TEXT AND PHOTOS BY EUDEN VALDEZ
PUERTO GALERA is the first destination that comes to mind whenever thinking of traveling to Oriental Mindoro. However, the town famed for its beaches has its significant share of tourist arrivals from both the country and abroad.
It’s time to discover what else lies beyond Puerto Galera, going south and throughout the province of Oriental Mindoro—especially with the newly launched #ByahengOrMin campaign.
A project of the Provincial Tourism, Investment, and Enterprise Development Office (PTIEDO), #ByahengOrMin is just the beginning of province’s long-term goal to become the leading agri-eco-tourism destination in MIMAROPA by 2025.
From its capital city and 13 municipalities bounded by the mountains and the seas, here are three new sites that best showcase Oriental Mindoro as an agri-eco-tourism destination:
Gabutero Organic Farm
Do you know how a miracle fruit look like? Or how an insulin plant taste? Then, the Gabutero Organic Farm in Bongabong town holds the answers.
Established by Nelson Gabutero, the 15-hectare destination south of provincial capital Calapan City is home to organic rice farm, vermicomposting facility, organic processing center, livestock center, and agricultural cooperative. It is also certified by the Agricultural Training Institute so it conducts and hosts organic farming training programs for farmers in Oriental Mindoro.
When in Gabutero Organic Farm, asked to be personally toured by Mr. Gabutero himself, who is a very passionate organic farmer indeed. He will surely discuss his passion projects, like trying to grow strawberries in the lowland, or being able to gain profit from vermicompost worms!
Visitors can also opt to stay for the night because the farm offers accommodation, and it even has its own mini resort with impressive swimming pools in the middle of the farm.
Silonay Mangrove Conservation and Eco-tourism Park
It’s not just a forest but a mangrove forest, 42 hectares of it in Brgy. Silonay, Calapan City. Established in 2010 by people’s organization Nagkakaisang Pamayanan ng Silonay (SNPS) with the support of environmental NGO Conservation International Philippines, the Silonay Mangrove Conservation and Eco-tourism Park provides multiple benefits to its community.
First, it serves as a natural barrier from storm surges, which is crucial because Calapan City opens up to Verde Passage. Silonay’s mangrove forest protects the community from climate-caused disasters.
Second, it provides livelihood to the community. It has a P50-entrance fee that comes with one seedling, which a visitor can personally plant. There, tourists can get up close and personal with mangroves!
Lastly, it is among the destinations promoted in #ByahengOrMin so in the future, it is poised to welcome more tourists, hence bolster economic growth in Calapan City.
Oriental Mindoro is blessed with bio-diverse waters and unspoiled islands. While Puerto Galera is the destination in north of the province, Bulalacao is the next rising destination in the south.
It has over 10 islands that can be toured for via outrigger boats. Two of the most beautiful and remote include the Aslom Island, which has a crescent-shaped sandbar that reveals itself during low tide, and the Target Island, which is shaped like a stingray. This island has a rich history, having served as testing ground for bombs and weapons of American soldiers during the Second World War. A cemented path snakes through it and reveals a hidden lake in the middle!
Then there is Suguicay Island, which is perhaps, the most popular and commercialized due to its vicinity to mainland. There, visitors can rent native huts and just spent the whole day frolicking in the clear waters. Also check out the small patch of mangrove forest in the coastline via kayaking.
Plus a cultural experience
Oriental Mindoro is also rich in culture and heritage. One way to see this first hand is by attending the annual Pandang Gitab Festival of Lights. The provincial festival held every summer showcases the traditional dance Pandanggo sa Ilaw, which originated in one of Mindoro’s islands.
This 2019, the Pandang Gitab culminated with the street dance finals, participated in by six municipalities. It also celebrated the 51st founding anniversary of Oriental Mindoro with the hundreds of candles lighted and carried by the dancers.
Witnessing the night light up with the swaying candles along with much fanfare from the costumes and the props, and the beautiful smiles of the beautiful people of Oriental Mindoro will surely stay in one’s memory.
To book #ByahengOrMin tours, contact the Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office (PTCAO) at (043) 286-7046 and (043) 441-0306, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the PTCAO office at Provincial Capitol Complex in Calapan City. For more information, visit www.ormindoro.gov.ph.
Traveling Journo Ph visited Oriental Mindoro during a 5-day media familiarization tour organized by the Department of Tourism and DOT-MIMAROPA.