Romblon was probably the last island Rizal saw on his way back to Manila after his 4 year exile in Dapitan. He made five stopovers in certain provinces including Romblon. It may have just been a brief stopover but it is something significant for us, Romblomanons.
Dated August 5, 1896, Rizal wrote:
"In a short time we left Capiz going in the direction of Romblon. At about 3:00 o'clock we sighted the island, very remarkable for its numerous coconut trees planted up to the peak of the mountain. The port of Romblon is beautiful but sad and lonely. From the boat can be seen the mass of marble, plentiful, white, reddish and grayish. Because of our haste we did not take freight, although there were more than 500 sacks of copra on the beach. In an hour and a half, we started on the route to Manila."
Rizal’s steamer, España was believed to have refueled in the province. That, perhaps, is the reason why the steamer only stayed for one and a half hour in Romblon. It is the reason why Rizal missed to have a mini tour in the town as well.
On the other hand, Rizal also noticed the growing marble and copra industry of the province. We can infer from Rizal’s diary entry that, since then, Romblon was already mass producing copra, which was an oil source that time, and different variants of marble.
Rizal saw the natural splendor of Romblon and its hardworking people from the port. But what’s interesting in Rizal’s diary entry was Romblon being “sad and lonely.” He must have been a keen observer to state that kind of first impression.
Perhaps he saw Romblomanon workmen being exploited by Spaniards or perhaps he noticed infrastructural drought which implicates economic status. He may have seen the eyes of an oppressed Filipino from a distance and he may have felt breeze of fear in the air. Apparently, we cannot be sure.
It may be just a simple remark written on a piece of his diary but we, Romblomanons, must realize something greater beyond those words. It is deemed as a challenge for us to strive for greater prosperity and continuous development. We should take his words as motivation to escalate our province’s welfare and prestige.
Should Rizal come back to Romblon after a century, he’ll never utter the same words again.
Ish Fabicon (n.d.). Travels. Retrieved from www.oocities.org/grevling_46/
Zaide, G. F., & Zaide, S. M. Jose Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero (Second Edition). All-Nations Publishing Co., Inc.