Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bikepacking to Tablas Island, Romblon

"Ano, ano?"

With that question and the plan was hatched (we're such idiots, a simple question and a look serve as a dare or a challenge). 

We were going to Romblon. And bring our bikes with us. Yup, we were rebels.

After watching a video about Romblon on Facebook and finding out we could RoRo there, we were convinced. Plus we wanted to look for Maoi's abandoned love child from the 90's (an inside joke but feel free to ask me about it).

Okay, planning starts now. #RoRoRomblon, here we come! Or #LetsGetReadyToRomblon? Whatever. We were on our way to find our marbles!

First, the participants. Maoi didn't want just the two of us. He was afraid I would hold his hands in public (I actually did. Please see in the video).

"Baket, kinakahiya mo ba ako?!", I asked. 

This was returned with a look that confirmed yeah, he was ashamed to be seen with just me. Thanks a lot, Mao. 

We then thought of former office mates who might be interested. Jing's wife just gave birth to a cute little boy so he was going to sit this one out. 

Enter Hans. He was thrilled with the idea and immediately and excitedly said yes (poor boy, I don't think he has that many friends). 

Let's go!

A thorough research then ensued.

How do we get to Romblon? Where do we store the bikes? Which of the three islands do we visit? Will my wife allow me (thank you again, my baby!)? When's a good time to take our leaves? Will the boss allow us knowing we could possibly die because it would just be us and she knew we have troubles just deciding where to eat lunch much more plan a trip? She only said one thing: "Walang mamamatay ha?!" 

Anyway, after going through several websites and blogs and messaging people, everything was set. Well, Hans had to buy a bike first (great deals online!). After that, it was game on! 

We booked our 2Go tickets (around P1,400 each, one way, for a cabin -- thanks again, Mao for booking me in a different cabin from you guys). We booked our hotel room (Harbour Chateau in Odiongan - P1,500/night) and also booked our Calatrava tour (Deo's Islands Adventure Tours). 

We mapped out the trip. We chose Tablas Island since this was the biggest of the three and most developed and we figured there were more paved roads to bike on (paved didn't equate to flat roads, unfortunately).

Several meetings and back and forth Viber messages (yes, Shoe Mart Maoi knows Viber!) after, the day of departure finally came!

The organized and OC Manuel's Excel sheet though couldn't prevent work from interfering that day (work always gets in the way of everything!) and we were late getting to the Alabang Provincial Bus Terminal. We weren't going to make it to our 9pm 2Go ferry. 

The next bus came (Alps buses to and from Alabang and Batangas arrive and leave every 30 minutes for 24 hours according to a call Maoi made to their office) and we loaded our bikes inside the cargo area of the bus (we paid an extra P100 plus the P137 fare). It's best if you are the first ones on the bus so you'll have room for the bikes. We didn't have to take out any tires (on our trip back via Dela Rosa Liner, we had to remove our front tires but we weren't charged anything).

We knew we were going to miss our ferry even more when we realized the bus was passing Calamba town and not straight via the Star Tollway. Good job researching again.

Hans looked at the 2Go website and saw that there was a 10pm trip to Romblon Island. Okay, we would just proceed there and just ride another ferry to Tablas. 

We got to Batangas Port at around 9:30pm and quickly (yup, on our bikes) proceeded to the 2Go ticketing counter. I asked a bald 2Go employee who was smoking by the terminal fee window if the 9pm ferry to Odiongan already left and he said yes. We were doomed.

We quickly went to the ticketing counter and asked if we could just upgrade our Odiongan ticket to a Romblon ticket. The lady behind the counter quickly got up and said that the 9pm ferry was still there! Wow, we made it (I will never trust bald people again -- Hello Hans and Maoi).

The kind ticketing lady asked the security guard to assist us as she radioed someone to say there were three more passengers and that we would have bikes with us. 

Manong guard was so kind and escorted us to the boarding area after we paid the P30 terminal fee. 

Somebody then just told us to remove our front tires so we won't be charged extra for the bikes. So we did and we were able to board at once (thank you also to the nuns who were boarding at the same time we were -- God heard their prayers and nadamay kame!). 

2Go has neat bunkers in their cabins (thanks again, Mao for booking me in a different cabin -- I will bring this up forever) and we just ate our free dinner (and drank a couple of beer in cans) then went off to bed (we were asked to put our bikes by the Smoking Area). I then locked myself inside the bathroom (damn you, Maoi!) for 15 damn minutes because of the damn lock (what is it with me and locks and keys these days?)!

