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Inter-island hop to paradise: A RORO journey to Boracay
Source: Manila Bulletin
Date: 2010-07-10
The fog horn bellows to signal the final boarding of the barge. The sound cuts across the still early morning air and echoes across the recesses of the Batangas coast. As passengers jump aboard and settle in for the long ride, the deck shudders as the ship prepares to cast off, braving the pitch black expanse onto the unseen horizon.

There are ways to escape the city’s stranglehold and break free onto the white sand beaches of island paradise Boracay other than booking an easy breezy flight out. Given the luxury of time and with the right company, a leisurely tour of the land and a relaxing boat ride are always at hand courtesy of the western nautical highway via several roll-on, roll-off (RORO) ferries.

Taking the RORO ferries to Boracay would take a little more than half a day, so the best time to set off, if one is coming from Manila, would be at around midnight. Traveling by land from Manila to the Batangas port area would take around four hours. With a number of ferry operators such as the Montenegro Shipping Lines, Inc. regularly casting off every two hours, it should not be a problem to book a trip southwards to the shores of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.

The initial ferry ride from Batangas to Calapan takes around two hours to travel 26.6 nautical miles. After acquiring one’s sea legs, another road trip follows from Calapan to the town of Roxas, Oriental Mindoro at the southern end of the island.

The three-hour 127 kilometer trip offers an intimate look at Mindoro’s lush landscape. As the dawn breaks, communities wake up to the early morning light. The sunrise slowly illuminates rice paddies and mountain ranges instilling an image of serenity, a rare moment only witnessed during these quiet hours.

After the scenic trip through Mindoro, there is another ferry ride from the port of Roxas, Oriental Mindoro to Caticlan, Aklan. As the midmorning sun casts rays that liven up the senses, this RORO ride takes on an entirely different mood. Tourists and traders alike rush in from perhaps all over Mindoro to catch the morning ride to Caticlan.

The open waters and the warm sea breeze welcome the passengers. With renewed vigor, the four-hour ferry ride that covers 47 nautical miles, gives ample time to get acquainted with the ship’s confines. A quick tour of the ship’s deck is recommended to get a firm grasp of the vessel.

From bow to stern, starboard to port, getting familiar with the ship while taking in the beauty of the open sea both calm and excite one’s senses. The sensation of bottled-up agitation consumes the senses. As the tranquil waters soothe, the looming presence of land stirs the imagination of what is to come.

From Caticlan, it is but a short outrigger boat ride to the fine sands of Boracay. Much has been told of the beauty of this island getaway, from the fine sands of White Beach, various water sports at Bulabog Beach, and the pristine waters of Puka Shell Beach. Boracay has been, and will remain to be, the premier beach destination in the Philippines. Aside from the daytime activities and the night life available on the island, it’s really the picturesque landscape that caps off the whole Boracay experience.

Local tourism has apparently picked up recently with increasing accessibility to most of the major vacation getaways. This may be due not only to airlines picking up more and more passengers from increased destinations, but also because of the availability of other means of transportation for the more budget conscious traveler.

Since 2003, when the government launched the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH), local and foreign tourists reached more and more destinations while local traders flourished with the use of these inter-island transport systems.

Corporate partners like the Development Bank of the Philippines have supported the progress and availability of the RORO ferry routes through awareness and funding. Not only does DBP focus on transportation, it also works on improving the destination as they provide assistance to prominent local facilities such as the Red Coconut Beach Hotel in Boracay.

With continuing efforts from the public and private sectors, travelers now have the opportunity to get acquainted with the diverse Philippine landscape. It might not be as prestigious as being a frequent flyer but a more intimate relationship with the people, places, and things that are met along the way is developed instead.

Being able to admire the beauty of an island sunset, the quiet mountains and leveled fields, while having time off with friends and family, is a privilege --- one than is now cheaper and more accessible that most would think.

[ Boracay Wiki | Red Coconut Beach Resort Wiki ]

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