Beyond the Beach: Finding Treasures in Oriental Mindoro | Motourismo
Story and Photos by Arabelle Jimenez
|Muelle Bay Cultural Heritage Park in Puerto Galera
The word “oriental” is derived from an Asian connotation meaning East, and this eastern part of Mindoro, also known as the Province of Oriental Mindoro boasts of beautiful plains and hills, with a majestic Mount Halcon in the center. At the same time, Oriental Mindoro borders white sand beaches, and is also a popular drop off point to the center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity.
Oriental Mindoro is under Mimaropa region in Luzon, about 140 kilometers southwest of Manila. The City of Calapan is the only city in the island, and is the region’s capital. Meanwhile, Puerto Galera’s Muelle Bay has been declared as “one of the most beautiful bays in the world” awarded by Les Plus Belles Baies du Monde Club, a UNESCO-affiliated organization.
|Sunset at Muelle Bay, Puerto Galera
These are just some of the treasures of Oriental Mindoro, that is already known to the world. But, wait, there’s more. Yes, there’s more to explore in the inner island than meets the eye. As a scuba diver for more than two decades, Puerto Galera has been one of my recommended dive destinations, even before all these awards were bestowed in the province. Let me enumerate the highlights of my recent tour of Oriental Mindoro that goes beyond the beach.
|Love-locked Bridge at Inifinity Farm
At the foothills of Mt. Baco, you will find the lush Infinity Farm, a well-placed resort with a series of watefalls for the guests to enjoy. The town of Baco is only 45 minutes away from Calapan, making it the easiest and fastest tourist spot to visit upon arrival in the city.
|Mini-falls where you can take a dip.
Take a refreshing dip, hike up the water trails, or simply relax by the falls. There are tables and chairs to accommodate guest for a boodle lunch, as you go along the mini rapids.
Calapan Heritage Museum
|Artifacts inside the Calapan Heritage Museum
The former capitol building was renovated into a modern museum. The Oriental Mindoro Heritage Museum is also where the Cal-kuta, an abandoned Spanish fortress stands. Here, you will find artifacts with a combination of classic and modern designs. The carefully curated exhibitions are inspired by the “mahal tana” theme, which highlights the iconic symbols of Oriental Mindoro; the Mangyan, Halcon, Tamaraw and Naujan Lake.
|Carabao cart-ride at Tukuran Falls
Experience carabao cart riding on the way to Tukuran Falls. A unique way of transport, the ride is a calesa-like unit that is being pulled by strong and sturdy carabaos. The real “work horse” in the province of Oriental Mindoro, which is also known as the rice granary and fruit basket of Southern Tagalog. The one-hour ride is slow, but picturesque with the hills and rivers as backdrop on the way to Tukuran Falls, where one can go for a swim, jump from boulders to small lakes, and an alternative hiking experience with lots of rocks, lush greens, where fresh water abound. It is located in Barangay Calsapa, San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro.
Named after the endemic bovine, a Mindoro Dwarf Buffalo, the Tamaraw falls can be seen right on the road from Calapan to Puerto Galera. The 423 ft falls cascading on the side of the national highway is an attraction in Puerto Galera one shouldn’t miss. The majestic beauty of the falls makes it one of the sought-after backdrops when in Puerto Galera. The falls cascades down to a pool of water where one can go for a refreshing swim and a picnic.
Silonay Mangrove Conservation and Ecopark
|Boardwalk at SilonayMangrove
Located in Barangay Silonay, Calapan City, the Silonay is considered an eco-tourism destination in Oriental Mindoro. Healthy mangroves occupy a total area of 42 hectares. Guests can enjoy the walk on a 350-meter-long boardwalk which leads to a 6-meter-high tower. At the top of the tower, one can marvel at the panoramic view of the Silonay River and the adjacent sea. It is recorded to have been the home of 15 species of mangroves, 29 species of birds, 2 species of bats and 5 species of reptiles and amphibians, based on the 2014 flora and fauna survey.
|The author, Arabelle Jimenez, enjoys snorkeling at the Coral Garden.
A half-day island hopping tour includes snorkeling at the Clam Sanctuary and the Coral Gardens. Take a small banca from the Muelle Cultural Heritage Park and a Puerto Galera tourism officer with guide you to your boatman. P400 snorkeling fee already includes the banca and the snorkel rent. The first snorkeling area is the Clam Sanctuary, where you will find dozens of clams planted from the clam nursery in Bolinao, Pangasinan. The second snorkeling stop is at the famous Coral Gardens. Here, the water is shallower, where one can find small fishes swimming around an abundance of hard and soft corals.
|Our group poses for a photo before exploring the cave.
|Motourismo's Arabelle Jimenez and Daily Tribune's Roel Manipon indulge in delicious suman sa lihiya at Merl's Coffee Shop.
A tour is not complete without trying the province’s specialty. In Calapan, the popular rice cakes of Merl’s Delicacies specializing in “suman sa lihiya” is a go-to for food and coffee-lovers. Merl’s has opened a quaint coffee shop to pair her delicious delicacies with good coffee.
Meanwhile, the E and B Farm cultivates fresh oyster mushrooms and turns them into delicious snacks. We marveled at the taste of mushroom chicharron, Spanish style oyster mushroom, atsara, and sisig. All organic and healthy farm-to-table delights.
Where to Stay
There are numerous resorts and hotels around the City of Calapan and Puerto Galera. When exploring the city, Casa Estela Boutique Hotel is a cozy house-turned-hotel in the heart of Calapan. For mid-range accommodations and beach lovers, the Casa Marco is a pleasant beach-front resort in White Beach. For high-end travelers and divers, the Lalaguna Villas Luxury Resort and Spa is a luxurious option in Small Lalaguna Beach, Puerto Galera.
|Calapan Port Passenger Terminal
Oriental Mindoro is only one hour away by a fast-boat, or public ferries from the Batangas International Port in Batangas City to the newly opened Calapan Port Passenger Terminal in the City of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.
This story was first published in Business Mirror on April 29, 2023 by the same author.