Guest Author - Rachel Meneses-Ponce
Oriental Mindoro is an island province southwest of Manila. It became an independent province by virtue of Republic Act 505 on November 15, 1950 which created two provinces of the island previously known only as Mindoro. The other province is called Occidental Mindoro. Mindoro traces its name from the Spanish term Mina de Oro which literally means gold mine. Gold mine was how the Spanish explorers in the 1500s thought of the island when they found gold among the buried treasures they discovered in the island.
In recent years, it has been noted that more visitors, both local and foreign, are settling in the province. Oriental Mindoro boasts of many attributes that attract people to it. Of these, I find the following as its five main attractions:
Puerto Galera and other natural attractions
Puerto Galera is one of the municipalities of Oriental Mindoro. It served as a harbour for Spanish galleons in the 1500s, thus it was referred to as Puerto Galera (Port of Galleons). The term stuck and eventually, Puerto Galera became the name of the place.
The first thing that comes to mind when the name Puerto Galera is mentioned is its beaches. It is blessed with natural seawall, diverse marine life, white sand beaches like Sabang and splendid diving sites (33 of them). Puerto Galera is one of the Philippines’ top tourists’ destination, especially for those who are into water sports like parasailing, jet skiing, swimming, snorkelling and of course, diving.
Other natural attractions are its waterfalls, coves, the lush forests, and Mount Halcon where the almost extinct Tamaraw (world’s smallest buffalo) is found. Other fun and challenging activities one can do while in Oriental Mindoro are trekking and mountain climbing.
The people of Oriental Mindoro are one of the gentlest, friendliest and hospitable Filipinos. The people, together with the indigenous Mangyan tribe, live in harmony. They are family-centered, traditional and are disciplined. In Calapan City, the capital of Oriental Mindoro, this discipline is clearly shown in how the people obey traffic rules. For others, obeying traffic rules is a no-brainer. But for this writer, to have witnessed how Mindoro residents observe traffic rules was a refreshing sight. Elsewhere in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila, pedestrians and motorists alike are notoriously known to disregard traffic rules.
Tagalog is the major language in the province and English is also widely spoken.
Fruits and Delicacies
Oriental Mindoro is known for the quality of its fruits like mango, rambutan, banana, durian and lanzones. Other than these fruits, it is one of the main producers of calamansi, a local citrus fruit. Major delicacies include fresh seafood, dried fish, milk candies and suman, a native rice cake.
Electricity and water, two of the most basic requirement in modern living, are available. Telecommunications are also in place with the presence of call sites for direct distance dialling (national and international) and strong connections through mobile phone cell sites.
Affordable accommodations for visitors are available – from bed and breakfast lodgings, hotels to upscale resorts. There are restaurants that serve home-cooked style food, international cuisine and fusion cuisine.
For mobility, other than the public transportation, there are also rental vehicles if one desires exclusive use of a car or van.
Oriental Mindoro is very accessible, either by air or by land/water. It is about 30 to 45 minutes from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Domestic Terminal.
By land/water, the traveller has an option to go by public air-conditioned bus until the Batangas Pier. Travel time from any of the terminals in several locations in Metro Manila can be two to three hours. At the Batangas Pier, a ferry travels every hour to Oriental Mindoro from seven in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon. Personal vehicles can be brought to the province through the RORO (Roll On Roll Off) ferry. With or without a car, I prefer to travel by RORO and stay at the upper deck. Travel time may be longer however. I don’t mind the extra hour as I just love to feel the gentle breeze and enjoy the view. The best time to do this is to take the earliest trip as possible.
Oriental Mindoro is steadily establishing itself as the hub in the MIMAROPA region (MIMAROPA is comprised of the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan). Its strategic location has made it a jumping point to other provinces in the south like Iloilo, Antique and Palawan to mention a few.