Travel Diary: Island Hopping in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines
I must admit, the trip to Bulalacao is definitely one of my most favorite and most memorable. It wasn't easy breeezy going there as the torrential rains and habagat winds have been pondering the rest of the country. Yet, the trip to Bulalacao had been planned since five years ago because there is a certain mystery about this 4th class municipality that has captured both my mind and heart. Ever since i started traveling back in 2007, my interests and way of traveling have changed dramatically. I now yearn for off the beaten path destinations, those of which normal travelers would most likely forego due to inaccessibility. Well, for me, that's always a good sign of wonderful things to come.
I arrived early morning on a Friday. After a brief delay at the airport in Manila, i was off to San Jose Mindoro. It's not my first time in Occidental Mindoro, and i have visited Sablayan and even the charming Pandan Island, but this time around i was on transit bound for Bulalacao in the province of Oriental Mindoro, my 63rd province in my blessed country - The Philippines.
As soon as i arrived at the airport, i went to ride a tricycle to go to the van terminal. There were vans which ply for the Roxas route. Bulalacao is about halfway. So, after about an hour of travel time and passing through scenic rice paddies, i arrived in Bulalacao. It has been raining on and off since i arrived but nobody can stop me to get my thirst for adventure. Renting a boat that would take me to my accommodations wasn't so hard. The efficient team at Tambaron Green Resort was there to answer all my queries. Visibility was super low as i was cruising on a boat. Good thing, the boat i rode is way bigger than the one i rode in Roxas bound for Olotayan Island. The waves were already big to begin with, which was a sign of things to come in the coming days. Instead of rushing all the islands, i reckoned breaking it in a few days would solve my wave woes. When i arrived at Tambaron Green, the staff was there to welcome me and my company. The next few days, i got to know more Toto and Len-Len as well as the other Mangyan people residing in the island. All in all, we're about less than ten people living in the 10 hectare island of Tambaron. The meals were such a hit that the fried and grilled fish i ate were so delicious. I haven't eaten anything like it, so it was memorable because it was my first time.
The next few days were about cruising Mindoro and Tablas straight, both of which had the strongest waves i have encountered. Roughly speaking, our boat was probably playing with 20 foot waves and i skipped a heart beat too many times. But Mang Arnie is a former captain, and his credibility is unparalleled.
Buyayao is said to be the most beautiful island in Bulalacao. Once owned by a rich Filipino family, now the island has been owned and managed by the government. Permit is hard to get but my charms and honest demeanor gave us a pass to the white island of Buyayao. There were a couple of men making sure that the island is well-kept. I spent about five hours in the island, eating my picnic lunch of friend lapu-lapu, grilled eggplant and a bottle of local rum.
Next, Siguicay is charming little island with untouched mangroves to boast. There's a little village with about less than 100 people living in the island, and most if not all are too shy to pose for a photo op. The drinking continues and waves of Suguicay was calmer. Going back to Tambaron after three hours was the worst boat ride of my life. The waves got bigger as hours pass by, and we're about less than an hour away from sunset. It didn't help that Mang Arnie was talking on his phone in the middle of open sea as the waves crash our boat from side to side.
The next day, i would have wanted to visit Target (Alibatan Island) and Sibalat Island but the waves were just too unbearable for me already. So, finding an alternative lead me to Aslom, a lone sand bar in the middle of towering rocks and across Giyob town. There, after praying to the Sun God to shed us some light, i got my perfect tan. I would have stayed for five hours if only i did't forget to bring my trusty local rum.
It didn't take long for me to get to Giyob town which cut the trip to about 30 minutes since Giyob is almost halfway San Jose and Bulalacao.
With more free time in my hands, i waited to dry up in the one of the local sari-sari store. Downing about six San Miguel Beers, five indian mangoes and three plastic chips, i changed clothes and left the sari-sari store. It's a wonderful experience to be chatting with locals as Bulalacao town is way more commercialized while Giyob is your typical unspoilt baranggay. I would often chat with buyers and help the seller manage customers.
I waited for about 10 minutes before a van finally appeared bound for San Jose. Didn't sleep the night before because i was still trying to remember the beauty of Bulalacao.
In a few minutes, my plane will touch fown in Manila but my heart has been tucked to sleep in one of the beautiful islands of Bulalacao. Truly a magical place! And with amazing Mangyan people i have met. Perfect!