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Tablas Island is the biggest of the 3 islands that make up Romblon. Tablas Island is South East of Mindoro en route to Borocay and the Visayas.
Tablas has been little impacted by tourism; accommodations and resorts, though, are available around the island. These islands are not as commercialized as their counterparts in Palawan and Borocay to the south.
Tablas has retained its original character. The wildlife and landscape appear untouched as deep-green vegetation is crossed by rivers and streams.
Visitors can explore wonderful waterfalls and caves: Sig-Kop Cave, Mablaran Falls, Garing Falls, Mainit Falls, or the turquoise coloured Linao D Victo.
In the middle of the island the scenery is hilly and mountainous. But, it is not necessary to climb mountains to get stunning views. Through partial winding roads arise magnificent outlooks of the surrounding countryside.
Roads are mostly paved some are covered with gravel. The beaches are deserted and quiet.
I made my own way from Coron to Tablas Island.
The cost for the ferry from Roxas, Mindoro to Odiongan, Tablas Island was PHP350 plus a PHP15 ‘Port Fee’ that you pay at the Roxas Ferry Terminal on departure. The trip was comfortable; we made it to Odiongan Ferry Terminal in 5 hours.
The ‘ferry’ lands at the main Ferry Terminal about 5km out of Odiongan Town centre. There are Tribikes waiting to take you to your hotel or to connect you with other transport options. They ask for PHP50 to town centre but the cost should be PHP40 for the Tribike (not per person).
I still had my Globe SIM card that I purchased at Manila Airport when I flew in from Hanoi to Puerto Princesa.
I topped this up in Coron. Globe coverage is good on Tablas Island.
You will need your own Mobile Data Plan on Tablas. Resorts like the Aglicay (see, below) do not have wifi.
You are unlikely to be staying in a town and most likely to be staying in one of the resorts. You will need to use public transport to get around.
The cheapest way to get around the island is by Jeepney. Yes they’re basic, rickety old things – but, they really aren’t that bad. As a guide, budget PHP50 per person per Jeepney hour. As an example, this is the cost of the Jeepney from Odiongan to Alcantara (1 hour). From Odiongan to San Agustin (2-2.5 hours) the cost is PHP100. Most routes have Jeepnies passing at least every hour. Avoid school start and end times – they can get very full with school children at those times of day.
You can use Motos and Tribikes for shorter distances. As a rule, a Moto is half the price of a Tribike – but a Moto can only take 1 person. As a GRANDAcking couple, you are more likely to use a Tribike.
As a ‘rule of thumb’ budget PHP10 per Tribike kilometer for both of you. You may end up sharing the Tribike with other passengers at this price.
The best way to get around Tablas Island is by renting a scooter. The main road is good enough for you to share one. If you get off-main-road the roads alternate between patches of concrete and patches of dirt; on a shared scooter, you will need to take these roads slowly and carefully.
You should be able to rent a scooter from your resort for PHP600 / day. Petrol costs PHP38 per litre at Petrol Stations and about PHP45 if bought at the side of the road. A decent scooter should be able to do 40-50kms per litre.
You should be able to get scooters cheaper in a town like Odiongan; my experience is that it is hard to rent a scooter on the islands for less than PHP500 unless you are a good negotiator or renting for more than one day. For a long term rental, target PHP300-400 per day (depending on the quality of the scooter).
WHERE TO STAY:
I went Around The Island By Scooter and determined that most of the places to stay are already on the internet hotel search engines.
In Odiongan (and, possibly, other big towns like Looc) you will find budget hotels that are not on the internet. So, if you arrive in Odiongan on a late ferry, you should be able to find something for the night ‘walking in off the street’.
I have summarised my findings about Where To Stay in a separate post.
My Jeepney dropped me off in the centre of Alcantara Town. I caught a Moto to Aglicay for PHP100 – it was a 5 km ride down a windy semi-paved semi-dirt country road. I, probably, paid too much. GRANDPAckers could, probably, get a Tribike for this same price.
It has Beachview rooms and Hillview rooms – the Beachview rooms cost about 50% more than the Hillview rooms (e.g. PHP1200 vs PHP800 for single occupancy). The Hillview rooms were full.
I negotiated my beachfront room down from PHP1200 to PHP1000 / night.
I booked the room for 4 nights and paid in cash in advance.
The room was to GRANDPAcking Standard and came with a large ensuite with hot water shower.
The beach is good and so is the swimming.
You may want to bring watershoes though as there are a couple of rocks underfoot – and you never know where there will be the odd sea urchin.
From here you get stunning views of Aglicay and the surrounding area.
As I say in my Where To Stay post, the Aglicay is not perfect.
Most resorts are isolated and you will be eating in the resort restaurant.
Try and get Breakfast included if you can – this will save you at least PHP100 each per day for a GRANDPAcking Standard Breakfast.
THE AGLICAY BEACH RESORT.
Their meat is frozen, so you need to order your food the day before (so that they can defrost it). If you forget, you may have to eat whatever they have available.
