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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About Seeing with Brahmin eyes
My sense of humor can be keen, sarcastic, silly or corny -- sometimes all at once. I enjoy meeting new people with no preconceived ideas about what or what is not possible. You get much more out of life by being open minded and willing. I'm an easy going, good-natured person who loves life and loves people. I'm both optimistic and realistic and pretty objective when it comes to assessing situations, events, etc. In general I am a very positive person and you'll usually find we with a smile on my face.

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