dreamed about being in.