Maniwaya Revisited


This is how Boracay was 20 years ago. Once you go to Maniwaya, you will keep coming back.




invisible vollevball net?

invisible vollevball net?

I first went to this island when there were probably less than 50 residents, back in the early 80s. On my two visits last year, I saw some resorts being built, and I was not surprised that someone will think of building accommodations for visitors wanting a piece of paradise.

I started blogging about Maniwaya then.

I went back to Maniwaya last Maundy Thursday (2013) and the resorts were fully booked – – – yet one can still contrast the density of people on the water versus the elbow-to-elbow density in  famous Boracay. Somehow, Maniwaya visitors still feel they own the beach, even during the peak travel season. I can see it is not going to be the case for very long.

On a Maundy Thursday, still not elbow-to-elbow

On a Maundy Thursday, still not elbow-to-elbow



Today, a Maniwaya vacation is still restful. Pitching a tent is still enjoyable as you will not have to be in a spot with 200 tents side by side. There are open cottages for picnics, like the one we rented for a day tour. We paid only P500 for a huge table with many benches, shaded under a tree.


The owner of the THREE BROTHERS store is so enterprising they built the open cottage we rented. And they also have 3 units of bamboo huts for rent, at only P750 for the day or P1,500 overnight. This is a good enough place to stay – – –  there is a bed, a small veranda, a bathroom, and even a kitchen.




At the property’s fence, there was this info on contact details:

The cottages can accommodate 5-6 people sardines-style, but chap for P1,500 overnight (24 hours)

The cottages can accommodate 5-6 people sardines-style, but cheap for P1,500 overnight (24 hours)


The congressman that represents Marinduque has also built a vacation place in Maniwaya. He probably believes, too, that the island is paradise that he would like to have a part of. On one visit, I saw him jet-skiing. On a visit last year (or was it two years ago?), I chanced upon the congressman with whom I had a couple of beers over lively chat on how Maniwaya may be more popular and more accessible, to spur Marinduque tourism.

a bit of Bali in the congressman's property

a bit of Bali in the congressman’s property


A new resort hotel is Residencia de Palo Maria. First of all I was confused and thought this might be the high-end extension of the first-ever resort accommodation in Maniwaya, also called Palo Maria. As it turns out, Palo Maria is the name of the barangay where both are located. Residencia de Palo Maria has air-conditioned rooms, and a swimming pool. They also operate ATVs,   watersports facilities like jet skis, banana boat rides, kayaks, speed boats, snorkeling, etc.

the newest resort with swimming pool and aircon rooms (photo taken by my friend Bob Gan Ferrere)

the newest resort with swimming pool and aircon rooms (photo taken by my friend Bob Gan Ferrer)



A family room at La Residencia is at P3,500 for overnight stay (24 hours), with aircon, cable TV and ref. The room is good for up to 5 persons although there is an extra charge of P200 per bed/person. A twin bungalow room rents out for P3,000. A bamboo hut/kubo with fan and TV rents out for P1.500, for 2-3 persons.

Contact Details: 09192375633, 09228670312,09179540495, landline (046)5172189. Email Facebook : residencia de palomaria


On the stretch where the congressman’s property is located, there are many open-cottages that may be rented by day excursion visitors. In fact, I imagine that some would even rent these as accommodations, sleeping on the built-in benches, enjoying the sea breeze while resting at night. This stretch, in my opinion, offers the best spot for visitors to the island.

an open cottage beside the old Palo Maria

an open cottage beside the old Palo Maria




Maniwaya is best accessed from Buyabod Pier in the town of Sta Cruz. Fares are very reasonable. Enjoy Maniwaya. But I appeal to one and all to keep the place the paradise that it is. Be responsible and do not throw around plastics and other wastes.


the view from where we took off in Buyabod

the view from where we took off in Buyabod

approaching Maniwaya

approaching Maniwaya



To go to Marinduque, take a bus to Lucena and head to Dalahican pier. From there there are many ro-ro trips to Marinduque.

roro from Dalahican to Marinduque (photo taken by my friend Jun Bucao)

roro from Dalahican to Marinduque (photo taken by my friend Jun Bucao)

Whether the roro is going to Cawit or to Balanacan, visitors can easily take a jeepney ride to Sta Cruz. There are boats that ferry passengers to Maniwaya or to the other islands at reasonable fares. If you are traveling as a group, you may even consider renting out the whole boat. A boat for 25 people can be rented for P3,500 on a whole day excursion to the island, the rental cost covering travel to and from the island. Prepare to pay a landing fee, charged  per person. The take off point is the Buyabod pier in the town of Sta Cruz, less than an hour by jeepney from the Balanacan pier in Mogpog.

