Romblon is a province of the Philippines which is part of the Visayan islands. The Romblon Triangle was the local Bermuda Triangle, which is almost similar. The boundaries of the triangle covers the entire area of northern Romblon province, and its endpoint lies on Concepcion municipality, in-between of the Dos Hermanas islands (Isabel and Carlota islands) and Sibuyan Island. This sea had been a witness of some marine wars and disasters even in the time of Spanish Colonialism.
The Battle of Sibuyan Sea (October 24, 1944)
One major maritime disaster or rather battle occured in the waters inside the Romblon Triangle. During the time when the United States Navy under the command of Admiral William Halsey has launched a massive operation to land American forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur in Leyte, the Japanese sent as naval strike force from Formosa (Taiwan) under the command of Admiral Takeo Kurita. Part of this naval strike force was the super-battleship the Yamato and Musashi. On the morning of 24 October, American planes from Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet spotted Admiral Kurita's force entering Sibuyan Sea. The American admiral then sent a squadron of planes to engage the incoming Japanese force the prevent them from reaching San Bernardino Strait. Near the islands of the Dos Hermanas (Carlota and Isabela) the American planes heavily bombed the Japanese naval forces a severely damaging and sinking Musashi. It is near these islands where the remains of this grand battleship of the Japanese found its final resting place.
The Adeter Tragedy (1950s)
In the 1950s, the Maghali group of islands in Romblon (Banton, Concepcion and Simara) were made accessible to the provincial capitol and to Luzon thru the construction of wooden launches which ply the routes Lucena City-Romblon and Manila-Romblon. One of the companies that became the forefront in wooden vessel shipping was the Asuncion Shipping (now known as San Nicholas Shipping) which was based on the island of Banton. It had a fleet of 7 to 10 ships divided into three classes: the Asuncion class, the Catalyn class and the Adeter class. During the 1950, one of the ships in the Adeter class, the Adeter V was caught in a storm as it travelled between Banton and Simara and sank.
The M/V Don Juan Tragedy (1980)
M/V Don Juan is the first of the many Negros Navigation ships that went down to sea, and one of the least recorded in history. Even before the sinking of the M/V Dona Paz in 1987, the Don Juan made news in April, 1980 when it collided with a cargo ship owned by Lostiveco Shipping, the M/V Tacloban between the Dos Hermanas and Concepcion Islands. While we have no record of the body count, certain mysteries enshroud the cause of the collision. But there was a report of casualty with 115 people still missing.
The M/V Dona Paz Tragedy (December 1987)
Dubbed as the worst peacetime maritime disaster in world history, the M/V Dona Paz, owned by Sulpicio Lines, collided with the tanker M/T Vector at the Tablas Strait between Concepcion Island and the municipality of Pola, Mindoro. The collision caused the M/V Dona Paz to explode into a huge fireball killing more than 4,000 passengers (specifically 4,375 people), the death toll of which surpassed that of the RMS Titanic on April 1912, which only count 1,502 people.
The M/V Princess of the Stars Tragedy (June 21, 2008)
And of course, the recent tragedy to the Sulpicio Lines flagship occured near the municipality of San Fernando, in Sibuyan Island, Romblon. Caught as the eye of Typhoon Frank passed the Romblon Archipelago, the 23,000-tonne ship was capsized by huge waves taking away the lives of 843 passengers and crew. As of the moment, 48 have survived the ordeal and countless of bodies are still being searched.
A lot of folklore surrounds the story behind the Romblon Triangle, from mermaids to cursed seas. Even galleon crews plying the Sibuyan Sea as they follow the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade route are enchanted by the waters of the area. Everytime a galleon enters the waters, special prayers and offerings are performed to appease the spirits haunting the area.
But one well-known legend behind the countless of maritime disasters in Romblon was the legend of a certain Lolo Amang. Lolo Amang is said to be the Flying Dutchman of Romblon, a local version of the famous Cape of Good Hope ghost ship. Lolo Amang is said to frequent the waters of the province aboard a huge golden boat at night. His boat is so beautiful and shiny that seafarers can see it even a mile away. Once lured by the light of his golden boat, eyewitness claim to see a huge party aboard the ship with fair-skinned women, music and food. One eyewitness of the M/V Don Juan tragedy reported seeing Lolo Amang's ship before it collided with M/V Tacloban. The captain tried to avoid the ghost ship but ended up colliding with the ill-fated cargo vessel.
Lolo Amang is so well known in Romblon that some of his believers even collected taxes from unsuspecting residents. My great-grandfather who was the police chief of Banton Island in Romblon reportedly investigated this scheme and found out that some albularios or quack doctors are taking advantage of the Lolo Amang myth. When interviewed, these herbalists claim that Lolo Amang resides in a secret lair in a certain Barangay Cayatong in Looc or Ferrol town in Tablas Island. Up to this day, such place in Tablas is still shrouded in mystery, with reports of mysterious ships being sighted and late night parties in the middle of coconut groves were heard of.
In the end, there is not concrete evidence to prove the Lolo Amang myth. It could've been invited by the crews of the sunken vessels themselves to escape liabilities. It could also be a deliberate hoax to instill panic and fear among the islanders of the archipelago. It is only a matter of circumstances that made the waters of Romblon famous in the history of maritime disasters.
Philippine Coast Guard believes that such disasters are due to natural phenomena like high tides, heavy typhoons among others; outcome of its navigational potentials and topographic features.