Filipinos by culture are devout Catholics. Proof? Spend your time here during the Lenten season and you’ll know what I mean. It’s the time the traffic died down, malls closed and Filipinos flocked to the provinces, beaches, head to Baguio or just do a staycation at home. Passion play, Pabasa ng Pasyon (literally “reading”, but it’s actually a “sponsored reading-and-chanting” activity) a Holy Week practise in the Philippines that involves chanting of the narrative of the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Penitensya– the traditional whipping of oneself until it bleeds are some of the usual “attractions” one may find here. Of all, two stood out as crowd (and/or tourist) drawer every single year- the Crucifixion in Cutud, Pampangga and the Moriones Festival in Marinduque.
This year, I decided to do a little adventure during the Holy Week season, I went to Marinduque unplanned and without prior reservation. A word of advise, going to Marinduque during Holy Week is a test of your patience and believe me, it is not for the faint of hearts. Tell you more later.
Marinduque a heart-shaped island found just below the mainland Luzon in between Tayabas Bay in the north and Sibuyan Sea in the South. The island is composed of 6 towns (Boac, Gasan, Buenavista, Mogpog, Sta. Cruz and Torrijos) The province is sometimes called the Heart of the Philippines, because of its geographical appearance and location.
According to recorded evidence, origin of the festival is traced to Mogpog in the year 1807 when the parish priest of said town, Fr. Dionisio Santiago, organized it for the first time. Undisputedly the most colorful and festive celebration of Lenten season in the Philippines, the festival is a huge crowd drawer every year, both local and foreign tourists alike.
the week where men and women from all walks of life becomes the elite Roman guards
Moriones came from the word “morion“. Morion means “mask” or “visor,” a part of the medieval Roman armor which covers the face. Moriones, on the other hand, refers to the masked and costumed penitents who march around the town for seven days searching for Longinus. Morions roam the streets in town from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday scaring the kids, intimidating tourists, or engaging in antics or surprises to draw attention. This is a folk-religious festival that re-enacts the story of Saint Longinus, a Roman centurion that became a first century martyr. This “mother-of-all-festival” has inspired the creation of other festivals in the Philippines where cultural practices or folk history is turned into street festivals.
some of the faces of Moriones. That’s one mask, one family duty. One tradition of sacrifice and religious piety
Longinus, the central character to the Moriones Festival
Longinus is the centurion who pierced the side of our Lord while he was hanging on the cross. Longinus who went blind was healed when some of the blood and water from the side of Jesus fell into his left eye. It was then he exclaimed “indeed, this was the son of God!” (Mark 15:39) Longinus after the incident was converted, left the army, took instruction from the apostles and became a monk in Cappadocia. It was there he was arrested for his faith, his teeth forced out and tongue cut off. However, he miraculously continued to speak clearly and managed to destroy several idols in the presence of the governor. The governor, who was made blind by one of the demons that came from the idols, had his sight restored when Longinus was beheaded, because his blood came in contact with the governor’s eyes.
Today, St. Longinus relics are now in the church of St. Augustine, in Rome. His lance is contained in one of the four pillars over the altar in the basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome
From Holy Monday until Easter Sunday, the streets of Boac, Gasan and Mogpog are all teeming with costumed Marinduqueños in their colorful mohawks and capes. Thoughout each day, there are various Moriones-related activities you can check out. At night you can watch senakulo being played on the their respective town plazas simultaneously depicting some scenes on the Bible culminating on a wild chase and beheading of Longinus on Easter Sunday.
Being a Moriones is a pride for every Marinduqueños. For the entire week, the men must stand and walk around in the scorching hot summer day, while carying the weight of a wooden mask. It is suppossed to be a sacrifice because the mask itself is heavy, being made up of solid carved wood. Aside from the helmet, they must wear breast plate, carry swords or spears, wear strapped sandals and are in constant exposure to the elements makes it even more uncomfortable.
Old families keep their costumes which they hand down from one passing generation to the other. The costume, most specially the intricately adorned helmet had become part of the family heirloom and parents expect the younger generation to continue the tradition by participating in the festival when the right time comes.
Aside from the Moriones Festival, in between the parades and as a means to beat the scorching summer heat, I am checking out other beauty of Marinduque- their old Spanish houses, century old earthquake-Baroque Churches, their local delicacies and of course the beach.
