Puerto in Spanish means “port” and in the Philippines which was under the colony of Spain for several years, two provinces proudly bear the word in their names: Puerto Princesa and Puerto Galera.
Undoubtedly, Puerto Princesa in Palawan is more recognized with its Subterranean River National Park named as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. Nevertheless, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro is slowly rising to prominence being included in “The Most Beautiful Bays in the World” as the only entry from the Philippines.
When my cousin urged me to exercise our independence and go on a trip just the two of us, Puerto Galera seems to be a wise decision since among the two since it is a cheap and easily reachable destination especially if you will be coming from Manila, the Philippines’ capital.
Puerto Galera is accessible via two options:
1. Air Juan Aviation’s 2x daily flights from hub in Metro Manila (sea plane)
2. Via Batangas Pier
Obviously, we chose the economical route and went with option no. 2.
We rode the bus from the terminal in Buendia straight to Batangas Pier where boats ready to bring us to Puerto Galera were waiting. The ride was smooth and pleasant. But for those who get seasick easily, either pop a motion sickness pill before the trip like me, or let the scenery with lush greenery remedy that. Local fishermen who were busy with their day were also friendly enough to wave as they noticed our camera pointed towards them.
After an hour, give or take, our boat slowly stopped and one of the staff asked us if we are getting off Sabang Beach. My cousin and I exchanged looks as we have no idea if this was our stop. We were naïve to travel without any reservations or any itinerary but since it is an adventure of sorts, we winged it. We knew it wasn’t our stop when we noticed only foreigner passengers are getting off the boat. We found out later that Sabang Beach is for tourists with deeper pockets while White Beach is for those like us who are trying to stretch their money to experience everything Puerto Galera has to offer.
Since we did not have any reservations, but lucky enough, we managed to find a resort suitable to our preference and most importantly to our budget. Or to put it honestly, the resort found us since we looked like wet ducklings not knowing where to go while other fellow tourists scampered excitedly, eager to drop their luggage and frolic in the white sand.
We stayed in White Beach Resort Bar & Restaurant, a beachfront family oriented resort, with its own restaurant, convenience store and souvenir shop for the guests’ convenience. We stayed in a Standard Room with Air-conditioning and its own private bathroom which we only used to shower in and sleep in since we stayed outside most of our stay.
Accommodation in Puerto Galera varies and it caters to everybody’s needs. Aside from family oriented resorts, there is an abundance of hotels, apartelles, lodges, backpackers’ hostels and dive resorts for every budget.
Puerto Galera is now promoted as a diving destination. But for tourists (like us) who aren’t into diving (cue in Jaws theme song), this tourist spot also offers activities everyone will be able to enjoy.
Lounging at the Beach
For a beach bum like me, nothing spells relaxation like having my feet buried in sand and my nose buried in a book. I enjoyed bumming it at White Beach’s shore in spite of the scorching heat because I have in my hand a sweaty, cold glass of mango fruit shake and come night fall, I traded my fruit shake for something with a kick.
“Hilot” is loosely equivalent to massage in the Tagalog language and this is what I enjoyed the most. Masseuses carrying their own “banig” or mat are walking around offering their services while you lie down at the beach. At first we hesitated with the feeling of being exposed and bare back, but once the masseuse’s hands started working their magic on us, all our worries melted.
Our masseuse also offered their expertise in braiding. But we have availed of this service the next day since we wanted to take that beach-y vibe back home. Their adept fingers worked wonders to my usually knotty and messy hair; merging colorful threads to my strands completing that I’m-always-at-the-beach-look.
As mentioned earlier, there’s diving and the usual: banana boat ride, snorkeling and fish feeding. But we did not avail of any of these because we chose an inland tour.
Places of Interest
For the inland tour, we chose two destinations frequented by tourists.
Tukuran Hanging Bridge
I am scared of heights but I am not one to pass up a good photo opportunity so I bravely agreed to visit the Tukuran Hanging Bridge. Much to my delight and perhaps a bit disappointment, the bridge isn’t that far from the ground. If I fell, I would not risk breaking any bones, I’d just end up very wet and very humiliated.
The view from both sides of the bridge reminded me how much in the midst of nature I was. The bridge is sturdy and can accommodate several people’s weight. But I and my cousin opted to take turns, for photo purposes.
Tamaraw Falls isn’t as grandiose as other falls in the Philippines when it comes to size. But what separates it from the rest is the man made freshwater pools at the bottom of the falls. Natural rock formation also allows for a “mini climb” which I happily tried and fortunately accomplished without any humiliating aka slipping incidents.
Food choices in Puerto Galera are eclectic. We have sampled the smorgasbord of grilled meat and seafood courtesy of the White Beach Resort’s restaurant. But had our fill for the rest of our stay with Casa Mia Ristorante Italiano’s pizzas and pastas.
Night life at Puerto Galera is slowly becoming up to par with other tourist destinations across the Philippines with busy night lives. Bars with reasonable priced beverages are opened until the wee hours of the morning. We tried the island’s very own concoction, the “Mindoro Sling”, rum mixed with orange juice concentrate among other ingredients with our bums feeling the cold sand and our wet suit clinging to our skin.
Fire dancers also lend us their fire balls as props for photos which I do not recommend after having a shot (or two) of the Mindoro Sling, we end up not having any decent photo with the fire balls.
Below is the estimated amount of expenses we spent during our 2 days, 1 night stay:
1. Buses going to Batangas Pier from Buendia Station costs 168.00 pesos, 1st trip at 12:30 AM, Last trip at 11:00 PM with approximately 30 minutes interval via Jam Liner
2. Ferry ticket to Puerto Galera is around 250.00 pesos plus 50.00 pesos Environmental User Fee and 30.00 pesos Terminal Fee
3. Room rate for Standard Room is 2,000.00 pesos during the weekend per night and 1,700.00 pesos during weekdays
4. Allot 4,000.00 – 5,000.00 pesos/head for food (2 days’ worth of meals) and drinks (obviously), fee for activities and souvenir shopping