Excel V. Dyquiangco
Photos by: Bernard Supetran
There are so many activities in Puerto Galera aside from it swimming and diving. For one thing, this town is now promoting itself as a sports sailing haven. Because the name itself Puerto Galera literally means “port of galleons,” as it has provided a secluded harbor and a safe refuge during storms to seafarers since the pre-Spanish period, this town is finally rekindling this historical point as one of the most sought-after destinations for fun-filled leisure.
Another reason is because this town was declared in 2005 as one of the most beautiful bays in the world by the French-based “The Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club,” a UNESCO-supported organization. With it’s natural beauty, diverse marine life, rich cultural heritage and important economic contribution, Puerto Galera has brought new consciousness to an old legacy and opened the wonders of underwater sea creatures. It is in fact a sanctuary to 152 coral species and 19 mangrove species in the country, and nine out of 16 seagrass species in the world.
The underwater cave and corals
With so many of these interesting information at hand, we decided to troop to this quaint little town, purposely evading White Beach and Sabang Beach because we wanted to explore what else this town has to offer. Fortunately we landed in another municipality of Oriental Mindoro, San Antonio Island, a small island off the shore of the bay where coconut trees stood tall and proud and where boats lined up on the seashore. I was informed that there were three activities to do in San Antonio—visit the underwater cave and snorkel the spots around the Coral Garden and look for the giant clam shell a meter long lying underneath the waters—all for P500 but it is advised to bring food if you plan to stay for long hours.
As the boatmen were now haggling for people to ride and tour the islands, we hopped on one of the boats. The engine revved and off we went. It was quite a long haul but we didn’t care as the winds were just muzzling our hair and the view was spectacular. We passed by the Long Island, so-named because it’s a long stretch of white sands where you can stay for a picnic. Finally we landed in “Munting Buhangin,” a small island composed of coarse thick sand with scattered pebbles. In one corner stood a small rock formation where the underwater cave can be found. The rocks were quite sharp and jagged so we carefully tried to find our footing. It took a few minutes before I finally landed at the top and was immediately greeted with a gaping hole in the center of the rock formation. Interestingly a jump would lead to the underwater cave but not advisable as the cave has sharp rocks. Finally I came to the entrance of the cave. With the help of a bamboo stairs propped up, I managed to climb down.
The underwater cave in itself is waist-high and is not totally drenched in darkness, thanks to the rays of the sun beaming through the gaping hole. Because of this heat and the warmth, the waters are not extremely cold either; making swimming all that enjoyable. We spent more than thirty minutes in the waters before the next batch of visitors came in.
Next up is the Coral Garden and the giant clam shell. After leaving the cave we spent just a few minutes roaring towards that special place, almost in the middle of the bay. The snorkels were put on and the dives took place. The Coral Garden is obviously littering with colorful corals and different variety of fishes. Among them are the clown fishes, more popularly known as the “Nemos”. As for the giant clam shell, better keep your eyes open and peeled. Even though this is a meter long and can actually swallow your foot, you might miss it.
The falls and the Mangyan Tribe
In another part of Puerto Galera along the highway also lies one of the most interesting views to behold—the 423 cascading waterfalls known as the Tamaraw Falls. Named because of buffalos roaming in Oriental Mindoro, this waterfalls drops magically into a waterbed to form two sets of swimming pools just on the other side of the road. Interestingly this one has already been turned into a mini-resort. Just for P10 for children and P20 for adults, you can now take a relaxing dip in the pools and rent a picnic table for P50 for the whole day if you want. You can also grill your own steak meals in the area—for free.
Puerto Galera is also a haven of culture being the home of various ethnic Mangyan tribes. It is already dark when we visited the Iraya Mangyan tribe which is highlighted every October in celebration of the Indigenous Peoples Month. The huts and the village were alive and teeming with children and people even during the nighttime. We caught the mother of the very first house we went to weaving baskets and making some playful weapons, and all kinds of arts and crafts to be sold in the marketplace. They also had a television set to keep up with the modern times. I also learned that a few meters from the village is a school for the Mangyan children where they can keep up with the latest news and learn of today’s lessons.
For dinner, we then went to Luca’s Cucina Italiana and Lodge, one of the most popular restaurants in the area. It was so popular that we even sighted former Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim dining with his family. At the table we ordered pizza and seafood pasta composed of shrimps, scallops and squid. It was one of the best pastas I have ever tasted and within minutes, not surprisingly, the food was all gone.
The trip was indeed worth it.
SI-KAT Bus and Ferry Services
Distance - Approximately 100 miles south of Manila.
Travel Time – Approximately 4 hours.
Via Private Vehicle from Manila to Batangas Pier
Via Bus to Batangas Pier
Via Ferry or RORO (if you brought a car) from the Batangas Pier to Puerto Galera
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