Puerto Galera: Serendipity at its finest!
For sand and sun lovers, food lovers, party lovers and for people who wants to fall in-love, Puerto Galera gives you the easiest access to a perfect summer getaway. This island is deeply scalloped with snorkeling spots and coves edged in powdery white sand, the islands inviting coastline will give you a charming atmosphere you always dreamed of.
Situated on the northern peninsula of Mindoro island, approximately 160km from Manila, Puerto Galera (Port of Galleon) was an excellent port for Spanish Galleons seeking refuge from heavy storms and typhoons. Now that the Galleon days are over, the island become a world class diving spot and a perfect get away for anyone who shows interest in outdoor activities. Trekking high up over the sea-front hills shows vistas of sandy cove after sandy cove fading into the horizon. But the greatest attraction of this island cannot be seen from here. More than twenty world-class dive sites await those willing to put their heads under water, and the nationalities of the diving instructors reflect the main visitors; Americans, Europeans and Australians tend to dominate the diving stations around Puerto Galera. The cost of vacationing and diving is as good as it gets and beginners can qualify inexpensively on a three-day course. The scuba diving season in Puerto Galera is year-round, and going under water can be a good way to escape any rain.
It was early morning of Thursday when I left Manila to catch up with the first trip to Puerto Galera via Batangas Port. It has been always in my plan to travel during evening for long trips and early morning for short trips, practically to avoid the traffic in the metropolis. Upon reaching White Beach, it took me fifteen minutes to reach New Encenada Beach Resort, located at Sitio Pandangan, the resort offers a different Puerto Galera experience, no beach vendors, no roving masseurs, only turquoise waters nestled in the famous encenada cove. Unspoiled and uncrowded, Endcenada Beach Resort is the place to get away from it all. The beach here, arguably the best in Puerto Galera, is almost one hectare of nice designed cottages, dive shop, restaurant, souvenir shop and beach volleyball court. Encenada means a protected place; true to its name, the beach itself is a complete island destination where you can be treated like a god.
On the second day, I met Joey, the jolly and gay all around majordomo of the resort, he brought me to the poblacion by a fifteen-minute walk by the seashore. The resort staff's are all nice, a living proof of the famous Filipino hospitality. The place is more of a garden and the beach is just another unusual surprise. Imagine a sunrise in a beautiful veranda, surrounded by various species of palm trees and colorful flora that gives a vista of a beautiful and exotic hideaways, truly; stumbling upon this beach was serendipity at its finest. Now tell me, who needs the Caribbean?
The New Encenada Beach Resort may not be a five-star resort but its ambiance is more of a home, giving you the feel of being in Boracay a couple of decades ago. No noisy night bars, no internet but mobile phone connections are excellent. During night, the overlooking veranda type of restaurant offers not so expensive freshly cooked local foods. There are 42 rooms available, composed of ten nipa hut and thirty-two concrete cottages located in the main building. For underwater explorers, there is an in-house dive shop with professional dive instructors to guide you to the coral gardens just of shore and in the marine reserve of Varadero Bay. If you like island hopping you can hire a motorized banca and explore the nearby beaches or you may walk along the beach to reach the town center for gift shops, internet cafes and a couple of restaurants.
On my third day, I met Christina Fuentebella, the charming owner of the resort. She managed the resort for almost fifteen years in partnership with an Australian lawyer. She prepared me a jigger of "Mindoro Sling", their in-house specialty mixed drink, thus heaven begins. Live acoustic bands are performing in the restaurant every Friday and Saturday night, singing romantic love songs and reggae, a la Jamaica nights. On my last evening I'm beginning to love the place like a home, walking around the shore alone sounds lonely with the crystalline night sky like a trespassing constellation. The stars are thick upon my head. I've spent the entire trip by myself, it's all about resting like you never did before, and the serene coolness that comes with being alone but not lonely has settled into my body. I've stopped listening and observing my mobile phone, and even though I'm wandering in completely different environment, I feel no danger. Still, if I were part of a honeymooner couple right now, I'd head right off this secret cove and sneak onto the beach to re-create another travel tale, this time more romantic. Oh well, next time.
More economical are the commercial buses of BLTB, JAM and TRITRAN. Bus terminals can be found in Cubao, and in Buendia in Pasay City. Schedules of these buses are quite erratic, but the earliest bus usually leaves at 6AM and every hour from then on (depending on the volume of passengers). Fare on these buses range from Php 80 to 100 depending on whether it is a regular or an air-con bus.
At the Batangas City Pier, there is a wide selection of ferries going to Puerto Galera, depending on which port guests intend to enter. (There are three main entry points to Puerto Galera by way of its port facilities: Muelle Pier, Balatero Pier, and Sabang Beach).
Where to Stay
New Encenada Beach Resort
c/o Sunlink Travel and Tours Pearl Terraces
1700 Ma. Orosa Street, Malate Manila
Tel. No. : (00632) 5240861
Telefax: (00632) 4000285
* * * * *
Published on 4/19/04