Sometimes when you travel, you don’t choose a destination. A destination chooses you.
A sudden declaration of a non-working holiday had me and a friend packing upand looking for a place to go. We couldn’t make up our minds where to go but we decided to just drive to Batangas Port hoping that we could find a boat going somewhere, anywhere, where we could spend the long weekend.
At the ticketing station, the only destination with a short line was the one going to Romblon, Romblon. I inquired from the lady at the counter and she said she can still accommodate two more passengers on the boat to Romblon. How about return, I asked. She said it’s already fully-booked. Why don’t you return via Odiongan, she added. Why not? I figured that we just have to take a boat from Romblon Island to Tablas Island and we could catch a return boat from Odiongan. Okay. Miss, please give us return tickets via Odiongan, I finally replied.
There it was. The goddesses of the universe conspired that we visit Odiongan.
As soon as we climbed up to the boat going to Romblon Island, I started searching on my smart-phone about Odiongan.
Odiongan and the rest of Tablas Island were originally settled by Negritos and Mangyans. In early 1800s, a group of Bantoanons landed in Odiongan in search for a place suited for agriculture. After settling in the place, they found out that it was prone to attacks by Moro pirates. In 1840, another group of Bantoanons came to Odiongan but this time they built a “cota” or a fort, which helped protect the settlers from raids.
In 1855, the Spanish authorities converted the settlement into a “pueblo” or a town. The name of the town came from the word “odiong” meaning “arrow” as the shape of the original town looked like an “arrow struck to a tree.”
Throughout history, Odiongan became under Banton, Capiz and the short-lived town of Tablas. Until finally in October 1, 1946, under Republic Act 38, Odiongan finally became a municipality under the province of Romblon.
Today, with a population of 45,000 people, Odiongan on Tablas Island is the largest municipality in the province of Romblon in terms of population. It is also the province’s commercial center and major port of entry.
How to get there
The easiest way to reach Odiongan is to fly from Manila to Tugdan Airport in Alcantara. Cebu Pacific flies 4 time weekly from Manila. Flying time is approximately 45 minutes. From the airport, Odiongan is about 40 kilometers away. There are regular jeepneys and buses between Alcantara and Odiongan. Travel time is 90 minutes.
Another option is to take a 2Go ferry from Batangas to Odiongan. From Manila, take a bus going to Batangas Pier. It is also possible to drive from Manila to Batangas port via SLEX and STAR. There is a vehicle parking inside the port. From Batangas, the ferry for Odiongan leaves at 9 p.m. daily and arrives at Odiongan at 3 a.m.
It is also possible to reach Odiomgan via boats from either Roxas or San Jose in Mindoro. From Caticlan in Aklan, there are daily boats to Looc on the southern part of Tablas. From Looc, there are jeepneys going to Odiongan. From Rombon Island, there are boats going daily to San Agustin in northern Tablas, and from there, there are jeepneys that go straight to Odiongan.
What to see, what to do
Odiongan is also the transportation hub of Tablas, so it is easy to go around using it as a base. The best way to explore the island is to hire a tricycle to go around. Your tricycle driver will also serve as your guide as he knows most of the island’s attractions. Daily rate is between P1,000 and P1,500 a day.
Start at the Odiongan town center. The big Odiongan marker made in marble in front of the municipal hall certainly lets you know that you are in Romblon. Move around the town center to visit the old ancestral houses of the Bantoanons who settled in Odiongan, several churches including the Catholic Church of Saint Vincent Ferrer and another one by the Aglipayan group, the sprawling plaza and the only mall in Romblon, the Odiongan Mall.
Odiongan has several natural attractions to explore, like the Tabing-Dagat Beach and Bagulayag Beach, and caves like Sigkop and Catayan. Those looking for a place to cool off can go to Barangay Tubaran, do some river crossings before finally reaching the hidden Tubaran Falls.
At the nearby town of Ferrol, visit the beautiful Binucot Beach. It boasts of kilometer-long stretch of white sand and pebble beach perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
In the next town of Looc is the Looc Bay Marine Sanctuary. For an entrance fee of P100, visitors are taken by boat to an observation raft in the middle of the marine sanctuary where they can inter-act with thousands of colorful fishes.
Where to stay, what to eat
As the commercial center of the province, Odiongan offers visitors with varied options for places to stay. There’s Harbour Chateau, Ha-li Beach Resort, Wave Front Resort and Kamella Lodge in Barangay Poctoy. But for those who are looking for practicality and convenience, there’s the Centro delas Islas Filipinas Hotel located in front the Odiongan Port entrance.
For dining, Odiongan has many restaurants that offer Rombloanons, Ilonggo, Tagalog and Continental dishes. But for those who wish to try everything, there’s the weekend buffet at Mac’s Restaurant where the buffet costs an unbelievable P160 per person.
Lastly, there’s the souvenir shops in front of the Odiongan Port. They can engrave anything on a marble tablet. We asked them if they can do the Philippine map on a marble plate and the Starbucks logo on a marble mug. They replied that they can. When we finally got what we ordered, we saw the goddess that brought us to Odiongan: she’s the one on the Starbucks logo!