The peaceful and scenic view of Mount Malindig and its surrounding areas in Marinduque. Photo courtesy of Department of Tourism Region IV-B.

While smaller than most, Marinduque is a province you won’t have a hard time locating on a map. The island has been dubbed “the heart of the Philippines” thanks to its unique position at the country’s geographical center. Coincidentally, its shape is also said to resemble a human heart.

Marinduque is one of the five island provinces that make up the MIMAROPA region. It’s surrounded by the Tayabas Bay to the north and the Sibuyan Sea, which separates Luzon and Visayas, to the south. Because of its coastal location, the province is an ideal destination for summer holidays.

Like its neighbors Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Romblon, and Palawan, Marinduque is home to a number of must-see beaches like the Poctoy White Sand Beach in Torrijos and the remote Palad Sandbar in Santa Cruz. The island is also abundant in natural wonders like the scenic Kawa-Kawa Falls and the cathedral-like Bathala Caves in Santa Cruz.

A participant of the Moriones Festival in a colorful costume and a morion mask. Photo courtesy of Department of Tourism Region IV-B.

But perhaps no attraction in Marinduque is as famous as its annual Moriones Festival. Celebrated every Holy Week, this sacred tradition has locals donning ornate costumes and oversized masks while re-enacting the search for Longinus, the holy martyr.

Longinus was the half-blind Roman soldier who, according to the story, lanced the side of the crucified Christ’s body. This act miraculously healed the soldier of blindness in one eye by the drop of Christ’s holy blood. He then converted to Christianity after, which resulted in him being hunted by the Roman military.

During the festival, a member of the local community plays the role of Longinus who is captured and recaptured by the larger community several times over the course of the week. This visually striking event has come to be associated with the Marinduque, and a regular part of any itinerary in the Southern Tagalog province. Beyond it, however, the small island is filled with captivating activities that allow travelers to immerse themselves in its culture and geography.

Here are just a few other things you can do in the small but mighty province of Marinduque:

Immerse in 18th century architecture at the Boac, Sta. Cruz, and Gasan Churches

If the fervent celebration of the Moriones Festival was any indication, many in Marinduque remain devout in their Catholic faith.

This devotion is also seen in the striking churches that are scattered in this relatively small island province. This includes the ancient Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish or Boac Cathedral. The centuries-old structure was recently declared an Important Cultural Property (ICP) by the National Museum of the Philippines.

The unique and intricate interiors of Boac Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Department of Tourism Region IV-B.

Founded by Franciscan friars in the 16th century, the Cathedral bore witness to notable events in Marinduque’s history.

It served as a fortress against Moro pirate attacks, which were rampant at the time of its construction in 1792. It has also withstood centuries of wars and—thanks to its earthquake baroque architecture—destructive natural forces. This design features fortifying stone walls and buttresses.

Today, the Boac Cathedral serves as the center of religious affairs not only in Marinduque’s capital, but also in the whole province.

Like the Boac Cathedral, the Parish of the Holy Cross or Sta. Cruz Cathedral also features centuries-old architecture. This over 300-year-old church in the northeastern coast of Marinduque is considered the oldest in the province and is famous for the centuries-old retablo, which are niched panels holding religious wood carvings that are found by its altar.

All three of these elaborate panels have been preserved in their original form. The church’s original pulpit likewise remains intact.

A church tour around Marinduque must also include the breezy St. Joseph the Spouse of Mary Church or Gasan Catholic Church. Built in the 17th century, this sanctuary is located on top of a hill that overlooks the blue waters of the Tablas Strait.

The journey to this hilltop church may be steep, but it is worth it for the view. Its recently renovated interiors, furnished with art and decorative pieces by local artisans, must not be missed either.

Reconnect with nature at organic farms

Like its neighbors Palawan and Mindoro, Marinduque is rich in natural landscapes and resources. The province’s lush, rustic environment makes it conducive for agriculture, so farming aficionados will find a lot to keep them busy.

Visitors can immerse themselves in farm life for a day at RMB Paraiso Enterprise Inc. For just Php100, guests can explore and enjoy its verdant vegetable and flower gardens, poultry coops, aquariums, animal sheds, and butterfly conservatory.

They can also opt to join a guided tour to learn more about organic farming and livestock rearing from the farmers themselves.

  • Address: Tanigue C, Lupac, Boac, Marinduque
  • Hours: 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday to Sunday
  • Entrance fee: Php100 (adult), Php70 (children 10 below)
  • Website: https://www.facebook.com/RMBParaiso/

Travelers will find no shortage of farms elsewhere in the province. In some of them, especially those in the town of Torrijos, guests may even encounter the famous Markaduke Pigs. Markaduke is a name given to the native black boars of Marinduque known among the roasters of La Loma, the lechon capital of the Philippines, to be the best for roasting.

The name is based on a breeding program led by the Marinduque State College’s Torrijos Campus, where the pigs are cultivated and distributed to partner farmers who will raise and supply them to different lechonero (pig roasters) across the country.

Indulge in fresh seafood and the “Best Crispy Pata in the Philippines”

No trip to any province is complete without a taste of its cuisine. Casa de Don Emilio in Boac serves Marinduqueño favorites like Ulang-ulang (crab meat cooked in coconut milk), Kari-kari (spicy pork blood stew, their take on the popular peanut sauce-based oxtail and tripe stew), and Manakla (shrimp sauteed in garlic and butter).

The delectable Kari-kari offered by Casa de Don Emilio. Photo courtesy of Department of Tourism Region IV-B.

The restaurant is located on the second floor of a Spanish colonial house that once belonged to the Lardizabal family. It is named after the family’s patriarch.

Marinduque is also home to what’s been called the “Best Crispy Pata in the Philippines.” What makes the dish more interesting is the fact that it is served not by a fancy chef at a fancy restaurant, but by a homemaker in an unassuming family home.

Ka Ambo’s Crispy Pata in Sta. Cruz is sought after for its crunchy skin and soft, tasty meat. Ka Ambo or Ambrosia Reynoso owes the beloved recipe to her late husband Tirso, who was a cook-for-hire. But her expertise and thoroughness in meat selection, which she developed in her years as a meat vendor, makes it even better.

  • Address: Palomares St. corner Burgos St., Brgy. Banahaw, Santa Cruz

HOW TO GET TO MARINDUQUE*

By land/sea: There are buses that stop at Lucena Grand Terminal. The terminal is a jeepney ride away from the Dalahican Port, where ferries to Marinduque’s Balanacan, Cawit, and Buyabod Port are available daily. Balanacan and Cawit are the closest to the towns of Mogpog, Boac, Gasan, and Buenavista while Buyabod is nearest to Santa Cruz and Torrijos.

By plane: Cebu Pacific offers flights from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to Gasan and back three times a week.

*Ferry trips and flight schedules and frequencies may change due to COVID restrictions.

Travel safely!

All of these tourist destinations have health and safety protocols in place to protect the locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.

For more information, you may visit Marinduque’s official website, the Governor’s Facebook page, email [email protected] or call (042) 704 0144.

To know the latest updates and travel advisories about the Philippines, visit https://www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.