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The best known and most visited tourist destinations in the Philippines are Boracay island, Baguio, Bohol and Palawan. Which is why these places are crowded, especially Boracay.
Boracay is like a honky-tonk with hotels, cottages and inns huddled side by side near the beaches and loudspeakers blaring rock and roll music, and the beaches so crowded with humans you feel as if you never left Edsa.
Baguio is no longer the sparsely-populated mountain city with plenty of pine trees and with the cool breeze whistling through the treetops. Most of the pine trees are gone. I don’t know why city officials allowed this to happen. Baguio is not Baguio without the pine trees.
The Inquirer is running a series of articles on the country’s outstanding tourism spots. What I am going to write about is not yet a tourist spot but I predict it soon will be. I predict it will be more popular than Boracay.
Like Boracay, it has kilometers of white sand beaches and gentle waves. But unlike Boracay, it is very near Metro Manila. You don’t have to take a plane from Manila and then, after getting off the plane, transfer to a boat to be able to reach it—as you will have to in order to get to Boracay (where, you will be dismayed to learn, you will bump into the same people you are fleeing from in Metro Manila). What’s more, this place is not crowded. There are no hotels—yet. There is only one vacation house, owned by an Elizalde. The long stretch of white beach is all yours. You can pitch a tent on the beach or spread your sleeping bag there and light a bonfire on the sand.
Where is this paradise? How do we get there?
I am referring to Bulalacao on the southern tip of Mindoro.
You can get there two ways. One is by boat from the Batangas port direct to the Bulalacao beach. The other is by a 30-minute RoRo ride to Calapan City, the capital of Oriental Mindoro, and then overland to Bulalacao.
The road is first-class concrete all the way. Along the way, you see authentic rural life in the Philippines—rolling fields of palay, nipa huts huddled in villages, swaying coconut palms and orchards of calamansi, oranges, and rambutan; banana plantations, trees, trees and more trees, carabaos with white cattle egrets perched on their backs, streams with water lilies waving their purple flowers, and a profusion of yellow sunflowers lining the road.
You will pass through Naujan Lake, which is only slightly smaller than Laguna de Bay. Naujan Lake used to be the birthplace of that fish with silvery scales—banak I think is how it’s called. My wife, who is a native of Naujan, told me that in the past, when she was a little girl, the harvest of this fish was so plentiful that they could not sell them all. They had to bury the rest so they would not rot and stink up the place.
There are other tourist spots along the way: a waterfalls, not far from Calapan; beaches right inside the city—one, already with resorts, is near the downtown area; the other is at the edge of the old abandoned airport. You go through coconut groves to the beach. Opposite the beach, within a strong swimmer’s reach, are two small islets, the bigger one with a coconut plantation. When the tide goes out, water rushes between these two islets with such force that it is dangerous to be caught in it. Do not venture here, even in a boat, when the tide is going out.
Up in the mountains are the Mangyan villages. And the tamaraw reserve where the Bureau of Animal Industry is trying to breed the small version of the carabao found only in Mindoro.
After Bulalacao, the concrete road goes to Occidental Mindoro where there is a long coral reef that is a favorite diving site of scuba divers.
North of Calapan is of course Puerto Galera which is already a popular tourist spot. It has a deep sheltered bay where yachts anchor. There are many small hotels and inns at Puerto Galera. The nightspots sometimes make Puerto sound like another honky-tonk.
Puerto can be reached overland via Calapan. On the way, right beside the road, are two tall waterfalls. Or you can go directly to Puerto by boat from Batangas, or even from Manila; or by yacht from other countries.
The beauty of the two Mindoros is their nearness to Metro Manila. Land and water transports are plentiful and readily available. The Mindoros have the potential to be popular tourist spots. I don’t know why the Department of Tourism is not promoting them.
Home Philippines: Bulalacao the next Boracay?