Buyabod pier used to be a port of entry from Lucena. Now it exclusively handles Sta Cruz-Maniwaya and other small islands

Buyabod pier used to be a port of entry from Lucena. Now it exclusively handles Sta Cruz-Maniwaya and other small islands

cheap fares to paradise

cheap fares to paradise


Maniwaya Island : camping is still allowed


Maniwaya is an island off Sta Cruz town in Marinduque.

The white sands of Maniwaya

I first went to this island in 1986, when it was practically uninhabited. My friends from General Luna, a coastal town in the Bondoc Peninsula, suggested we take a boat to a virgin island where, according to the old folks, then President Manuel Quezon would bring guests to sample paradise. We had a whole day of fun, but the boat ride back to General Luna then was something most of us would not forget. The afternoon waves were so bad we thought of turning around to stay overnight instead in Maniwaya. Thinking about it now, sayang.

On the boat to paradise

Today, Maniwaya is developing as a resort destination. There is Palo Maria, a mom & pop operation, with a few bedrooms to rent. There are 2 resorts that are “tourist” class. On my last trip I saw a jet ski. A town mayor is building an 8-room low-rise hotel on a beach front. A top Marinduque politician has built the foundation for what looks like another resort.

the pioneer resort on the island

a new resort

But camping is still popular. The island, in my book, can still be described as undiscovered, and charming. I have not met anyone who has actually been to the island. Even the Marinduquenos themselves.

I would still rather pitch a tent

Best to go there now, before the horde descends on this beautiful island. But do not spread the word irresponsibly. Choose to tell only your friends who are responsible. Those who will not damage the island. I would not want to see Maniwaya decay into another Boracay.


My car ready to board the roro from Lucena to Balanacan, Marinduque

You have to go to the main island of Marinduque.  JAC Liner takes passengers from its Quezon City terminal straight to Marinduque, via a roro ferry from Lucena. There are several trips everyday, sailing from Lucena to the 3 ports in Marinduque – – – Cawit, Balanacan, and Buyabod. Buyabod is the nearest to Maniwaya, but there are less frequent trips to Buyabod. The most number of trips are to Cawit, in Boac, the capital of Marinduque. My favorite “port of entry” is Balanacan. Approaching the pier, passengers are treated to the sight of many islets before the ferry docks in Balanacan.

Approaching Balanacan

From Cawit or Balanacan, passengers can take jeepneys to Sta Cruz. The boat ride from Sta Cruz to Maniwaya is less than an hour.

Travel time from Nichols to Lucena is approximately 3 hours. The ferry ride is another 3 hours. I paid P2,700 to get my car on the roro. If taking your car, make sure you get a full tank before crossing over to the island where petrol is much more expensive.

2013 UPDATE: I went back to Maniwaya Maundy Thursday 2013. Read about new accommodations.

Marinduque, beach destination


Maniuaya Island, off Sta Cruz, Marinduque

I just recently visited Marinduque, for the third time in 12 months. And once again, Poctoy White Beach in Torrijos became my haven for several days. And the island of Maniuaya, off the town of Sta Cruz, which I hope will not develop into another Boracay.


A good friend read about my travels to Marinduque and shared with me a story that won her second prize on a travel story competition. And as you might have guessed, she is also a fan of beautiful Marinduque. With her permission, I am posting her story for everyone to enjoy.