Anyway, here are some highlights of the Tablas, Romblon trip:

- Of course, the biking. We wanted to bike from the hotel to the Looc Marine Sanctuary which was some 21 kilometers according to We took a wrong turn and made the hilly trip into a total of 30 kilometers. The ahons were so punishing for us (we're newbies!) and we walked for a couple of meters just to get past some climbs. Our average speed was 10kph due to the hills. Fastest speed was around 41kph which was also a lot of fun. Biking through rice fields and by the shoreline was awesome. Also the fish sanctuary in Looc. It made all the climbs and walking worth it. Air in the province is really different. We were so tired we just got a tricycle (the one they use for transferring pigs) for our bikes and a separate tricycle for the three of us (we paid P500 for each).

- If you want to know about what Tablas Island offers, you have to book a tour with Deo's Islands Adventure Travels. Kuya Deo lives and breathes Tablas. Just tell him what you want to see and he will push for you to experience what you want in Tablas. With his Mad Max-like Toyota Lite Ace (which adds to the character of the tour), he will make sure guests of the island would want to come back for more. Aside from naming new tourist spots, he usually brings his guests to the never-before-seen sites of the island. He recently named a tourist spot (a cave and a small swimming area in one of the cracks of the rock formations) after a guest after she dropped her earring there on their maiden visit to the spot. He fondly calls it Pearl of Melody. I suggest you book him if you want to enjoy the richness the island and the surrounding water offers. In our tour, he brought along an American Peace Corps volunteer staying in Tablas named Bill and they dove several meters on what Kuya Deo calls White Rock. Bill dove 80 feet down--free diving! Amazing. Thanks again, Kuya Deo! You can contact him via, +63 999 002 0806 or +63 997 920 0270.

- We visited the Looc Marine Sanctuary (P100/pax plus P50 for the snorkeling gear) to play and feed the fish (there were a looot of them) but we were told by Kuya Deo and Bill that feeding the fish is actually bad for the corals in the area. Fish should feed on the corals and not be fed with bread as corals need fish to survive. Oops. 

- While there, we stayed in Harbour Chateau Hotel. It's just a kilometer away from Poctoy Port so it was a quick bike ride for us when we got there around 5am. Rooms (P1,500/night, good for three but I think the room can easily accommodate six since the there were three double beds). It's also by the beach so eating breakfast (free breakfast is Hotsilog) and having your morning coffee is an experience. Your stay is timed 24 hours so you can check in any time you arrive but need to check out 24 hours after or based on the time you arrived (basta 24 hours, you get it). Their pizzas are delicious too!

- Moving around the island, a group can rent tricycles as jeeps are hard to come by and usually have early last trips (sometimes as early as 3pm). You can text Kuya Arnel (0939-3781383) and/or Kuya Rey (we forgot his number-- Maoi lost it, actually) but you can look for him in the Harbour Chateau lobby. He usually hangs around the hotel for passenger pick ups at the nearby Poctoy Port). 

Next time we will bring along a responsible female friend (not Jing. Hans, ang sama mo). 

Because it was only us three guys who went on this trip, these things happened:

  • We miscalculated the time and almost got left behind by our ferry to Odiongan
  • We forgot to bring sunblock so naturally we weren't able to put some on during our bike trip (very bad mistake that we are paying for today -- ouch!)
  • Hans will never wear sando while biking under the intense heat again
  • We lost our hotel keys and had to be escorted by someone from the front desk everytime we wanted to enter our room
  • We forgot to bring toothpaste and had to do with Maoi's very small toothpaste (just one of the small things Maoi possesses)
  • We didn't check how to get home from Batangas Pier. Good thing we Filipinos are really helpful and people there gave us directions to Grand Terminal (there were buses to Alabang in the Pier parking lot but our bikes didn't fit their estribos so we biked around 5kms in the darkness...and up an overpass)

So we found out that Tablas was VERY hilly and might not be advisable for newbie rides (Odiongan to Looc). Odiongan to Calatrava looked more leg-friendly. Beer there tastes the same but we had to make sure so we had more than a couple. People there are very nice. We will definitely go back and explore the other islands as well. 

And hey, we didn't die!

Please see video of our trip below: