Saturday, May 24, 2014

Puerto Galera: Malaparaisong Dalampasigan at Mamamayang Disiplinado (Part 1 of 2)

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Puerto Galera boasts of being one of the most beautiful bays in the world. It's known to be famous "above and below." They say "above" because of its mountains and waterfalls like the Tukuran, Tamaraw and Aninuan falls found within its mountains. Though they are a bit far from the beaches, they are worth the visit because they are like the hidden treasures of Puerto Galera, just around 1.5 hours from town where half of the way you have the option to walk or ride a carabao-pulled transport, and "below" because of its numerous scuba diving and snorkeling sites like the Coral garden and Giant Clam garden under their waters rich in marine life. Puerto Galera is well known for its numerous scuba diving spots and has some of the most diverse coral reef diving in Asia.

Puerto Galera  has also become a family-oriented tourism destination since many have been going there for family gatherings and celebrations. The popular getaway located in Oriental Mindoro is attributed by some as the poor man's Boracay because it's obviously more affordable to go there but is almost as similar to the party destination of Panay island. Boracay is located in the municipality of Malay in the Aklan province so it's more expensive to plan a trip there if you're from  Manila or another country.

Puerto Galera has 4 major points of entry, namely, Sabang Pier, Muelle Pier, Balatero Pier and White Beach. If you are from Manila like me, you can get there via ferry from the Batangas Port. There are many shipping companies plying the Batangas-Puerto Galera route. The major passenger ferries are: FSL or Father and Son Shipping Lines, MSL or Minolo Shipping Lines and Galerian Lines. Our destination was at Muelle Pier where the Tourism office is located, and we got on board the Minolo Shipping Lines, specifically the Golden Vulture, to take us there. It was noticeable later on our succeeding boat trips that the shipping lines always has "golden" bird names for their ferry boats.

Our invitation to Puerto Galera

We got an invitation to visit Puerto Galera last May 12 to 14, 2014 from the Office of the Mayor in coordination with the local tourism office to attend the De Galera Festival, as well as to experience the many fun water activities, at the many fabulous spots around Puerto Galera. We also had the opportunity to visit a Mangyan tribe, plus other interesting places. Our first agenda after having lunch at the local tourism office immediately after arrival at the Muelle pier was a courtesy call to municipal Mayor Hubbert Christopher Dolor.

The Tourist Information Center of Puerto Galera
View from the Tourist Information Center located at Muelle pier
Puerto Galera Municipal Hall
Puerto galera Municipal Mayor Hubbert A. Christopher Dolor
During our lengthy discussion with the mayor, he mentioned that he is personally pushing to reach a target of 2 million tourist arrivals by year 2020 as its vision. The mayor said he cannot afford to have two kinds of industries in the town because their prime industry is tourism. He said if you put another industry, it will be chaotic.

Tourism is a wide-reaching effort and subsequently entails protection of the environment. They cannot become an industrialized area because it will tend to destroy the environment. They used to have a mining industry which had potentials to become a good business, but they wouldn't want their tourism industry to die due to the destruction of environment caused by the mining industry. Thus they made a choice to pursue tourism rather than the mining industry. The government also benefits form the shared income brought in by the tourism industry.

Puerto Galera owes 90% of its income to tourism. They don't have much income on agricultural products since most, if not all, of their coconut farmers has turned into boat men or tour guides. Only a handful of the indigenous people are left to coconut farming. Puerto Galera doesn't even have rice fields and other plantations, and though they have a few citrus plantations, it's not significant enough.

Arrived at Talipanan, Puerto Galera of Oriental Mindoro to visit the Iraya Mangyan tribe
After a visit to the Mayor, we went directly to the Iraya Mangyan Community Center located at Talipanan where we met Swabe Cabayog, a member of the tribe who creates many kinds of handicrafts using "nito" and "bagin" as raw materials.

Iraya Mangyan bamboo bridge
The Iraya Mangyan Community Center signage

The Iraya Mangyan community members were busy creating new handicrafts while many of their works are displayed nearby
The community makes all sorts of useful accessories, household decors, and personal bling-blings
Both young and old share the work as their main source of livelihood
Swabe Cabayog and his helicopter-like creation
Swabe Cabayog said he created the helicopter-like handicraft just based from the helicopters he sees flying in the skies which passes through their community. Swabe seems to have a problem with his eyes but he is still able to make quality works.

There was a display area where all the orders were all neatly arranged containing names written on masking tapes. The names are not those of the people who ordered them but of the creator of the handicrafts.

These creations are sent to Manila for the final touches of curing or treatment. Some finished products are also available at a stall located in Greenbelt 5 of Makati city.

