Sunday, April 1, 2012

Marble Island

 Kilometro Dos Outdoor Workshop

Marble Art in Progress

Romblon Harbour

Romblon Cathedral

 Beach at San Pedro Talipasak

Cottage Above the Beach at San Pedro Talipasak

In the Philippines, Romblon is synonymous with marble.  It's not a surprise since the whole island is practically made of marble.  To this day, the island produces hand made marble products from tiles to household furniture to sculptures.

Unfortunately for the island, the global economic crisis and the influx of machine made marble products from China haven't been kind to the island's main industry.

Kilometro Dos is the place to go if you're into anything marble.  The outdoor workshops display work in progress from semi artsy pieces to the downright kitchen variety.  Raw marble is carved, washed and polished - all by hand.

Artisans use various shades of marble, some with veins of jade green, tiger stripes, or dark shades of grey. The more industrial marble products are found further up from Kilometro Dos. Raw marble is still quarried based on centuries old tradition but the marble tiles are now cut, washed and polished with  modern day machinery.

The Island of Romblon is in central Philippines but getting there from Manila feels like one has to travel halfway around the world.  A daily ferry service takes passengers from Batangas city (Luzon island) to Romblon town, a journey of about 12-13 hours. Usually.  Should engine trouble cause the ferry to stall in the middle of the sea, there's always the consolation of being stranded in the world's Centre of Marine Biodiversity.

The view of Romblon harbour from the ferry is very picturesque, postcard variety. The hills tightly wrapped around the town are wrapped in green, but they are raw marble.   The town resembles a Mediterranean fishing village but once on land, you know you're in the Philippines: outriggered paraus (bancas) on the water, jeepneys and tricycles on the road.

Life on Romblon moves in the very slow lane.  Even expatriate residents who number quite a few have adapted to the place. (On my visit to Romblon in the fall of 2011, the only two cafés in downtown were owned and run by expats from the UK).

There are a number of unspoiled white sand beaches, fish sanctuaries, and historic relics on land and in the water waiting to be discovered.  San Pedro Talipasak has probably the nicest, (actually groomed) beach. Beside the rustic resort at San Pedro, is another cove with a cave, where centuries old porcelain had been retrieved. 

Being on the sea lanes of the Verde Island Passage (reputed to have the world's highest concentration of  marine life), hasn't unravelled life in Romblon.  Ships don't regularly stop on the island, but a few unlucky ones, including ancient Chinese vessels, managed to make their final stop in a watery grave off Romblon.