Budget an average of PHP115 each for Breakfast, PHP150 each for Lunch and PHP200 each for Dinner.
When you order your next day food, you have to tell them what time you want it. For Breakfast you can choose between 7:00am and 9:00am, for Lunch between 11:00am and 1:00pm, for Dinner between 6:00pm and 8:00pm. By 9:00pm every night, the restaurant doors are closed and everyone has gone home!
If you come to the Aglicay on a GRANDPAcking budget, I advise you to stock up and bring lots of snacks. This will help to fill you up as well as keep your costs down. You can stock up at one of the supermarkets in Odiongan.
When you go out on your weekly scooter trip (see Tablas – Philippines – GRANDPAcking Costs), replenish those stocks. You can also take a 15 minute walk to the nearby village if you need to get any extra items.
These are cheaper than the more commercialised islands (like Palawan). A sweet & sour fish dish with rice costs PHP30. A fried noodles dish with a boiled egg costs PHP38. Basically, one sample dish (of anything) with rice costs PHP30. Budget PHP25 per sample dish and PHP5 per serving of rice.
Late in the afternoon and into the evenings you will see BBQ stalls setting up on the sides of the roads. Here you will get a small kebab (of pork or chicken) for PHP5.
Their drink costs are quite reasonable. A San Miguel costs PHP50. You can even buy a bottle of local Rum or Brandy for PHP120-140.
In the reception area they have a free hot and cold water dispenser. Bring your own coffee sachets or teabags and you can make your own drinks during the day.
Why not try a local rum (Tanduay): a 750ml Tanduay Dark (80 proof) costs PHP85 and a 1.5L bottle of coke PHP50. A local 750ml Brandy costs PHP110.
There is no reason to feel unsafe in Tablas (IMHO). Quite the opposite. The people here are so friendly that it is hard to imagine that crime exists. The Romblons are known to be one of the safest places in The Philippines.
But, as with all poor places, be sensible. Don’t flash your wealth or leave things unattended.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
You can go to resorts like Binucot for some watersports and SCUBA Diving but, basically, you come to Tablas to relax on a beach, do nothing, and enjoy nature.
GO FOR A WALK:
The main road around the island is mostly paved; you get the odd patch of dirt & gravel but, otherwise, it is easy scootering.
The northern and southern tips of the island are the most picturesque.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There is an ATM in Odiongan.
For safety, bring cash.
There are many shops in Odiongan. You should be able to get anything you need there. They even have a couple of Supermarkets.
My next stop is Carabao Island. It was going to be Romblon Island but I had to change my plans… a scheduled reminder popped up on my cellphone to tell me that I had to renew my Philippines Visa before the 16th of March. I can’t do that in the Romblon Islands (there is no Bureau Of Immigration here), so I have to head for Boracay.
I will spend a few days on Carabao Island on the way.
I will tell you all about it when I post Tablas To Carabao.
Having gone Around The Island By Scooter, I concluded that there were only 2 beach resorts on the island that I could afford on a GRANDPAcking budget: the Aglicay and the Paksi.
The Paksi was booked out when I was there. So, I stayed at the Aglicay.
The Aglicay has a fantastic location – but it could be run better. If you accept that fact from the start, you will be able to really enjoy the place.
AN AMUSING LITTLE STORY:
I decided to extend my stay at the Aglicay by another 4 nights. The day before I went Around The Island By Scooter, I got online and saw that the Aglicay was advertising their Deluxe Beachview rooms on Agoda (including breakfast) for PHP1015 / night. I didn’t book there and then – because I thought that I might discover something going around the island.
The next morning I went to book a room on Agoda but Agoda was down (it was having technical problems). I went to reception and asked if they were full, they said ‘no’. I asked if I could get the Agoda deal, they said ‘no’. I asked why not? They said that I couldn’t because I was booking at the desk and not through Agoda… they wanted me to book through Agoda – even though it was down and I was standing in front of them. It didn’t make sense for them to pay commission to Agoda when they didn’t need to?
OK, I can play that game, I tried to get onto Agoda for the next few hours but it was still down. I found AsiaTravel.com which had the Aglicay listed. On this site, their Deluxe Beachfront room was only PHP940 (excluding breakfast). It was listed as coming with Satellite TV. I booked 4 nights and paid by credit card.
I went to reception to tell them that I had made the online booking but that I needed to change rooms the next day because I had booked one with Satellite TV – and my room didn’t have a TV. She said that none of the rooms had satellite TV (this is when I found out that all of their TVs were ‘broken’). I said that I had booked one and showed her the e-booking!
I said OK then, I’ll do a deal… I will take a free breakfast instead of the satellite TV – that was what was being offered on Agoda. She said that she would have to talk to her manager… When I went to pay at the end of my stay, I was charged for my Breakfasts… they just didn’t care. IMHO, they need to replace the girl at reception with someone who understands the concept of ‘customer service’.
The Aglicay would have been better off doing the deal that I asked for when I was standing at reception. They just needed to be more flexible and think ‘outside the box’.
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