Apart from the captivating ambience of Puerto Galera, there is much to discover and experience in the province of Oriental Mindoro, an hour and 10 minutes ride via fast craft from the Port of Batangas City.
For trekkers, there is Mt. Halcon, which straddles the two Mindoro provinces. The capital of Calapan, a coastal city, has numerous beach resorts. The sand may not be as alluring as that in Boracay or Palawan, but it will do if you are not the sosyal (uppity) type. Check out Parang Beach Resort, Donnyland, Filipiniana Resort Hotel, with its attractive native decor, and Anahaw Island View Resort.
The latter resort (www.anahawislandviewresort.com) hosts tour packages to “hidden” Caluangan Lake on board cruiser and floating restaurant, near Mt. Halcon; Lantuyan River in Baco; and white-water rafting in San Teodoro. With its 13 waterfalls, Arigoy White-water Rafting in San Teodoro is said to be a kayaker’s dream.
There are Mangyan settlements and caves which are sacred to the indigenous peoples, Naujan Lake, the ruins of Kuta church in Bongabon, and a large cave complex in the town of Roxas where you and your children can go horseback riding (not in the caves, silly, but in the surrounding forest).
A new tourist attraction within Calapan is the 45-hectare Silonay Mangrove Conservation Area and Ecotourism, located in the island barangay of Silonay, a sprawling breeding ground for fish, sanctuary for all kinds of birds, including bats, and filled with mangrove species. There may be a few snakes in the water.
The project, funded by the local government and international agencies, adapts to climate change, is near the sea, and protects Calapan from storm surge.
Streams of water run through the area, and tourists can kayak here. But first they have to be oriented on protecting the environment. A fascinating 350-meter boardwalk, with illustrations of the flora and fauna here, enables visitors to examine the mangroves up close.
Oriental Mindoro’s grand festival of the year was the recent Pandang Gitab dance parade competition, the root word being pandango as in the charming folk dance “Pandango sa Ilaw,” while gitab denotes “a flicker of lights.”
Hundreds of youths, male and female, in attractive native costumes and bearing what seemed to be thousands of lanterns and lighted candles, massed in front of the Santo Niño Cathedral in downtown Calapan and made their way through the nearby streets of the city.
There were lanterns and lighted candles placed inside covers or in glasses, with different shapes and sizes, glimmering in golden hues. The youths walked, sashayed, danced, chanted and moved their arms gracefully.
It was a tribute to the light which conquers the darkness. It was stunning, a sight to behold.