Bulalacao: Oriental Mindoro’s Star on the Rise

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Bulalacao “harbor”, seen here during low tide, is usually lined with all sorts of bancas plying their trades.

The quiet town of Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro has long been under the radar of weekend travelers. To many, it is but another stop along the RORO route to the Visayas, as well as another gateway to Boracay.

Well, until mainstream media caught a wind of it.

Today, Bulalacao has become a favorite destination of intrepid backpackers, especially those from Manila, who do not mind the butt-numbing trip by land and sea.

Here is a sample itinerary if you are coming from Manila:

1000PM   Depart Manila for Batangas pier via bus; fare is P167/pax; Travel time: 1.5hrs

1200MN   Ride a RORO or FastCat for Calapan; fare is P240/pax; terminal fee is P30; Travel time: 1.5 hrs to 2hrs, depending on the vessel

0200AM   At the pier in Calapan, head for the rows of passenger vans and take the Calapan-Roxas route; instruct the driver to drop you off where Bulalacao-bound vans are; fare is P250/pax; Travel time: 2hrs to 3hrs

0600AM   In Roxas, take the Bulalacao-bound van (fare is P70 to P100 per pax); Travel time: 1hr to 1.5hrs

0800AM   From the Bulalacao van terminal, grab a tricycle to the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO), where you can register and get assistance in hiring a bangka for island hopping

NOTE: You can also just hop on a Philtranco or a Visayas-bound RORO bus that will take you directly to Bulalacao.

There is a standard rate for island hopping being implemented by the Municipal Tourism Office to eliminate overpricing. The uniform going rate for island hopping is P3,500 per bangka (with a maximum 10-person capacity) for three islands only. You can choose any three of these islands: Tambaron, Suguicay, Aslom and Target. Going to Buyayao Island from Bulalacao is a bit more expensive because of its distance.

Of course, you can always head off to the port — at your own risk — and test your haggling skills with the boatmen there waiting for fares.

What to see in Bulalacao

Tambaron Island

Based on online search results, Tambaron Island seems to be the more popular — or maybe, more recognizable or known — of the Bulalacao group of islands. It’s “main” cove houses the Tambaron Green Beach Resort, where you can comfortably stay for the night. A restaurant here offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Aside from swimming and snorkeling, Tambaron Island also offers mountain trails for avid trekkers where one can marvel at the richness of the island’s flora and fauna.

If you crave peace and quiet, you can hire a motorized boat and head off to any of the other coves surrounding Tambaron Island.

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Aslom islet and sandbar

Aslom islet is a worthwhile stop when island hopping in Bulalacao. Just make sure you catch it on a low tide to fully appreciate the sandbar.

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Target Island

The island, as the popular story goes, owes its name to its “explosive” past — as a target for the American Navy dive bombers and fighter jets.

With that story in mind, one would expect an island full of craters and jagged rocks and burnt ground. Surprisingly, there were none of those. Instead, visitors are greeted by the lush greenery, teal to deep blue waters and white sand-and-pebbles beach. Paved walkways and staircases make exploring the island easily and comfortably.

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Maasin (or Masin) island and fishing village

Not included in the usual island hopping stops, Maasin Island came as a surprise. We did not expect to find a gem in this small fishing village. Compared with Tambaron, Aslom, Suguicay or Target — and even Buyayao — islands, the sand here is finer, whiter… and the water, cooler and more refreshing — a very good example of how pristine should look like.

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Suguicay Island

I believe, Suguicay Island is the “happiest and busiest” island and a picnic favorite here in Bulalacao. Rows of various accommodations and small “resorts” where you can stay for the night — with the occasional videoke machine — as well as picnic tables for day tour visitors, line the island’s beach front. Small sari-sari stores selling souvenir items dot the area.

If you seek serenity, a short walk through the small fishing community and further down the mangroves will take you to a tiny cove with the same fine, white sand as the main beach… but, you guessed right, much quieter.