(The Philippine Star) Updated July 13, 2001

It is pitch black. The moon, now on its last quarter phase, lends some illumination. From where we are sitting, the sea shimmers now and then with what looks like a sequined serpent bobbing up and down. The waves whisper, the wind seems to gasp. Suddenly the silence is disturbed by two men carrying what seems to be a banca. The grating of the wood against the sand mixes with the bassy voices of the men. “Bilisi at baka kita’y maabutan ng ulan,”(Hurry up, I can smell rain) the older man says. “Ay, paano, inaayos ko lamang ireng pana.” (What can I do; I’m just fixing the spear) the younger one retorts. In a while, the voices grow faint until we hear a big splash. With just a faint light contraption on his head (much like a miner’s hat), the older man dives to hunt for fish. The younger man sits it out on the banca. We wait, too. In about half-an-hour, the older man surfaces with his catch. It takes him another 30 minutes or so to come up with more. Much later, we are partaking of the man’s catch.
Around a little bonfire, we take turns to check on the fish which we are now grilling. The aroma is whetting our appetite for a late pica-pica. As soon as it is cooked, we swap stories with the two men. We learn that they are father and son. The fish (or what is left of it) is their family’s breakfast the next day. If the sun shines nicely tomorrow, the young man says the other fish would be dried. It’s a pity, the father says, that they don’t have tuba (coconut wine) with them. It goes best with inihaw.Later, we walk with them back to the barrio where we are staying. Fortunately, they live nearby. We only have a flashlight with us. It wouldn’t beat the torch they made. It is made of uyo(dried receptacle from which the buds grow) with some dry coconut husk inside.This is a facet of Marinduque not too many people know. A heart-shaped island south of Manila, Marinduque houses some of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. The naivete of the people here is a blessing for they have preserved the virginity of its seas while its nearby neighbors scamper to make resorts after resorts of its beaches, thus opening it up to pollution and abuse. Although some of the landed families here have started to offer their once private refuge to tourists, there are still others who have kept their beachfronts pristine and untouched. It is on one of these beaches, close to my parental homes, where we experience not only cool, clean waters but a life (even for just three days) so rich, it is destination itself.

Daily Delights

Everyday the sun’s glorious rays wake us up. The singing of the birds, our alarm clock. Mostly we eat fish in the morning; freshly caught fish simmered in hugas bigas (the water from which rice is washed) with some slices of tomatoes or kamias, whichever is available. They call the dish sinabaw or sinaing sa kamatis. It goes without saying that the steaming hot rice is harvested from the nearby fields where we usually go after the morning meal.

The trip to the rice paddies is short. We just cross the asphalted road and climb over some rusty barbed wire. Immediately, the smell of palay pervades the air. Over us birds try to hover. The palay leaves sway with the summer breeze. Because it is the dry season, crossing the paddies is easier. The path is more solid and there are no leeches to watch out for. It’s a pity though that we cannot harvest some snails (kuhol) which abound in the fields when it rains.

As we get closer to the foot of the mountain, we are called by a neighbor who is harvesting some watermelons. As we step on the clearing, our feet almost get caught in the many twists and turns of the watermelon vines. Our neighbor opens up some and offers us the reddest of all. With no spoon or fork, we attack the juicy slices. Never mind the juices dripping down the sides of our mouth. The watermelons are sweet and cool, the perfect reward for sweaty bodies.

We decide to go up the little mountain farther up. The kids in the barrio often talk to us about the rows and rows of guava trees there. The birds, they say, were the ones who planted them. Talk about pollination the easy way. We are not disappointed. The guavas flail from the ends of the branches as if saying, “take me, take me now.” Of course, we take everything that would fit into the big of our shirt. We find out that eating guavas under the coconut trees can really be this enjoyable. The only problem is we forgot to bring drinking water. It is now time to search for some water. An artesian well in the mountain is out of the question. We look up for the answer. Buko juice or coconut milk.

Just around the bend a group of men are removing the husks of coconut. Beside them is a pit with pile upon pile of coconut meat inside. On top of it lay banana and coconut leaves. In a while, the whole mound is being smoked. The men are making copra, the province’s top source of livelihood. It’s just natural as every inch of land here is dotted with coconut trees.

The men, finding out that we are thirsty from exploring the mountains, offer us cool sabaw ng buko. First, they chop off a small side of the young coconut just to make a hole from which to drink from. Once we’ve finished the juice, we are given a spoon made from the young husk of the coconut. This we use to spoon out the young meat. As a bonus, we get to bring home tubo. It’s sugar cane, succulent and fibrous and prized among kids.

Before we know it, it’s time for lunch.

Tongue Adventure

To talk about the hospitality of our hosts would be a cliche’.  Vacating the master bedroom for the guests is somehow expected. Bringing out the Canon bedsheets and pillow cases bought through installment is also not surprising.

