Travelling to Romblon can be quite the journey. Because there are no planes flying to the destination, travelers have to go by boat and travel for roughly 8 hours (to Odiongan), 12 hours (to Romblon) and if going to Sibuyan, transfer to a smaller boat and travel another 2 1/2 hours to reach the island.
Frankly, I had no idea the journey was going to take that long because I was merely following the leads of my companions who have visited the island before. Our destination was the Mt. Guiting Guiting Natural Park in Sibuyan Island, known to be one of most technically challenging mountain ranges in Asia which requires a three day hike to conquer. I was really excited, suffice to say, about my first long trip by ship, although, of course, I had my reservations because of all the news about sinking ships, etc. Still, it was an experience.
To get to Romblon, my group went to the Batangas Port (Terminal 2) to purchase our tickets from Montenegro Lines for the 5 pm trip. There are two stops for Montenegro — Odiongan, the commercial entry of port of Tablas Island, the biggest island in Romblon, and Romblon, Romblon, the capital of the province. We bought the Maharlika tickets (equivalent to cabin) so we had better room to move around. When purchasing tickets, try to get the bottom bunk because sometimes, it gets difficult to climb up the top bunk. Also, if you have a tendency to get seasick, you get more of the impact if you get the top bunk. To make the long story short, I got the top bunk so I hope you get what I’m saying.
We mistakenly bought tickets to Odiongan instead of Romblon so we had to purchase fresh tickets from the Odiongan Port. We didn’t want the hassle so we advised the crew in advance so we didn’t have to go down to the ticket counter upon landing in Odiongan at 2 am. They were kind enough to assist us by going up to the cabin to issue our receipts and get the payment. Direct tickets to Romblon cost P1431 for Maharlika, P1,216 for students and P715 for half fare. Regular fares are P477 half fare, P811 for students and P954 for normal tickets. Senior citizens get a 20 percent discount.
There is also an option to go via 2Go, which according to some locals are much roomier with the newer vessels but its usual time of departure is 9 pm from Batangas to Odiongan. You can check their schedule via 2Go Travel Schedule.
Navios Navigation is also another option but they don’t have an official website. They do however, have a facebook account which accommodates queries about schedules and ticket reservations.
I’m actually glad that we got the 5 pm trip because we didn’t grow too bored. We just had to kill several hours before going to sleep and then woke up just in time to meet the morning before we had to transfer to another Montenegro boat going to Sibuyan. We unfortunately encountered a lot of waves and it was a very shaky trip through and through. I narrowly missed having to throw up myself. There were a lot who were not as lucky.
The Sibuyan port was awesome. Unlike other ports, it was small but was lined with rich mangrove, giving the island a unique vibe that that screams natural paradise. It was well worth the 17-hour-journey.
Going back, instead of returning via our original route, we opted to travel via Navios Navigation and boarded on Cadjiocan port. From Sibuyan, there are jeepneys plying the route for P100 per head. Navios had a direct to Batangas route, with a short stopover to load and unload passengers on Romblon Island.
We bought tickets for De Luxe (P1,200) and got the top bunks (again). We asked the cabin crew if we could transfer to the available lower bunks if there were no passengers boarding in Romblon and they readily agreed. We started our journey at 11 am and arrived in Batangas at roughly 4 am.
I must commend the Negros Navigation crew. While most of those stationed in various parts of the boat were merely OJTs, they were very attentive and helpful to the passengers, accommodating questions about bus and van terminals upon reaching Batangas port, and being mindful of the passengers’ belongings too. The facilities like the comfort rooms and canteens were also very clean.
Before I end this post, I would like to share some of the stuff I learned from my first overnight sea journey:
1. Bring food. Make sure to stock up on food, especially the main meals because prices at the canteen are pretty steep. We also made the mistake of being too complacent so we ended up with no choice but to purchase beef noodles for dinner because they ran out of rice meals.
2. Charge up. If you brought devices, make sure that they are fully charged because you might need them for entertainment for the long journey. There are usually no sockets available in various areas of the ship. While the canteen accommodates charging (P20 for one full charge), because of the volume of passengers, you might have to wait in line or worse, not get your device charged at all.
3. Check where the life vests are. Safety first. I know. I should have put this at the top of the list but food is important too, right? Learn your lesson from Jack and Rose, you stand a better chance at surviving if you have a life vest, no matter how tattered it looks.
4. Bring light blankets, jackets, or use your towel to double as one. It gets pretty cold at night. While the ship often offers rentals of pillows and blankets for P50, if you’re on a budget, that’s good for one meal already.
5. Bring a good book. Depending on what time you are scheduled to travel, its always nice to have a good book to while away the time. Books are awesome because they don’t require power or drain your gadgets but you get entertained for long periods of time.
6. Bring a dry bag. I actually purchased a dry bag from the toy section of Toy Kingdom for only P200 and put all of my electronics and notes inside. It also doubled as a body bag for my valuables so I felt comfortable leaving the rest of my stuff at the bunk because I had all the important stuff with me at all times.
7. Watch the sunset/sunrise. I had a lot of time in my hands on the journey back so I made a career out of getting good photos of the sunset. The unobstructed view from the boat was amazing.
8. Mind your timing. Finding the right time to eat is pretty important too because of the space. Passengers often get drunk while on board (for what reason, I don’t know) but if you eat too late, these are the types of people you will encounter at the canteen. There was a drunk guy who was sitting behind me on the Montenegro ship and he could hardly walk straight. I swear if he fell on me I would have punched him in the face. Anyways, you also have to time how long you sleep, because if you oversleep in the afternoon, you still have the whole night ahead with nothing to do.
Oh, one final thing:
9. WIFI is pretty useless. Sure, you think that you might get good connection using the ship’s Wifi because the shipping line has WIFI ON BOARD in big block letters at the ticket counter, but because of the volume of passengers, good luck getting connected. Its better to rely on your own mobile connection if you have unlimited data coverage. Better yet, just wait until you alight before posting.
All in all, my first overnight trip via ship was pretty cool. True, it was tiring, and yes, I almost threw up but it was overall a good experience.