After another stormy night in Sabang — palm trees were bending over and the rain was bashing against the taupalin, as we ate at the award-winning Veranda restaurant — it was time to get on the road again – onwards towards to the capital of Oriental Mindoro – Calapan.
We decided to go for the budget option for the next couple of days to keep us on track. We shared a jeepney with other locals to the town of Puerto Galera. An economic option, we didn’t have to wait long for the public truck to fill up and set off. We passed quaint huts with thatched or tin roofs and passed through leafy neighbourhoods.
At Puerto Galera we transferred to a tricycle (somehow our two medium suitcases were accommodated with ease by the driver) and we arrived at the mini-van departure point. Tricycles are motorbikes with a little metal sidecars attached, and when you ride in one, you are basically at street level, providing an interesting view point and often getting a noseful of exhaust fumes. Still they are inexpensive and get you there quite efficiently.
The air-conditioned mini-van swung us around spiralling mountain roads as we passed the impressive gushing Tamaraw Falls, although the driver didn’t stop at shouts of ‘Para, para’! The waterfalls are 423 feet high and named after the dwarf buffalo, with nutcracker shaped horns, only found on Mindoro Island.
Arriving in Calapan, we picked from one of the few accommodation options in our guide book. After moving rooms around three times (because of broken windows, no internet and holes in the ceiling), we felt reasonably secure, comfortable and had few bites of wi-fi to play with. We immediately started craving the luxury of the Marriott Manila or Out of the Blue Hotel in Puerto Galera, but for a bargain £8 per night, we decided to stick it out.
The next day, we went to the nearest or only mall for breakfast. We ordered from an organic coffee house thinking the coffee would be great, but to our dismay they used sweeten powdered milk, which completely overtook the flavour of the coffee.
Interesting coloured foods were available, such as Green Fish Balls and other luminously coloured treats. Settling with doughnuts from Mister Donut (one of the popular Filipino fast food joints) and a traditional pork bun, we made our way to the tourist office. Being dropped at the immigration office, we were a little doubtful, but paid the driver anyway and went to investigate. After being directed around and around we finally found a room still in construction where the staff were fanning themselves and looking flustered. “We have just moved in”, one lady said, not looking too happy about it, but was certainly happy to help us.
After getting some useful tips, we decided to check out the Mangyan Heritage Centre, which aims to educate visitors about the indigenous people of Mindoro. We signed in, but not before passing the first test — writing our names in Mangyan script. A young Mangyan girl was demonstrating how to bead karaway bracelets and showed us brightly patterned ones she had finished the day before.
There are eight Mangyan groups in Mindoro, and each has its own name, language and customs. The Irayas who live in Puerto Galera are skilled in nito-weaving and making handicrafts, whereas other tribes lend their hands more to farming or pot making.
Our first few days in the Philippines had been somewhat scuppered by Typhoon Karen, which had swept past Mindoro on the way to the main Luzon Island. However, today the weather seemed to have calmed, so we decided move to the Anahaw Island View Resort. The food prices here were lower than in Sabang and we had a little cabin to ourselves, from where we could fall asleep listening to the waves lap against the shore. Although, not super clean, we took a dip, we were in the Philippines after all. Ordering grilled Tipalia fish filled with onions and tomatoes, sufficed to leave us contented.
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.