Whether coming from San Jose, Occ. Mindoro or Roxas/Calapan, Or. Mindoro, Suguicay Island can be directly accessed via Brgy. Bancal, which is still a part of Bulalacao. Just tell the van driver or bus conductor that you’re getting off at Bancal. From the highway, you’ll need to ride a habal-habal to the port where commuter motorized bancas await visitors.

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Pocanil Beach and “Kwe-bato”

About 30 minutes from Bulalacao town proper, Pocanil Beach in Brgy San Roque serves as one of the entry points to Buyayao Island. It is quieter and more relaxing than its closest neighbor, Buktot Beach in the nearby town of Mansalay, albeit, its waters is not really good for swimming.

I believe the most interesting sight here is the fabled Kwe-bato, a cave located high up in the rock face bounding one side of Pocanil Beach. According to locals, a bamboo ladder served as access to the cave entrance before, but was eventually taken down by barangay officials to prevent any untoward incident, as the bamboo ladder became unsteady. Access to the cave is prohibited to this day.

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Buyayao Island

Buyayao Island, in my opinion, is very much underappreciated by many.

Nestled in the quiet part of Brgy. San Roque in Bulalacao, Buyayao Island is breathtaking, idyllic, pristine, serene.

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Buyayao Island by far is at the top of my Bulalacao-islands-to-visit list.

 


 

Bulalacao is accessible by AIR:

  • Take a domestic flight from Manila to San Jose in Occidental Mindoro.
  • From the airport, ride a tricycle to the bus/van terminal and take a Roxas- or Calapan-bound van or bus and get off at Bulalacao town proper.
  • Grab a tricycle to the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO), where you can register and get assistance in hiring a bangka for island hopping.

or from Boracay:

  • From Caticlan Port, board a ferry bound for Roxas, Oriental Mindoro.
  • From Roxas port, ride a tricycle to the terminal for Bulalacao-bound vans.
  • Once in Bulalacao town proper, ride a tricycle to the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO), where you can register and get assistance in hiring a bangka for island hopping.
  • NOTE: FastCat travels direct to Bulalacao port from Caticlan.

and Coron:

  • From Busuanga port,  board a ferry bound for San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
  • From the seaport, ride a tricycle to the bus/van terminal and take a Roxas- or Calapan-bound van or bus and get off at Bulalacao town proper.
  • Once in Bulalacao town proper, grab a tricycle to the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO), where you can register and get assistance in hiring a bangka for island hopping.
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A sweet “Buyayao” escape

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Buyayao in the Ilonggo dialect means to hurl expletives at or berate in the most colorful language imaginable. Buyayao is ugly, demeaning, hurtful. This “buyayao” in Oriental Mindoro, however, is nothing of that sort. The island is breathtaking, idyllic, pristine, serene.

Nestled in the quiet part of Brgy. San Roque in Bulalacao, Buyayao Island was once the property of the mighty Elizalde clan. When Marcosian era ended, the Elizaldes abandoned the island, leaving it to decay and disarray.

Seeing an opportunity to reclaim their stakes on the island, families who were displaced when the Elizaldes allegedly “took control” of Buyayao, began to slowly return and clean up most parts of the island barangay.*

What to see in Buyayao Island

Tubi Beach

Tubi beach is secluded and a good swimming area. Clumps of mangroves act as a “breakwater” to shield swimmers when strong waves come in. Huts and cottages are available for overnight stay.

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Silanga Beach

The area around Silanga Beach was the first settled barangay on the island. The community was abandoned in the 1970s.

Silanga is a good site for swimming, snorkeling, beach bumming and picture taking.

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Boho-boho cave

A good place to chill, relax and rest after an exhausting swim or snorkeling around nearby waters.

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… and more

Buyayao Island is blessed with many natural facets where you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, trekking or simply just do nothing but watch the waves, the birds, the coconut palms and wait for the sun to set.

