Traveling around the Philippines requires a lot of patience. Airplanes, boats and buses rarely leave on time. Travelers have to endure long hours waiting at terminals.
Waiting time takes even longer during holidays. The longest I have waited is 15 hours. This was during a Holy Week a few years ago. Our destination: Boac, Marinduque.
We arrived at Dalahican Port in Lucena on a Holy Tuesday at 9 pm. We brought our car so that we can take it via Ro-Ro [Roll-on Roll-off] terminal to the island of Marinduque. When we arrived at the port, we found out that more than a hundred cars were already there lining up to get on a ferry to Marinduque.
I remember we were No. 120. The Ro-Ro boat that leaves every two hours can only take 20 cars per trip. We waited and waited. We tried to sleep inside the car but it wasn’t easy. We were all too excited to see the Moriones Festival for the first time. We didn’t want to sleep for we may not hear when our number is called.
Finally, our number was called by noontime the following day. We hurriedly drove our car to the loading day. We didn’t mind that we were tired because we are finally sailing to Boac to experience the Moriones.
This must have been the feeling when the Spaniards first sailed to Boac in 1580 to establish a “visita” called “Monserrat de Marinduque.” In 1621, the Jesuit missionaries brought the three-foot Marian image to Boac.
During the Moro siege in the mid-17th century, the people prayed fervently at the throne of the Virgin Mary, asking her to deliver them from the enemies. It was said that a very strong storm came with heavy rains and thunder and lightning. In the middle of the storm, the image of Mary appeared, with her arms outstretched. This scared the Moro invaders and they fled in confusion.
Since then, the image of Mary has been honored. Her old image now stands on the stone niche where she appeared.
Those arriving in Boac via Balanacan Port will also see a giant image of the Virgin Mary welcoming visitors to the island.
How to get there
There is no direct flight anymore between Manila and Marinduque, so all visitors to island must do the land-sea travel.
For those with private vehicles, this mean driving south from Manila via South Luzon Expressway, exit at Santo Tomas, Batangas, and continue drive to San Pablo, Tiaong, Candeleria, Sariaya and up to Lucena in the provinces of Laguna and Quezon. From there, proceed to Dalahican Port where there are regular Montenegro and Starhorse Ro-Ro boats (three-hour trip) to Balanacan Port in Mogpog or Cawit in Boac.
A more convenient way to travel to Marinduque is to take the so-called “door-to-door” service of JAC Liner (available at Cubao and Buendia terminals). For less than P1,000, a designated JAC bus takes passengers direct from Manila to Boac.
An alternative way is to take any bus going to Dalahican, then take any ferry going to Balanacan or Cawit (in Boac), and from there, take a jeepney to Boac.
What to see, what to do
Holy Week in Boac is a mix of religious and commercial, solemn and frivolous. The center of the whole activity is the Moriones Festival and it attracts thousands of visitors, from the religious to the curious.
Moriones Festival starts on Holy Monday with a Holy Mass at the Morion Arena in Boac. This is followed by a Community Parade of Costumes where the people of Boac walk the streets in Morion-inspired costumes of biblical characters, turning the town of Boac into a mini-Jerusalem.
By Monday afternoon, masked men and women garbed in costumes of Roman soldiers start roaming the streets of Boac searching for Longinus, a Roman centurion who was blind in one eye. On Black Saturday, Longinus is finally found and beheaded during a Senakulo at Boac River.
On Good Friday, Boac is filled with activities, starting with a ritual of Tawak (herbal potion) Drinking in Menardo to prevent poisonous bites. This is followed self-flogging by penitents at Boac cemetery, then Via Crucis, a re-enactment of the way of the cross along the streets of Boac, and finally, a Holy Mass at the Boac Cathedral.
The provincial government also opens a trade exposition near the Boac River. It is a good place to shop for local souvenirs like handicrafts and framed butterflies.
In between, visitors can check out the exhibits at the Boac Museum or visit many of the ancestral houses lining up the streets of Boac. Those who wish to cool down can visit the nearby Malbog Sulfur Springs or the White Beach of Poctoy.
Where to stay, what to eat
Those who can afford can check-in at Bellarocca Resort in the nearby town of Buenavista. This Greek-inspired resort-hotel offers luxury accommodations in island setting.
In Boac, visitors can stay at either Boac Hotel or at Tahanan sa Isok where a room for two starts at P1,000 per day. Those on a budget can try getting a room at Abby’s Place, A&A Beach Resort or Lucky Seven Pension House.
For dining during Holy Week, food trucks from major fast-food companies like Jollibee, Chow King and Shakey’s come to Boac to feed the local and out-of-town crowd.
The public market in Boac is also a good source of tasty but inexpensive meals. The carenderias (local easteries) usually open quite early in the morning and they serve seafood like fried fish and adobong pusit.
But the best place to hang out is the local favorite: Kusina sa Plaza. They serve home-made snacks like pizza and pasta. During Holy Week, visitors line up for their famous Vegetarian Pizza. It is overloaded with fresh vegetables like sliced tomatoes, onions, bell pepper and corns, and topped with lots of cheese. It takes away the exhaustion of driving four hours to get to Dalahican Port, 15 hours waiting to get on a boat, three hours to reach Balanacan, another 15 minutes driving to reach Boac and one hour waiting to finally get this home-made pizza.