Boac Cathedral is the oldest existing structure of Marinduque that was built in 1580. The earthquake Baroque architecture was originally called Montserrat de Marinduque but was eventually renamed Immaculate Concepcion Church by the Jesuits. Now officially called Boac Cathedral, the retablo as well as the side altars stood out as the main feature of the church. The Boac Cathedral sits on a hill overlooking the entire town of Boac, the capital of Marinduque.
Sta. Cruz Church Marinduque has a two old churches, one in Boac and other one is in Sta. Cruz. Some say this town was called Sta. Cruz because of the Holy Cross brought by Magellan in Cebu. Others believe the legend that Sta. Cruz got its name from an apparition of a cross that guided the early missionaries to a safe landing place during a thunderstorm on one of their visits in the area where they erected a wooden cross on the mountain where Sta. Cruz Church now stands. Built in 1714 by Spanish conquistadores, a convent is located right beside the Sta. Cruz Church, called Sta. Cruz de Napo reputed to be the oldest in Marinduque.
the interior of the Sta. Cruz church displaying the three perfectly restored retablos. A retablo a huge woodwork, often intricately carved that are put at the back of the church altar where saints and other Biblical icons are placed
impressive wood carving at the church main door
Poctoy White Beach a kilometer stretch of powdery yellowish-sand (think polvoron) beach located in Poctoy, a town in Torrijos, 2hr drive from Boac. It is facing the Sibuyan Sea. One of the most frequented beach in the province, it has a magnificent view of the highest peak in Marinduque, the Mt. Malindig, and the outlying coral reef with it is clean and clear waters is very good for snorkeling, kayaking and other water activities.
with the towering Mt. Malindig at the background
Balanacan View Deck the Banalacan View Deck offers the bird’s eye-view of the panoramic land and seascapes of the northwestern portion of the province, a natural harbor that prompted the Spanish navy to use it for building and repairing galleons and almirantas during the 17th century. This is also the site of air and naval battle during WW2. This can be reached by taking a 5min uphill walk from the road leading to Banalacan port.
Arrowroot (Uraro) Cookies Arrowroot, or obedience plant (Maranta arundinacea), locally known in the Philippines as Uraro is a large perennial herb found in rainforest environment. It is usually planted for its starch that are abundant on the rhizomes, which is called arrowroot. The roots are dug when it is a year old and are yellowish white, jointed and covered with loose scales. It is also said that the name arrowroot was based on its use in treating poisoned arrow wounds for it draws out the poison when applied to the wounded area. In Marinduque, Rejanos Uraro is the best, for the family perfected its means of producing a steady supply of this local delicacy.
Other Points of Interests
• Molbog Sulfur Spring one of the tourist spots which were visited by local and even foreign tourists located in Malbog, Buenavista, Marinduque. It is a hot spring at the base of the inactive volcano Mt. Malindig, with therapeutic and natural healing water. Two swimming pools with warm though slightly sulfuric waters are considered to be healing with medicinal properties. The sulfur spring is known to be a remedy for skin diseases.
• Tres Reyes Islands Tres Reyes islands (after the ‘Three Kings’, Melchor, Gaspar & Baltazar are their individual names are located off the coast of Pinggan, Gasan. On the biggest island, Gaspar, exist caves that have been used as burial sites of pre-colonial Filipinos, and where various artifacts including pre-colonial gold ornaments have ben found. Gaspar island is a marine reserve. Marine archaeological excavations have also been conducted off the coast of the island that produced collections from the Ming dynasty period.
• Paadjao Cascades Located at Brgy. Bocboc, Mogpog is a refreshing 100 ft water cascades on diorite rocks along forested area with a natural pool at the foot of the falls. It can be reached by. 15-minute uphill trek from baranggay road.
• Luzon Datum a hole inside an etched triangle on a rock atop the highest hill (900 ft) in Brgy. Hinanggayon Mogpog. It was established by United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1906. The marjer is of great importance beause it serves as a reference point origin of all map makers and survey of the country and was recently declared as a National Historical Landmark last August 2011.
• Mompong Island an island with unique land bridge tock formation on its eastern side brings additional attraction on this powdery yellowish sand beach and laid back island atmosphere.
• Mt. Malindig the highest point of the province at 3,795 ft. It is a volcano with the crater at the north and rocky south peaks ideal for trekking and mountain climbing adventure. The dormant volcano is located at the southernmost part of Marinduque that straddles on both municipalities of Buenavista and Torrijos.
