Puerto Galera eyed to become the ‘Heart of Asia’ in 2020
By Lily O. Ramos
MANILA, March 8 (PNA) — Looking down from the mountain at the busy but clean and uncluttered Muelle Port of Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro in some way reminds one of Monte Carlo in Monaco, southwest Europe — one of the playgrounds of the world’s rich and famous including showbiz denizens, artists, business big shots and even some infamous personalities.
No wonder, Hubert D’Aboville whose family lineage is traced to French nobility fell in love with the place and decided to turn a 40-hectare property on the foothills of nearby Mt. Malasimbo into Villa Malasimbo where internationally-flavored music and arts festivals have become regular fare in the past two years.
Although named “Puerto de Galleon” by the Spanish “conquistadores” in 1574, it was renamed Puerto Galera as a tribute to its excellent harbor and berthing for Spanish galleons from Mexico and Spain.
Profiling the first-class municipality of Puerto Galera leads to discovery that the 25,247.23-hectare area is called Oriental Mindoro’s “Little Baguio” because of its sometimes foggy mountainous terrain and beautiful scenery.
It’s hot from March to May while it’s rainy and typhoon- prone from June to October, even as November to February are pleasantly cool and dry.
Peak tourist season is from December to May, said D’Aboville. In 2010, Puerto Galera had 38,804 foreign tourist arrivals and 151,994 domestic visitors. There was a big drop in foreign visitors at 24,474 and 90,660 locals in 2011 due to typhoons and unusual bad weather.
As per National Statistics Office (NSO) 2007 survey, the population of the Y-shaped area founded in 1574 and declared as one of the oldest settlements for Spanish missionaries stood at 28,035.
But according to present town officials, there have been a lot of migrants who have settled along the coastlines and engaged in fishing, tourism, land and sea transportation or merchandising.
And people from other provinces are still moving in to its 13 barangays composed of Poblacion, Aninuan, Baclayan, Dulangan, Palangan, Sabang, San Antonio, San Isidro, Sto. Nino, Sinandigan, Tabinay and Villaflor.
Puerto Galera was the original capital of Mindoro Province in 1903. It became the capital of Mindoro for the second time around through Act No. 500 of the Philippine Commission, but it became a barrio when the seat of government was transferred to Calapan in 1937.
Going to Puerto Galera takes one-and-a-half to two-hour bus or car trip from Manila to Batangas using Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) tollway, then another one-and-a-half to two-hour boat ride to reach the tourist town. Upon arrival at the Batangas Pier, there are ferries and outrigger boats to ride on.
Declared as one of the most beautiful bays in the world, Puerto Galera has 20 species of mangroves out of 40 species in the country, nine species of sea grasses out of 16 species in the world, 152 species of corals out of 400 species in the Philippines, 69 species of weeds out of 141 in the country and 19 species of birds.
Some of the specific attractions in the municipality are the Tamaraw Waterfalls at Barangay Villaflor, 19 kilometers from the town proper and reachable by land and sea transport. With an elevation of 432 feet above sea level, it has facilities like a social hall, swimming pools, rest houses and dressing rooms.
On the west portion of Puerto Galera are two more water falls — Aninuan and Talipanan falls named after the Barangay and Sitio where they are located.
Other places of interest are the Coral Garden where corals and coral reefs abound near Tangalan Point, San Antonio Point, Medioisland and Sabang plateau where one can see fishes of varied colors zigzagging in the clear water.
Then there’s the Excavation Museum established on the initiative of the late Fr. Erwin Thiel, SVD, where several artifacts dating back to the Yang, Ming and Sung dynasties of China are displayed.
And there’s Baclayan Mangyan settlement also initiated by Fr. Thiel after conducting a survey and titling of several hectares of land for the native Mangyans.
Knee-deep hot springs found at Tabinay Hot Spring and Villaflor are also welcome respite places for tired muscles and body aches, while the Python Cave inhabited by several types of snakes, bats, iguanas and a large quantity of guano or bat droppings are found for fertilizer. However, only professional spelunkers and cavers are allowed to visit the area for safety.
Tukuran Island Resort is a major municipality attraction. Its water falls are followed by visitors from San Teodoro and finally stop at Sitio Salambawan. Visitors have the option to ride a kanga, a wooden cart pulled by a carabao or cross the next seven streams on foot around 30 minutes before reaching the falls.
Historical sites include Black Rice and the Cross with two canyons at Muelle Poblacion. Garita or guard house at Bahiya, Lalaguna that guards the entry of pirates and marauders, Sand bar at Boquete where during low tide, sand is visible and at high tide bancas and small vessels can pass through the other side of the island.
Mayor Hubert Christopher Dolor recently told mediamen some of his wishlists for his municipal constituents during the Malasimbo Festival, like having an airport of international standards to enable more tourists to travel in one sitting, upgrading of the present poor standard of water transport which uses outrigger boats, strict observance of zoning regulations and the approval of a municipal ordinance on one-entry, one-exit point port in Puerto Galera. <>At present, there are four ports serving as entry and exit of outrigger boats in Balatero, Muelle, Sabang and White Beach.
Dolor said he wishes Puerto Galera would become the “Heart of Asia” in 2020 with tourism and health and medical wellness center as main industries. With the ever-increasing number of yearly visitors eager to see what the place can offer such as the seven Mangyan tribes, their unique history, culture, art, handicraft and lifestyle plus the annual international Malasimbo art festival, tourism should be their main money-earning activity.
In the case of medical wellness, the young mayor said that there are many doctors with different specialization who want to practice their craft in a quiet, peaceful, clean-air environment, zero crime rate area like Puerto Galera.
They also plan to offer excellent “hilot” or massage or unorthodox methods of healing ailments that modern medicine can’t explain because they are spiritual in nature.
One setback of the first-class municipality is its having only one two-way, narrow national road — the Muelle Circumference Road.
Mayor Dolor said it is an infrastructure problem that needs to be supported by the national government and the private sector as well. The need for infrastructure investments is real great — around P12 million to P14 million to make the projects get going.
Dolor added he is hopeful that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) as well as the private sector would become partners in making available financial and logistics resources for Puerto Galera’s roads, buildings, ports, schools and airport development program. (PNA)