Madness and Chaos Getting to the Moriones Festival in Marinduque, Philippines
ALL-TIME FAVORITE POST FROM 2010 RE-BLOGGED: I left the comforts of my dear home and off to an island south of Manila. The night before i left, my father asked me where i was going. To sorta give him a more safe answer, i just said Quezon. But to be honest, it is maybe four hours by boat to this island province called Marinduque. A few hours later, he finally found out where i was heading. He told me that he was there before, with my my grandfather who used to perform with his orchestra in the town plaza.
A few hours before i left, i was still halfway my work but i manage to pull off a few articles and decided to continue the rest of the remaining stuff i needed to write in Marinduque. With no sleep at all, i took a shower and started to pack my things. No amount of delay can sway my mind to not go. I am going to brave this province no matter what it takes.
Looking back, this trip would be so memorable because it paved the way for many things i needed to realize for myself.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Marinduque, except maybe Bellaroca which is also called "Elephant Island", here's a travel guide on how to get to Marinduque.
Marinduque a tiny little heart-shaped like province off the coast of Quezon. This island province is sometimes called the "heart of the philippines" because of its location in the middle of the country. Marinduque is a very poor province, with mostly coconuts and fishing in the coastal town as means of livelihood. Relatively, during the holy week is when the province gains its most number of tourists. The rest of the year, its a sleepy and quiet province. The chances of you bumping into a traveler in this side of the country is very slim, unless of course they are headed to the luxury island of Bellaroca formerly known as Elephant Island.
It was during the holy week, when i went to the province of Marinduque where the people celebrate the Moriones festival. The people i saw traveling were natives of Marinduque who are now living in Manila. Some, were just tourists visiting the province for the festival.
Before this trip was planned, i was looking at my map asking myself where i want to go next. I had a few suggested destinations from Catanduanes to Ilocos Norte to even Romblon. But due to the limited time and budget, i decided i have to go to Marinduque. It's the easiest destination to go to from Manila that i haven't been yet. Or so i thought.
How to go Marinduque?
Three ways to go to Marinduque from Manila:
If you're willing to splurge: You can fly direct from Manila to Marinduque via the airport located in between Gasan and Boac, Zest Air flies this route. I also found out Seair flies direct from Manila to Sta. Cruz on scheduled dates. The trip will roughly cost you less than $100 round trip.
There's no middle class, it's either you're flying which is what the rich people do or you're doing cheap which is a bus-boat/ferry combination.
If you're a cheapo: You ride a bus (Jam Liner, Jac Liner, etc) from Manila to Dalahican Ferry port in Quezon. The trip is about less than P200 or $4 and will take you to a fair enough good ride of about four hours. There a few stops along the way getting more passenger. From there, you catch a ferry which will course the sea for about four hours or the fast ferry about half that time. Some of the popular ferry boats are White Horse and Montenegro Shipping lines.
During the holy week when i was there, imagine chaos rockin' at the ferry port of Dalahican. Everyone wanted to get on board to head to Marinduque but the boats are always full of passengers already. When i arrived, some people were waiting as chance passengers since last night. The line was very long and disorderly. The ticket booths weren't closed. The sun was so hot. This is one problem posing Marinduque Tourism.
With about three or four dubious ferries traveling from Quezon to Marinduque on random hours, how in the world will tourists, travelers, everyone go there during this time of the year? Locals say when it's not holy week, there's also an awful chance of catching another ferry when one leaves because no one goes to Marinduque then.
I really want to address the Marinduque officials regarding this. There's such a lot of waste because of this mismanagement. Oh well. If you can brave it, go for it. That's what i did.
Chaos at Dalahican Port
When i arrived in Dalahican port, which was roughly four hours bus ride from Quezon City, i found out how hard it was to buy a ticket bound for Marinduque. Another problem posed is as much as i want to be responsible and book everything ahead, you can't do it going to Marinduque. Unlike in Thailand where everything is possible, in Marinduque, you have to book everything yourself. No early reservations. Nothing.
Needless to say, traveling to Marinduque during holy week is all about Luck. It's either you have it or you don't.
Holy Week in Marinduque
If you think going to Marinduque during holy week was a pain in the butt. Wait when you're about to go back home. I arrived at ferry port of Balanacan at around 6AM and this is the line. I didn't leave Marinduque till tuesday the week after holy week. I was hoping everyone left on Sunday or Monday because there's work already. It's either we're all thinking the same thing or there's just too many people visiting the island.
There is a very big problem with the order here. Some of the characters i met at the ticket booth and the coast guard were a little bit shady. I mean, it's dubious enough that one man will buy 40 tickets so imagine what's left for those in line. Worse, they won't tell you the tickets are almost sold out. So, you've been falling in line for about two hours and then suddenly you will miss the ferry ride because there ain't anymore tickets. What a bummer.
There's a little spectacle though to the calmness of the people here, apart from the lady who got hysterical. Bet she's not from Marinduque. Everyone was calm, keeping their heads cool and smiling. Although it was scorching outside, everyone seemed to learn how to talk in a nice way. I mean what's the worse thing that could happen, miss a ferry ride? Take it easy.
EXCLUSIVE: If that's not enough, wait, there's more. On my way back, i finally got to buy a ticket, tired and obviously perspiring like there's no more tomorrow, i decided to cool off in the lounge area before the ferry arrives and we're off to Quezon. I fell a sleep for a bit lying down in a not so clean floor. I didn't care. I was just so tired. When i woke up a few minutes before the scheduled arrival of my ferry, i started searching where the ferry will dock so i can just wait for it and get on the boat as soon as possible.
The Ferry left. ALREADY!
Apparently, schedules are just a suggestion here. Because there's too many people and a few ferries arriving. Even if you're scheduled for a later trip, you can ride already the first ferry you see. First come first serve basis.
And what's worse, no one will tell when the ferry arrives or when the ferry will leave. I just laughed at how the management at the ferry terminal are keeping secrets from me.
I don't want to put all the blame on the transportation system of Marinduque. I may have been a little relaxed planning this trip. But mishaps happen like non-stop.
Stroke of Luck
On the other hand, sometimes the shady transportation in Marinduque worked to my advantage. On my way to Marinduque, i didn't anymore fall in line after a few hours of waiting for nothing. Just a stroke of luck, a man approached me and told me i can get on the ferry without buying the ticket. I just need to buy terminal fee so i can get in.
And so i did just that. He carried my duffel bag. Saw his ID, so i bet my belongings are safe with him. I hurriedly followed him trying to get as little attention as possible and proceeded riding the ferry. Before the ferry left, i gave him a tip. He said i just have to pay the ticket to the men in uniform after everyone's settled and as the ferry is leaving.
I paid for about P200 for the ferry ride no hassle at all. There wasn't anymore ferry leaving bound for Boac but there's one bound for Sta. Cruz. I knew i needed to take this ferry or i will be stuck in Dalahican ferry port.
The photo was taken on my way back to Dalahican Port in Quezon. But a similar picture is the case when you're leaving the ferry - madness and chaos. Everyone wanted to go down the soonest possible time no matter what it takes.
REALIZATIONS: With very poor planning by the government of Marinduque and obviously lack of transportation essentials to promote tourism in the province, i don't think this province will get its much needed to boost for promotion anytime soon. Let's be practical. When not a lot of people go to a destination, everything remains intact. That, i reckon, is the reason why this island province is still untouched by the commercialism. Truth be told, getting to Marinduque is all worth it.