But somehow the true measure of being the best hosts is serving the place’s trademark dishes. Their biggest challenge: to make guest finish up a meal so new to them it is like an initiation. This lunch is no exception. Although it is no feast, the table looks full with all the food. There is chicken, vegetables and of course fish.

The chicken – salted and skewered –  has been cooked inside a large Baguio Oil can with hot coals around it. A hole on top has been left for the stick to be turned around so all sides of the chicken will be done evenly. It cooks the way the turbo roaster does in modern kitchens.

The fish is not your ordinary market fish. It is called ganutan or porcupine fish. Usually grilled, the fish is also cooked in coconut milk with dilaw (ginger family which is orange in color) and tender buko strips. You can say it is very close to curry in taste and consistency. The thing is you need a lot of ganutan to be able to make a dish for people. Care in cooking is also observed as its spleen when not handled properly tends to burst and can make the dish bitter and fatal.

The vegetables look ornamental. They are after all from the fern family or pako, as they call it. The tender tips of the fern is picked. It is then boiled in coconut milk. Usually, snails are added for a more exotic taste. This time, however, smoked tinapa has been put in for flavoring.

It does not take long for all the food to disappear. Everybody eats heartily. Maybe it is the food, maybe it is the company. But we can say that the meal like this in a Filipino theme restaurant in the city can run into thousands of pesos. Here, it costs as little as appreciation and some smiles.

After a good siesta, food greets us again. This time it’s for merienda. It seems that while we are sleeping, our hosts are cooking non-stop. “Nais sya, paminsan-minsan lamang kami nakapaghanda ay,” (Never mind, it is not often we get to have a feast) one of the older women says. How can we refuse? The food not only smells good, it looks particularly interesting, too.

There is sinalab. It is like a paper-thin pancake consisting of overripe saba or latundan mixed with flour and some buko slices sandwiched between two banana leaves. It is then placed in a big carajay and turned over from time to time until both sides of the leaves are brown and wrinkled. It is a sign that the sinalab is cooked.

Another one is the niyubak (or nilupak in some Southern Tagalog provinces). Boiled green sabas are pounded with a lusong (pestle) together with grated coconut and sugar. For a sticky consistency’s signal of a good niyubak, the bananas are pounded one by one while the coconut is gradually mixed with them. Brown, not white, sugar is best because it provides a thicker, more molasses-like taste to it.

It goes without saying that we all enjoy the food. Downed with buko juice or gulaman (they always give us options), the merienda proves to be heavenly.

Tall Tales Under Tall Trees

With nothing much to do that afternoon, we decide to hang around with our hosts.

Talking to people, they say, is the best way to know them. And as bonus, you get to learn about their culture, too. Besides the beautiful beaches, Marinduque offers its own peculiar lifestyle.

Sitting under the tall mango tree, we exchange stories about life. As barrio folks, they are particularly interested about the city. And because we’ve stayed in the city for a long time, we wonder how life in the countryside goes. They marvel at the traffic, the buildings, the planes, the elevators, the restaurants in Manila. Stories about people who win lotteries fascinate them. Kababayans who make good there and come back aloof and snobbish annoy them. But tell them about the stressful city life and they are quick to realize how much more calm and simple their lives are.

Ay na, pakiramdam nami’y anong daming pera sa Maynila. Kaya pag may nagpunta dining tagaroon ay agatingnan ka talaga!” (We feel that the people who come from the city have a lot of money. That’s why when they come here, they get stared at.)

We really don’t mind being stared at but we prefer that they tell us more about their province, we say. We add that although the city folks like us seem to believe only science, we miss out on the mystical, mysterious side of things. And that’s how the stories begin to tumble one after the other.

Maigi’t hindi kayo naengkanto noong uwi nang anong gabi na.” (You were lucky no one put a spell on you when you went home late.)Our female host is referring to the night we came home late with the fisherman. She continues to say that many of their neighbors have lost their way back home. Surprising because that’s the road they take everyday to work and back. What happens is that while you feel that you have been walking to your destination, you’re just going around the circles. Lucky if somebody sees you. But the only other option you’ve got is to wear your clothes inside out.

Home Is The Beach

It is our last day and we cannot leave without going to the beach.

