Introducing Marinduque

A heart-shaped island in the Southern Tagalog Region is a certified tourism magnet come the Lenten Season. The province has been making waves in the travel sector behind a colorful event (odd for some) called the Moriones Festival. Aside from this religious occasion, the island is known as an alternative destination to Boracay and Palawan, as it is blessed with beautiful sand beaches, enchanting caves, unspoiled diving sites, and rejuvenating hotsprings. The place, which is commonly included in the list of recommended vacation getaways in most Philippine travel guides, is called Marinduque.

Marinduque is located at the geographical center of the Philippines. Covering an area of 952.6 square kilometers, the province is situated south and west of Quezon, east of Mindoro, and north of Romblon. It is home to around 230,000 people as of 2007, with the majority of the populace earning a living by farming and fishing.

The Marinduquenos are known to be hospitable and friendly. First-time tourists are usually welcomed with a big smile and a heart-warming putong, a traditional song-and-dance ritual performed by local folks. Putong, or tubong, in some parts of the island, also means the crowning of a guest or an honorary with flowers or gaily-decorated crowns. This practice adds to the appeal of Marinduque to both local and foreign holidaymakers.

Getting to Marinduque is not as problematic compared to other travel destinations in the archipelago. Some local airlines offer direct flights from Manila to Marinduque several times a week. As a travel tip, make reservations in advance to avoid any inconvenience. For tourists who are afraid of flying, there are buses and ships bound for the province.

The best time to go to Marinduque is during the Holy Week, when the province is all systems go for the Moriones Festival. The event is highlighted by a parade participated in by people, usually God-fearing men, wearing colorful masks and garbs replicating that of the biblical Roman soldiers. The main attraction in the festival is a show reenacting the event when, Longinus, a blind soldier, punctures Jesus with his spear and the blood droplets from the wound enables him to regain his sight.

Marinduque is also an ideal place for beach bummers. The island is dotted with unspoiled white-sand beaches and tranquil islets that are perfect for swimming and other water recreation activities such as snorkeling, windsurfing, and diving. Boac, the provincial capital, is famous for the white sand of the Poctoy Beach. Not to be outdone are the beaches in Maniwaya Island in the town of Sta. Cruz.

Accommodations vary from the very simple to the extravagant. One of the famous vacation rentals in Marinduque is the Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa, which is located on an excluded island several minutes away from the mainland. Its location makes the resort an ideal place for travelers looking to escape the hassles of the city life.

With the growing interest in nature, Marinduque has joined the bandwagon for promoting the "green" thing. The province is being promoted as a premier ecotourism destination in the Philippines. The must-see sanctuaries and protected areas in the island include the Balagbag Mountain Range, Tres Reyes Marine Sanctuary, and Malindig Volcano. The chance of tourists getting bored in Marinduque is very unlikely. Spelunking enthusiasts can explore Bathala Caves in Sta. Cruz and Tarug Caves in Mogpog while travelers looking to get their body recharged with new energy can soak in the hot springs of Malbog in Buenavista.

With so many things to do and see in Marinduque, it is no wonder, then, that the province is close to the heart of travelers.

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Allan Leandro Merin has been writing for a living since 2008. After leaving a career at a daily electronic newspaper, he joined a web development outsourcing company and linked up with Local Philippines, the most comprehensive online directory of Philippine destinations, events, and attractions.