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Sample itinerary**

1000PM   Depart Manila for Batangas pier via bus; fare is P167/pax

1200MN   Ride a RORO or FastCat for Calapan; fare is P240/pax; terminal fee is P30

0200AM   At the pier in Calapan, head for the rows of passenger vans and take the Calapan-Roxas route; instruct the driver to drop you off where Bulalacao-bound vans are; fare is P250/pax

0600AM   In Roxas, take the Bulalacao-bound van (fare is P70 to P100 per pax) and tell the driver to drop you off at Brgy. San Roque waiting shed

0800AM   In Brgy San Roque, habal-habal or single motorbikes are usually lined up there waiting for fares (@P50 per pax); ride one and ask the driver to take you to Pocanil Resort, where you then ride a banca to Buyayao Island (P1000 per trip or P100 per pax for 10 passengers)


*  According to some locals, most of Buyayao Island is now the property of Greenland Development Corporation.

** Time/schedule may vary.

A Christmas Story

When the wish fits the pure heart of the child…

Why am I not surprised when, at five years past 40, my mental age is just 16! Well, according to yourmentalage.com, anyway… Not that I fully subscribe to its “findings”,  but I somewhat agree.

Call it the perpetual child in me.

You see, one of the most evident traits that I have continuously nourished is my “childlike” attitude toward life. It goes down from my childhood, I guess. I am sort of the eldest in a brood of five back then. Christmas was not much an occasion for us because we really did not have more than enough, and my mother did not want to make it as a marked event in our young hearts, for she knew we can never have the things most children have. My father was working and studying at the same time and we were just getting by with whatever was left of his earnings. One thing though that my mother never failed to do was to tell us that Christmas was really a celebration of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for the food on our table, for the shelter over our heads and the clothing on our backs, for a loving family and, most especially, for our Mother and Father.

1469810_675095172513038_635903336_nI have never really questioned why we never had what other kids had. What got stuck on my mind was that we were thankful. But as I was growing older and became more accustomed to being with friends, which at an early age seemed to be very natural for me, a name became an obsession: SANTA CLAUS!!!

My schoolmates talked about him as if he’s real. Whenever our teacher at school showed his picture on a card or sang those Santa songs, I did not dare ask my mother whether it’s true or not, because somehow, someway, she might just convince me that he is not real. I wanted so much to believe that there is a Santa Claus; simply because, the child in me wanted to believe that if you are good and nice, Santa will give you the gift you ask for.

But Santa Claus became real only through my being him to my siblings. I could still remember vividly when Kimmy was three and I, together with Kuya Texx, Bing-Bing, Bulilit and Balot, bought her a walkie-talkie (we pooled our savings from our daily allowances) with just one unit wrapped — the other used by us interchangeably, play-acting Santa and the elves. Boy, that was really fun! I could just go over and over that moment and still laugh-cry at the thought.

I am too old now to be believing in a fat, bearded man in a red suit; yet, deep down in me, the belief that Santa DOES exist was never extinguished. Every now and then, I would play around with the thought that one day, if I do good — if I really, really behaved — I would make it in the Nice List and Santa Claus will come and whisper in my ears that my gift — the one I have always asked for — will be there on Christmas day.

However, my wishes changed every year. I waited for them to come true but to no avail. Maybe, I had Santa confused as to what I really wanted.

But for quite sometime now, one wish persisted in my adult life though.

I have always prayed for someone to grow old with. Someone whom I can pour my deepest emotions with. Someone who can make me laugh aloud and do silly things and not feel embarassed. Someone who will support my love for work, and more importantly, my love for adventure! A woman who has also experienced life, had tried living outside the box — who can cry at her mistakes and triumphs, someone who can stand on her own and be her own. Say her own piece… and make things happen. Someone to whom I can tell my stories, my exploits and bloopers, my escapades — good and bad.

And for me to live life to the fullest without thinking of rules or limits, I can only do so much. I wanted someone who can live life for me… someone who can create an albumful of tales and anecdotes — all painted through words and snapshots.

