Marinduque is probably one of the most underrated destinations in the Philippines. Sandwiched between the island of Mindoro and the peninsula of Quezon province, Marinduque unsurprisingly flies under the radar of most tourists. So if you want to cap off 2016 with a trip to someplace different, this tiny island is worth a try.
One thing you need to know is that Marinduque has a Type III climate, meaning it'll stay dry from December to February. The government also named the island as 2013's "Most Peaceful Province" due to its low crime rate. Some of the places you can visit on Marinduque include:
Laylay Port (pictured above)
If you like a taste of history and mystery, Laylay Port should be on your itinerary. Situated in the capital town of Boac, Laylay was one of the many landing places of Japanese and American soldiers during World War II. Today, only four stone pillars hint at the port's glory, though it's still a worthy addition to your Instagram collection if you have one.
Tres Reyes Islands
As its name suggests, Tres Reyes consists of three islands named after the three kings who visited Jesus in Bethlehem. You can visit them by riding a boat from Barangay Pinggan in the municipality of Gasan.
Of the three islands, Gaspar is the largest, and has a museum where you can view artifacts recovered from a ship that belonged to the notorious Chinese pirate Limahong. Meanwhile, Baltazar has one of the best diving spots on Marinduque, and even has an underground cave you can explore. Finally, Melchor offers cottages you can rent while hopping between the three islands.
Poctoy White Beach
In the Philippines, white beaches abound. For example, Torrijos in Marinduque has Poctoy, a one-kilometer stretch of white sand where you can relax and take in the beauty of nature. And since Marinduque is dry in December, Poctoy is a perfect getaway for Christmas, even if you don't normally associate beaches with the Yuletide season.
Also, Poctoy Beach is a great stopover for tourists on a budget. The entrance fee as of 2013 costs Php25 (US$0.5), while the fee for staying in the cottages costs Php200 (US$4). If you're lucky, your visit will coincide with the time when the local fishermen bring in their freshest hauls, so you can request them to have these cooked for a fee.
You don't have to be religious to appreciate Boac Cathedral. Sitting on top of a hill in Boac, the cathedral used to be a refuge for natives fleeing from Moro pirates. It's said that, when the pirates finally succeeded in breaching the cathedral and killing its occupants, a vision of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion appeared and drove away the invaders.
Don't let the cathedral's decrepit exterior put you off. Once you're inside, you'll find a well-kept place filled with wall carvings of religious scenes, intricate wooden decors and elaborate altars, which you can view here.
Malbog Hot Springs
Need to warm up this season? Head over to the Malbog district in Buenavista, and relax in the hot springs heated by Mt. Malindig. As with most springs, the waters are said to have healing powers, and tourists from Japan and Korea love these springs that remind them of home.
Speaking of Mt. Malindig, you can trek up this volcano once you're done relaxing in the springs. It's the largest mountain on Marinduque, so it's a favorite destination for mountaineers and tourists alike.
Being relatively isolated, Malindig is home to orchids and other wildlife endemic to the place. The mountain is also a protected area, due to the fact that it rises 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level. No need to worry about the volcano erupting anytime soon: It hasn't done so for a long time.
WHS Butterfly Farm
Of all the Philippines' butterfly species, 85 percent are found in the town of Gasan, Marinduque. Not surprisingly, this is where the WHS Butterfly Farm is located.
At WHS, you can ask for a tour where you can learn more about the local butterflies. You can also purchase souvenirs like butterfly T-shirts, butterfly-themed merchandise and even live butterflies. If you're uncomfortable with keeping butterflies as pets, though, the farm also gives you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help release newly matured butterflies into the wild.
Battle of Pulang Lupa Marker
On September 13, 1900, the Filipinos routed the American forces on a mountain in Torrijos, Marinduque. Today, in that same place, you can see a marker honoring the victors of the Battle of Pulang Lupa, or "Battle of the Red Soil" due to the amount of blood shed in the area. If you're adventurous and up for a hike, try climbing the 7-kilometer trail to the top of the mountain, where you can have a bird's eye view of all of Marinduque.
These are just the notable spots on Marinduque. You can also visit islets like Mongpong, Natangco and Polo, explore caves like Bagumbungan, Bathala and Duyay, and enjoy other perks that only a hidden paradise can offer. If you have a say about any of these, say them in the comments below!