THE province of Romblon’s breathtaking tourist attractions and the genuine hospitality of its people will be front and center as it hosts the third Mimaropa Festival from November 20 to 25.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo said the island-province of Romblon, known as the “Marble Capital of the Philippines”, is one of the best-kept secrets of the Mimaropa region, due to its “relative isolation”.
In a news statement, she said: “While Romblon has been known as the largest marble producer in the Philippines and an exporter of best-quality marble products, the province also possesses the qualities of its neighboring Palawan,” adding Romblon also has pristine seawaters, unspoiled beaches, wild rivers and waterfalls.
She noted Romblon is also a wealth of historical structures with centuries-old churches, Spanish forts and well-preserved ancestral homes.
Mimaropa, otherwise known as Region 4B, is composed of Mindoro Oriental and Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. The Mimaropa Festival was a brainchild of the province’s governors to showcase the region and its various tourist attractions, in a bid to increase visitor arrivals. It was first held in 2015 in Calapan, Mindoro, then last year, in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
In 2015 the Mimaropa region received 1.4 million visitor arrivals. No data has been released for 2016, but the region had targeted an increase in tourists to 1.8 million.
In this year’s festival, great treats await local and foreign tourists, such as authentic Filipino cuisine and exotic fruits served with the Rombloñanon’s trademark hospitality.
Romblon Gov. Eduardo Firmalo, a well-respected obstetrician-gynecologist at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, said, “Rombloñanos are not only exceptionally skilled in crafting marble products. They are, indeed, one of the friendliest people in the world.”
He said his constituents remain “united against exploitative mining in Romblon, hence, we have conserved our province’s natural resources and preserved our cultural heritage for visitors and future generations to enjoy.”
He enumerates many of the province’s attractions, such as the crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches in Tablas, Bon-Bon, Nonok-Nonok and Cobrador; the waterfalls in Trangkalan, Dagubdob, and Busay; and the popular Cresta del Gallo Island’s stunning sandbar and Cantingas River in Sibuyan.
These sites are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and other water activities, like scuba diving and macro-diving photography, the DOT secretary said, adding the province has more than 30 dive sites, which boast of diverse marine life, including sharks, rays, tunas and snappers, surrounded by immense coral walls and gardens.
For mountaineers, the 2,058-meter-high Mount Guiting-Guiting poses an enjoyable challenge, she added.
Romblon’s old plaza has retained its historical character, featuring the marble statues of Dr. Jose Rizal, a large roaring lion and a grotto with the life-size image of Our Lady of Lourdes. Many ancestral edifices are intact, like the Cathedral of San Jose with its antique tableau altar, stained-glass windows and its vintage convent.
Romblon’s old municipal hall, built during the Spanish colonial period, remains perched on a hill overlooking the ruins of Fuerza de San Andres and Fuerza de Santiago, both declared as National Cultural Treasures, Teo said.
Firmalo said visitors will surely enjoy the unique culinary offerings of his province. These include sarsa (tiny shrimp wrapped in dried coconut leaves), liswi (colorful edible shells) and gamus (raw unripe jackfruit thinly sliced).
He said many of the delectable dishes prepared in each Rombloñanon’s home are served with locally grown fruits, like banana, pineapple and avocado.
To be held in Odiongan, Romblon, this year’s Mimaropa Festival will feature a tourism-trade-agri-fair, a Battle of Festival Street Dances, Festival King and Queen Fest, an investment forum and packaged tours.
Aside from the DOT, other government agencies supporting the festival are the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.