Hush now… let me tell you a secret that was just recently revealed to me. A Santa Claus DOES exist! In fact, he already gave me what I have always asked for SEVEN years ago… and it took me that long to realize that what I have always wanted I already have!

Truly, when the wish fits the pure heart of the child, his perfect gift will come. Mine was wrapped in shrieks of laughter and giggles, of sweet whispers and tiny arms that wrapped me in warm hugs, and sweet lips caressing my rough cheeks with feather kisses.

She may not understand yet my rants against the world, but she has been patient in steering clear from me when I’m angry at something. She has displayed moments of strength when required, saying her own piece and standing her ground.

I cannot pour out my deepest emotions to her yet but she has shown willingness and excitement in listening to my stories, my exploits and bloopers, my escapades — good and bad. She has already proven herself to make me laugh aloud and do silly things and not feel embarassed!

She is only beginning to discover life but we have already created tons of beautiful memories together… and will be creating more.

She is, indeed, all that I need in my life now and for the years to come.

Now, all I need to do every Christmas is tell her how lucky I am to have received the perfect gift — the gift of fatherhood.

Begin your own journey of discovery

My love affair with “exploratory” travelling began when I got bored of the same old “summer travel destinations” routine. I craved to experience the Philippines that you don’t usually see in travel brochures. However, with the travel boom we are experiencing in all corners of the country — ushered in, for the most part, by social media — we are now left with fewer options of unexplored territory.

travelokaLucky for most of us, many of our country’s “hidden gems” are still waiting to be rediscovered and appreciated anew. Traveloka‘s Top 37 Hidden Tourist Spots in the Philippines Travel Pros Rave About is a good place to start if you’re seeking for less-traveled roads.

Channel your inner Ed Stafford or Jessica Watson and satisfy your hunger for adventure. Begin your own journey of discovery and exploration. Blaze newer trails, chart rediscovered destinations, learn new things and re-experience varied cultures and local traditions.

 

… on Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Oscar Wilde. Taken away from humanity too soon…

Oscar Wilde died on this day in 1900 after being imprisoned for being gay. I know, sucks to be gay in those days.

To pay homage to Oscar Wilde — the literary genius, the poet, the romantic — let me share this thoughts anew…

via … on Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Glamping in Dinadiawan Beach

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Glamping or glamorous camping has indeed caught the travel scene by storm — from Batangas to Tagaytay and Bataan to Zambales. Glam camps are becoming more and more popular, especially to weekend travelers, as they come already with a pre-pitched tent that feature airbeds or foam/cushion mattresses (with beddings) and basic amenities to make your camping more comfortable, eliminating the hassle of packing heavy camping gear.

Although a relative newcomer in the glamping universe, Sand and Stars Beach Camp — nestled in the fine-sand beach of Dinadiawan in Dipaculao — has caught the interest of many because of its close proximity to Baler, one of the country’s prime surfing destination. It offers various-sized glamping tents that can accommodate from four (Vega, Mars, Sirius, Rigel, Beta) to eight people (Supernova). Each glam tent comes with foam mattresses with beddings, a rechargeable fan and lamp, sockets for charging your gadgets, as well as a spacious “anteroom”, complete with throw pillows and a small table.

A couple of communal T&B are also available.

Published check in time is 0100PM and check out is 1100AM; however, depending on the availability of accommodations and volume of guests, management may allow early check in or late check out.

For rates and availability of rooms/tents, visit Sand and Stars Online Booking. For other inquiries, check out their FB page.

