Oriental Mindoro is the eastern half of Mindoro Island situated 140kms south of Manila, Philippines. Divided into 14 municipalities, the capital of the province is Calapan, the only city in the entire province. Its topography can be divided into two types: rugged and mountainous in the west and agricultural, flat lands in the west. The province derives its name from Mina de Oro (Mine of Gold), a name given to it by Spanish conquistadores because of rumors of a mountain of gold in the province. Mangyan tribes, one of the oldest tribes to inhabit the Philippines, still believe in this mountain of gold.
There may be no mines of gold, but the real goldmine of the province is its countryside: the golden rice fields, the coconut plantations, the white sand beaches, the abundant marine life, the lush rainforests of the area and the rich cultural traditions of its inhabitants.
The major attraction of the area is Puerto Galera (port of galleons), a town that is noted for its beautiful and natural harbor. The town has pockets of the finest white beaches comparable to those found in Boracay, yet undiscovered by the rest of the world. Situated along Verde Island Passage which is said to be the center of marine biodiversity in the world, the islands and coves of the area are rich in marine life and have a wide stretch of coral reefs which makes it a major destination of divers from the area. In 2004, Puerto Galera was voted a member of “The Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World,” an organization affiliated with UNESCO. Divers from the around the world are slowly getting wind of Puerto Galera’s marine wonders. Two of the area’s most popular beaches are White Beach, Sabang Beach and Big and Small La Laguna Beach. Tamaraw Falls, located 14kms from White Beach is a scenic wonder of cascading waters that gives tourists a chance to shower in its cool waters.
Calapan City, the provincial capital is famous for the annual Sanduguan Festival which it celebrates in May. The festival commemorates the trade relations between the natives of the island and the Chinese merchants long before the Spaniards came to conquer the Philippine Islands. The Mahalta festival, also a festival which attracts local tourists, is a celebration of the province’s personality to include the Mangyans, Mount Halcon, and the Tamaraw buffalo. During this festival, the municipalities present their best mardi gras in line with the local government’s effort to establish the province as a major eco-tourism destination in the Philippines.
The Alibatan Island in Baco town is also noted for its white sand beaches where seagulls, turtles and oysters thrive. In the town is found the Aras Cave which is famous for its stalactite formations. One thing that is peculiar about the cave is the presence of falls inside it. Mount Halcon, the country’s third highest peak, is a climber’s dream with its crystal clear streams and lush rainforests. Lake Naujan is a protected wildlife reserve where many species of resident and migratory waterfowl, freshwater crocodiles and sail-finned lizards abound. Further down south are the towns of Pinamalayan and Bongabong which also has good beaches that cater to the more economical travelers. Oriental Mindoro is the next best thing to Boracay and the rich countryside offers more special places waiting to be discovered. The best time to visit is from February to May.
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