The beach is quiet. The waves as if matching the mood are like ringlets – rolling but not rumbling. They create a glockenspiel-like accompaniment to the sea breeze that happilly blows this day. The sky is a friendly cool blue.

What we love so much about the beaches in Marinduque is that shells abound by the shore anytime of the day. We have monopoly of them now, especially the moon-like ones which move when you put them in a dish with vinegar. The pebbles are now out, round and smooth so that walking on them feels like a massage. The sand is equally friendly to the feet. It may not be the whitest but it is so far the cleanest we have seen.

The water is another treasure. It is cool; cooling may be the right word. It seems not to absorb the hot rays of the sun when it is at its peak. It is like there is a separate underground source for the water.

It is very clear too, not the white-clear color of some beaches. It is cool green. To the right of the beach when we face the sun, we see the outline of the reef. So blessed are we that we don’t have to go far to enjoy the marine life in the reef. We can just walk to it. We even sit on top of the gigantic corals there. And we feel a little bold, we skinnydip. The schools of fish act like shields from the ticklish feel of the weeds. It is here where we also wait for divers for their catch. More often than not, we get rewarded. The fish abound.

Lunch is brought to us. We eat with our hands. Food is laid out on two layers of coconut leaves. Like a luau, it offers us a chance to eat slowly while breathing in the breeze.

Towards the afternoon, we stay in the waters until our skins are wrinkled. We hie off to the nearest artesian well and rinse off the salt from our bodies. The nearest hut becomes our lodging; we doze off and awake refreshed.

It is nearing sunset. The colors in the horizon are now in chaos. Purple, red, orange, gold and yellow all at once mixing with the skies. The glimmer of gold lines the sea. The waves are beginning to rumble, screaming for attention before dark sets in.

We are misty-eyed. We start out only wanting to embrace the beach for ourselves. But we leave embracing a life that is now a part of us. – Wilgrace P. Maglalang (Second Prize, Travel Now Contest)

Marinduque : more than Moriones


Ask anyone about travel plans to Marinduque, if at all, and the likely answer is to see the famous Moriones festival. But this happens only during the Holy Week.

My two recent explorations of the whole province convinced me that the province is so under-rated, and has so many things to offer to tourists, both local and foreign.

Traveling to an island is always exciting. And Marinduque will more than excite you with its so many islands, white sand beaches, waterfalls,  caves, and historical sites. And access is actually easy – – – it lies at the very center of the Philippine archipelago. You can call it the heart of the Philippines.

I made two one-week visits recently, with only 5 days of stay in Manila in between. And I think I will be coming back for more. Here’s why.

Marinduque has zero crime rate. The only other province that has zero crime rate is my other favorite, Batanes. You can walk around Marinduque and not fear for your life or your belongings.

Marinduque is beautiful. Not your five-star resort destination, but perfect for a getaway on an idyllic town. I toured all six towns (Boac, Gasan, Buenavista, Torrijos, Sta. Cruz and Mogpog) in one day on a hired van (P3,500) on my first day to case the joint, and planned the rest of my stay based on what I saw on my island tour. For this post, I will only write about the capital town. I shall be covering the other towns in separate blog posts. Else this blog entry will be very long and there may not be enough chance to appreciate the beauty of the other towns in one long reading.

BOAC is the capital town and the seat of the provincial government.

Boac Town Hall, being improved on my visit
Provincial Capitol

The streets are paved with old houses made of wood, giving the town a period look. It is easy to walk around Boac, the streets are parallel to each other and finding your way back is not a problem. For culture vultures, a visit to the old library and the cathedral would be mandatory.

Boac Museum and Library

Boac Church, high on a hill


Restaurants and cafes dot the streets surrounding the town plaza.

Kusina sa Plaza offers inexpensive Pinoy meals, turo-turo style, in airconditioned comfort
fastfood-style roadside cafe
Just opened Holy Week 2011
Casa de Don Emilio overlooks the plaza
feels like Cafe Adriatico in Malate, Manila – – serving P150 buffet dinners !