Suggested itinerary for a 3D/2N trip

Day 0
1200MN: Depart for Baler, Aurora via JoyBus*

Day 1
0500AM: ETA Baler
0630AM: Depart for Dinadiawan via D’Liner Bus**
0900AM: ETA Sand and Stars Beach Camp
1000AM: Buy supplies at Dinadiawan Market
0100PM: Check in / Free time

Day 2
You can opt to explore “Dinadiawan” Falls and Pamwasan Cove

Day 3
1000AM: Check out / Depart for Baler***
1200NN: ETA Baler
0100PM: Depart for Manila

TRAVEL NOTES
*   JoyBus is highly recommended for its comfort and prompt arrival in Baler, the jumpoff point to Dinadiawan. Make sure to get your tickets ahead of time. You can book online at iWantSeats Online Booking. Fare is P730 per pax, which includes snacks onboard. Travel time is 5hrs.

DSC_7973**   D’Liner Bus (at Baler Bus Terminal, near the public market and a short walk from Genesis/Joy Bus Terminal) has two trips in the morning (6AM and 9AM) and one trip in the afternoon bound for Casiguran, which passes by Dinadiawan. Just tell the conductor that you’re getting off at Sand and Stars Beach Camp. Fare is P85 per pax. Travel time is 1.5hrs to 2 hrs. Several vans also ply the same route at P200 per pax.

***   You may opt to check out early if you want to catch the 0900AM D’Liner Bus to Baler. If not, you can take the shuttle provided by the resort. Make sure that you inform Ate Merly, the person in charge of the resort, the night before departure. Fare is P200 per pax. The last trip for both Genesis and JoyBus is 0330PM.

Dinadiawan Beach: Baler’s Quieter Neighbor

After a short hiatus from traveling, I am finally able to return with a weekender to Dinadiawan Beach in the town of Dipaculao, Aurora.

A little over an hour from Baler, it’s more popular neighbor, Dinadiawan is quieter, more relaxing — an ideal place to just chill out and destress.

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The crescent-shaped Dinadiawan Beach boasts of fine, “white” sand and one of the best sunrise I have ever seen… and with your back on the ocean, you can embrace the lush greenery of the mighty Sierra Madre!

Things to do

20170626_081809_1Aside from sitting on your butt downing your favorite beer or coffee (like I did) or suspended on a hammock, dreaming (like I did, too) or soaking the sun and sea (like EVERYONE else did!), you can hire a boat to take you to Pamwasan Cove.

Personally, I liked the water here, as it’s a whole lot clearer, more refreshing and, unlike the waters in Dinadiawan Beach, does not have that “fishy” smell. There are several spots where you can snorkel.

The beach is a little too “stony” and the seafloor a bit “grassy”, though. And during low tides, the locals gather here to pick up mollusks and seaweeds.

On a very hot day, Pamwasan Cove can be very dry and exhausting. Bring lotsa water.

Dinadiawan+Falls,+Aurora+DSC_1619+011_1You may also ride a tricycle and take a dip in the cool waters of “Sister” Falls… or “Daughter” Falls or “Dinadiawan” Falls or “Baby” Falls — the name varies, depending on who you ask. The falls is just a 5-minute easy trek from the highway. I was told that the LGU or baranggay there usually collects a minimal entrance fee of P50, but since I was just “solo” and the trike driver who accompanied me happened to be a ka-tropa, the fee was “waived”. I didn’t take a lot of photos as I was too preoccupied enjoying the cool waters.

The kids who happened to be playing nearby “berated” me for not going there during the summer months.

“Kuya, sana nung summer kayo pumunta. Nakita nyo sana yung madaming mga paru-paro na kulay puti.”

“Kuya, sa summer ka pumunta para hindi maputik.”

“Kuya, balik ka sa summer.”

Et cetera…

On lazy afternoons, you can hook up with other guests, and some “village boys”, for a friendly game of beach volleyball (or wacky dance like the guy in the blue board short is doing 😀). I’m not much of a ball player but a flower sniffer, so I just contended myself to just being a passive participant and took these.

Where to stay

To tell you the truth, if not for this:

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I wouldn’t have given this place much thought, as I’ve been to much better beaches.

More on Sand and Stars and a suggested itinerary on my next post.

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