• Bellarocca Resort and Spa a 10 hectare island considered as one of the best resorts in the the country. It’s unique Santorini- inspired architecture, luxurious cliff side villas compliment its discreet isolation.
Getting There and Away
On a normal no-festival day, travelling from Manila to Marinduque via Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off ships) is easy. However, during Lenten season, it is a different story.
For you to reach Banalacan Port, the point of entry to Marinduque, you can take Wi-Fi enabled buses bound to Dalahican Port Lucena at Buendia terminal (Jam, Jac or Lucena Lines) travel time is 2-3 hrs depending on traffic, 220php one way. Buses leaves every 30 minutes. When we arrived there on 12 midnight of Maundy Thursday, long queue greeted us and it took us 2 hrs just to board on a bus. We reached Dalahican port by 6am and what greeted us is a complete nightmare.
the never ending queue. Penitensya starts here
Basically it was a complete chaos. People do not know what to do, shipping companies are disorganized, the port is ill-equipped to handle surge of people for the long holiday, paging system is not working, no people manning the information desks, aircon is broken, I could go on forever in describing the deplorable condition of the port and the people managing the place. I hope something could be done by authorities. Honestly, it will shy away tourists, because going to Marinduque during Holyweek is something like survival of the fittest. It is not something I could recommend readily, unless youre a seasoned traveller.
Ro-Ro ticket can only be purchased only after the vessel had docked, you cannot make advance reservation and online system is something that is non existent. As of writing, Go Shipping Line is on the process of opening up Dalahican Marinduque route. I hope this pushes through as this would definately alleviate the condition when travelling to Marinduque. We arrived at 6am and got the 10:30 trip. Our party is a bit lucky. My friend with his family arrived 3am and he was queueing for tickets an hour later and only managed to catch the same trip with us.
Ro-Ro fare as of March 2013
Travel time is approximately 3 hours. As soon as you reach Balingasan port, go to the jeepney terminal. Again complete chaos. We arrived 1pm and the sun on full blast, every body wants to catch a ride and go to their homes or hotel and rest. Since we do not have a reserved place to stay (Never go on a holiday in a place where tourist outnumbered the possible accommodation say 1000:1) my headache is just about to start. Luckily, after an hour of phoning all possible places to stay without luck, someone suggested us to go check Hilltop Hotel in Mogpog, 18km away from Boac. Another tip, try yo look for hotels within Boac. It will make your life easier.
Below is a list of inns, hotels, and resorts you might want to try, though it’s highly suggested to check in at the capital town Boac or near it, to make it easier to watch the Senakulo and go to Boac Cathedral.
3E’s Love Bay Beach +63423321440
A and A Beach Resort +63423322817
Blue Sea Beach Resort +63423321334
Boac Hotel – +63423321121/ +63423111096
Beach Club Cagpo
Pyramid Beach Resort +63423321328
Seaview Hotel – +63423322840
Tahanan Sa Isok – +63423321231
Casa de Azul Hotel and Resort +63423337173
Villa Carlos – +63423321882
El Mannuel Beach Resort – +63423321305
Cely’s Lodging House – +63423321519
Katala Becah Resort
(http://www.chateaudumer.com) Chateau Du Mer Beach Resort +63423321338
There’s no fast food chain in any town of Marinduque, even in its capital city Boac. However, one has various choices among the restaurants and eateries in the town proper of Boac, Sta. Cruz or Gasan. Kusina sa Plaza is highly recommended. The ambience at the second level is very old Spanish. I was waiting for Kapitan Tyago or Maria Clara to come over to join us for dinner. The place is rustic and very cozy.
entrance to the second floor of Kusina sa Plaza
You don’t need a pre-arranged tour to visit the different places in Marinduque. As long as you know how to ask for directions from the locals, you will be fine. However, sites like Mt. Malindig and Bathala Caves would definitely require a tour guide, so better ask hotel and resort administration if they know a person who can tour you. If you want a tried and tested guide, you can also inquire at theMarinduque Provincial Capital Tourism Department to ask for their recommended tour guides.
There are several ATM machines in the province of Marinduque so withdrawing cash is not a problem. Below is a rough estimated budget, good for one person over four days:
Fare: Php 1,500
Accommodation: Php 4,000
Food: Php 1,500
Miscellaneous: Php 1,000
Pasalubong: Php 500
You need to have: Php 8,000/person is the safest budget one can have to travel the towns of Marinduque.
coin divers at Dalahican port
typical Marinduque scenery