Boac is the nerve center of the province. Banks and ATMs are available nearby. The airport is 11 kms away from the town center. The busiest port, Cawit, is near the airport. It is also in Boac where visitors take off for the other towns, on the jeepney terminal just off one of the main roads, close to the public market.

the province is serviced only by ZestAir at the moment
Cawit in Boac is the busiest port of entry


Boac Hotel is The Address in Boac. It is a beautiful old hotel in the quiet end of town, right next to the Boac Church. I like the way the interiors were done, evoking a 60s – 70’s feel. The cafeteria is lined with old vinyl records of Victor Wood and other singers of his era. Old photographs line the walls, as well as ladies bags that were in fashion during those years.

old photos, old ladies bags, vinyl records on the cafeteria wall
arrow rooturaro” from the BOAC Hotel store is a popular pasalubong

There are regular rooms, airconditioned or fanned.

Room 202 for a family, beautiful but there is not a single cabinet. Luggages and clothes stay on the floor, or whatever is left of the cramped space.

The best rooms are on the third floor, reached via narrow stairs. These are the suites – – slightly bigger rooms and the only difference from the de luxe rooms are that these rooms have hot and cold showers.

Suite B at the 3rd floor. P1,800 a night.

Rates start at P1,000 for fan rooms, P1,200 for de luxe airconditioned rooms, P1,800 for suites (they are not big rooms !), and P2,000 for family rooms.

BOAC HOTEL may be contacted at 0915 486 7337. Room rates include fetch from the airport or pier, and breakfast for 2.

EASTPOINT HOTEL is a beach hotel at the far end of Boac. No, you wouldn’t stay here if you have business to attend to within the town center. It is more like a beach holiday hotel.

a twin room at Eastpoint Beach Hotel
a raft on the Eastpoint beach

Eastpoint rates start at P750.00 for a standard double bed. . There are family rooms for 4 persons at P1,600, and cottages for 5 persons at P1,800.00. Contact them at telephone number (042) 332 2229, 0920 900 6892, 0916 744 9529, and 0920 271 8681. Email them at  Website is

ABBY’s PLACE  is right in front of the wet market.

hotel fronting the wet market
not an ideal location, but rather decent rooms

Rooms start at P700.00. Contact them at telephone number (042) 3322643 xxx

If you are looking for budget accommodations, there are several pension houses in Boac. One such is HAPPY BUNNY, where room rates start at P300, without television, and no airconditioning. A room with a queen size bed for 2, with TV goes for a mere P650. . Electric fans cool the un-screened rooms. A portable airconditioner can be brought into your room at an additional cost.

the pension house that is also the home of the best litson manok in town
a room at Happy Bunny

Contact the owner, Mrs. Cristy del Mundo at telephone number (042)3322040 or mobile number 09195248440

A preview of the other towns, to be covered separately in my blog:

GASAN  is the next town. This town is lined with beach resorts. Clean even while the sand is black, and with some pebbles. The resorts become better as you go further and nearer the next town of Buenavista.

BUENAVISTA is famous for the Bellaroca Resort on Elephant Island. It is too pricey though, and I had to content myself with viewing it from a distance.

TORRIJOS  is my favorite in all of Marinduque. This town is most blessed with the province’s whitest white sand beach. In fact I was told that the white sand in Bellaroca came from the shores of Torrijos, barged to Bellaroca.

STA CRUZ is the largest town, and the jump off point to the small island of Maniwaya. This small island has white sand, a rustic feel, and looks like Boracay before the throng of tourists came in. 

Completing the island tour, just before returning to Boac, is the town of MOGPOG.


Take a bus to Lucena City. Most buses go all the way to the Dalahican Port. Otherwise, take a tricycle to take you to Dalahican.

By private vehicle, take SLEX and drive on to Lucena. After Tayabas, take the diversion road to skip the city traffic, following the SM Lucena signages. When you hit SM, the side road takes you to Dalahican.

Marinduque is serviced by at least three shipping companies, taking passengers to 3 differetnt ports within Marinduque. The most popular is Montenegro Shipping that leaves Lucena early morning, at midday, and at 4pm. Travel time to Cawit, a barangay in Boac, is 3 hours. Fare is P340. You can load your car on a ro-ro at P1,300 per light vehicle.

On my second trip, I took the 2:30 pm ro-ro from Lucena to Balanacan, in the town of Mogpog, via StarHorse Shipping. This is my recommended route for first timers to Marinduque. Approaching the port, one will be amazed at the several islands passed on the way to the sheltered pier. The other port is Buyabod in the town of Sta Cruz, but I have not traveled this route yet.