ONE promise Filipinos have made this New Year is to visit new places and experience different cultures found in and out of the country. One destination that local travelers can enjoy, while at the same time experiencing the beauty of nature is the island of Puerto Galera. With its tropical ambience and vibrant shoreline, there are many hidden places and activities found in the beautiful island, making the place found in Oriental Mindoro, an eco-cultural hub.
Easily accessible for Metro Manila dwellers, there are a lot of areas in Puerto Galera that remain exclusive and hidden away from the usual beachgoers. Puerto Galera’s generally mountainous topography is home to well-preserved caves and hidden waterfalls linked to rivers and streams crisscrossing the municipality’s landscape.
The island’s setting has provided a natural habitat for numerous flora and fauna that can only be found in the Philippines, as well as the indigenous Mangyan sub-tribe in Mindoro—the Irayas. This tribe, however, has moved to a new village situated near the foot of the mountain. At present, the Irayas make a living by weaving accessories and home décor using nito, while still farming in the areas near their domicile.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Galera Bay is connected to the Verde Passage, which is the center of the center of marine life, as its coral reefs shelter about 60 percent of the world’s shore fish. Hence, the municipality is continually recognized as one of the most biodiverse diving spots in Asia and is recognized by UNESCO as one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
Another eco-cultural site found in the island is the mountain that towers above most of its beaches, known as Mount Malasimbo. From being a home to all that naturally inhabit its mountains, it has evolved to being the insignia of the four pillars that enliven Puerto Galera’s culture—that is music, the arts, the indigenous people, and the environment.
These four pillars are commemorated during the annual Malasimbo Festival, an international event spearheaded by Huber d’Aboville. The artworks that are being exhibited vary from the natural to the artificial kind, where different artists are invited to showcase their masterpieces during the event. This event also allows tribes to interact with festivalgoers by presenting their local dances and artifacts, selling their handicrafts, as well as holding weaving workshops.
Alongside these myriad destinations are resorts and respites that one can go to after, perhaps, a long trek in the mountains. Some would perhaps still choose the vivacity of the places in White Beach, others will go to what’s hip in Sabang, while there are those who seek for authenticity and exclusivity in the quiet side of Puerto Galera.
There are quiet destinations enveloped by nature, found within the other side of Puerto Galera. One is a boutique hotel and resort fronting the Puerto Galera Bay, known as the Buri Resort and Spa, which is strategically built within the thicket of trees and shrubberies, and is named after the tree that naturally inhabits the area—Buri. Offering only 12 native villas amidst the location’s landscaped gardens, Buri Resort and Spa’s rooms are considered private havens designed with huge windows, high ceilings, and appended with verandas to allow the light and breeze to indulge its guests.
Activities that are available to wanderlusts also tie back to Puerto Galera’s eco-cultural tourism thrust, which is strongly support by the local community and businesses. In Buri Resort and Spa, they propose activities within nature.
“Our itinerary involves visiting the Mangyan Village, where they can sit, chat, and even learn the basics of nitoweaving with the Irayas. We encourage them, too, to trek along the lush and rocky roads of the province that lead to the hidden gems of Puerto Galera—Tamaraw Falls and Tukuran Falls. We also allow our customers to come face to face with the rich underwater biodiversity in the neighboring bay and in the Mangrove snorkelling site, and we extend the shoreline experience of the guests by taking them to the secluded, uninhabited islands and coasts that boast of Oriental Mindoro’s fine white sands,” the resort manager, Helen Kitching concluded.