Orders with names of the creator written on masking tapes posted on the handicrafts
Iraya Mangyan Community Center handicraft display area
One of the Iraya Mangyan handicraft displays

Entering La Pirmida viewdeck
We then proceeded to La Pirmida or from what I've read from the signage at the location, its "Da Pirmeda" where the owner, a Mangyan as well, said they offer Eco-cultural or jungle survival tours. They have sort of  pools there with continuously flowing spring water coming from the mountains.

Da Pirmeda or La Pirmida?
If my memory serves me right, the entrance fee is only P 50 and hut rental is only around P 250
They have huts where you can stay overnight but they can only provide you root crops and native chicken as food
Our lunch salo-salo held at La Pirmida. Pork barbecue, grilled eggplant, veggie salad, mangoes and buko juice
Bow and Arrow tutorial at La Pirmida
We were also given a crash course on shooting with a bow and arrow. During my turn, I managed to hit the target after three shots. All it took was estimating how hard you stretch the bow and estimating the reach of the arrow.

Thank you for the "Tigib" necklace gift
The owner of La Pirmida also gave each one of us a "tigib" necklace as a gift or souvenir. It was available in a few designs and the one I got was circular in shape. They say it's made out of seeds.

After the visit at La Pirmida, we then proceeded to our accommodations for the two nights we will be staying in Puerto Galera. We got there during night time already but what I'm showing below are shots taken during the morning after.

The view from our veranda at Lalaguna Villas located at Little Lalaguna of Sabang

The pool side of Lalaguna Villas

Other angle of the pool side of Lalaguna Villas
Lalaguna Villas front building rooftop chairs and table facing the shore
Lalaguna Villas front building rooftop chairs

We stayed at Lalaguna Villas located at Little Lalaguna which I believe was located along Sabang beach. According to many, White beach is more popular to the locals, but foreign visitors prefer to stay at Sabang beach because its more peaceful. If you are looking for a party place then you go to White beach, but if you prefer peace and quiet, Sabang beach is the perfect place for you.

Our view of Lalaguna Villas from our boat

Lalaguna Villas may look small from the outside but when you go inside its property, you'll see that it has several rooms and many more under construction as management continues to renovate the place to make it more competitive among the other accommodations available at Puerto Galera.

"With regards to establishments, business or private owners are not allowed to build their buildings higher than the coconut tree standing. "So your building is only up to (around )11 meters. You cannot go beyond the highest coconut tree standing in your air. So may height limitation ang building. So hindi pu-pwede as you as high as you can .... because you have the money. No, you cannot. We want to preserve the view. If you're in front and you build higher than those at the back, what can they see? So, that's one way of also preserving our environment. They can only build as high as the coconut tree. Hanggang doon lang."

We got room 21 at Lalaguna Villas. My room mate was one of the many popular travel bloggers in the Philippines
Lalaguna Villas room also has a clothing cabinet and refrigerator
Lalaguna Villas huge bed
Lalaguna Villas LCD TV entertainment center

Lalaguna Villas sofa bed and table
Lalaguna Villas veranda with chairs and table facing the shore

Lalaguna Villas room kitchen located at a separate room just beside
Our room had a separate room for the kitchen where several amenities were available for our use like the microwave oven, the two-burner stove, a hot and cold water dispenser, a rice cooker, kitchen tools and utensils like knives, a chopping board, etc.

Lalaguna Villas bathroom
There were also big bottles of shampoo, hand soap and body lotion  inside the bathroom (which is not normally seen in other hotels and resorts) plus sachets of shampoo and toothpaste.

Our room was spacious and cozy enough because I remember falling asleep quickly with very little problem except maybe for my room mate who was snoring very loud...hehehe.

Though there was a bit of a problem with the water during the second day when there was no water coming out of the faucets and shower. When I called, they informed me that there seems to be some maintenance or repair ongoing in our building. This is understandable since Lalaguna Villas is in the middle of renovations and construction of additional and better facilities.

View from our Lalaguna Villas room veranda

For added information, the mayor earlier said that there is an incentive code for investors who would like to put up businesses in Puerto Galera. The local government gives discount for the first five years of operation to get them up to their feet first. There are discounts on taxes based on a criteria or range that depends on how big the investment is. This is why the LGU is continuously finding ways on how to encourage big but responsible investors.

They are also encouraging investors to join the Department of Tourism (DOT) program, specifically the program under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) which is mandated to designate, regulate and supervise tourism enterprise zones established under Republic Act 9593.

The TIEZA also has its own tax incentives from which the LGU of Puerto Galera adapted its own tax incentives. Though the requirements to be able to benefit from these incentives requires you to have a minimum of 5k hectares of property thus its quite difficult to capitalize many investors. Puerto Galera is also not that big since you can roam around the place only within a day.

More stories and information on part two of our Puerto Galera adventure:

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