Days 3-4: We woke earlier than we would have liked (at 5:30am) and rushed to the amazing breakfast at the Manila Marriott, which featured delicious choices from all over the world. After checking out, the concierge beckoned a taxi and within a few minutes and we were on our way to Puerto Galera, Mindoro Island … well kind of. Stuck again in the traffic, we spent the good part of an hour getting to City State Tower where the Si-Kat bus would take us to Batangas Port, and then on a ferry to Mindoro. Knowing that we were in a rush, and as we hadn’t arranged a price before taking the ride, our driver tried to charge us 700 PHP (£11.85) when we knew it should be around 200 PHP (£3.38). After much bartering we finally shoved 300 pesos in his hand and boarded the bus.
The conversations of two senior male expats faded in and out as we drifted in and out of consciousness, waking every few minutes or so to glance at the lush mountainous scenery out of the windows.
The bus seemed to take an eternity to arrive, but when it did, we did as told and ‘followed the leader’ as the chirpy bus assistant requested. On the ferry young local children paddled up to the side of the boat to wave and chat with the tourists and at the same time requesting either food or money.
Finally we pushed off, briefly donning our lifejackets before being asked to take them off again. Arriving at the island of Mindoro, and paying the local environmental fee of 50 pesos (£0.84), we set our eyes upon Sabang. From a distance it’s a colourful little resort clinging to the side of thick bottle-green mountains, but up close it’s a bit rough around the edges with a small cluttered beach and a few good hotels, as well as some seemingly seedy bars.
We looked out for someone sent from our hotel, but as we couldn’t see anyone, we started off along the narrow passageways to the hotel with our suitcases and backpacks in tow. Arriving sweaty and hot, we finally arrived at Out of the Blue and were welcomed with a cold towel and tropical fruit shake – immediately we felt better. After freshening up, we took a look around our 3-bedroom villa — the only accommodation left in the popular resort. With white-washed walls, dark wood furniture and red tiled floors, it was comfy and luxurious, but not too homey — lacking in any decoration or artwork.
Later we took a walk along the beach, passing the bars that lined Sabang shore. The familiar sounds of ‘massage sir/madame’ and the occasional accessory seller would approach us, but other than that we were left to our own devices. On the ferry we had heard news of a typhoon about to hit the main Philippines Island of Luzon — where we had just left. Needless to say the weather on Mindoro was wet and stormy, so we headed back to the hotel to sample a few dishes from the Verandah restaurant, said to be one of the best on the island.
The next morning we commissioned a jeepney (a pimped-up Filipino truck) to take us to some of the other popular beaches in the area. It felt a little lonely in the back of the truck which looked like it could sit 12 people comfortably, but we were told by the locals that renting one of these for the day would be fairly economical considering the amount of stops we were making. We paid around 1,580 PHP (£26.75) for the day.
First stop was Talipanan beach, a quiet, wide sandy and natural beach with a local feel (it’s still low season). Also, due to the typhoon near Luzon, ferry crossings from the main island had been cancelled. This left smiley Ben (above) bereft of customers and struggling to feed his family and five kids. He asked me where he thinks he should be selling and for the next few minutes we discussed his business strategies.
We pass a few beaches – Aninuan and Talipanan with a similar feel, but more luxurious resorts. When we finally reached White Beach we saw a tornado brewing and headed inside for a pizza (there are a lot of Italian restaurants here). While waiting for our meal, the rain and wind battered the beach and we happened upon this interesting claim on a local bottle of San Miguel beer.
We completed the day in the main town of Poblacion/Puerto Galera, before returning back to Sabang.
If you’d like to find out more about what we get up to in the Philippines, check back here for updates on our ‘30 Days in the Philippines‘ tag.