November - December 2007
Puerto Galera


This is an abridged description not that much of a trip but more or less of a stay of two months in one of the resorts in Puerto Galera on the island of Mindoro in November-December 2007.

The intention is to give a first hand personal experience of how we, Joy and I, tried to live like a retired couple. So there was no urge to get either into full action nor utmost relaxation, thus this report will be short.

Of course, this is not only a place to retire but also ideal for a short vacation (with family or not) and a prime spot for the scuba-diving folks. And last not least a nice stopover for backpackers passing through on the way to the south and east of Mindoro. However, not all the places around Puerto Galera I can recommend. I will come back to that later on.

How to get from Berlin (or Frankfurt) to Manila

As far as I am concerned I was not coming from Berlin to Manila this time but actually from Australia.

There are many ways to get to the Philippines. I prefer the 4-star Qatar Airways (they rate themselves 5-star). They fly to Manila via Doha (thus changing planes only once). Gulf Air would be my second choice. One year ago I paid for a round trip ticket from Berlin, valid up to 6 months, 719 Euro (including tax). I book all my flights at the Vietnamese Travel Agency Deviko. My "girlfriend" Dr. Phan always books the cheapest flight possible.

Joy, on the other hand, came from her hometown in Samar in the Visayas.

How to get from Manila to Puerto Galera

If you do not want to go with public transport, which is a little bit cumbersome (though cheaper), then there is a tourist bus, called SIKAT, leaving from the
City State Tower Hotel
1315 Mabini Street
Ermita, Manila
Tel.: (02) 400-7351 to 61
every morning at 8 a.m. to Batangas (with sandwiches and ice-cold drinks for sale). After two and a half hours the bus arrives at the pier of Batangas. There is an outrigger boat waiting to bring you to the pier of Puerto Galera in about one and a half hour. The fare for the whole trip is 600 Peso (9.50 Euro).

The ticket counter is located in the hotel lobby. The hotel itself is middle class and the double rooms start at around 1900 Peso (30 Euro) including American breakfast (same whether for one or two). Someday, there will be another report about Manila for more and better hotel suggestions.

Ok, from here on I will only state the prices in Euro for simplification. I took the average exchange rate of 63 Peso to the Euro valid at the time we stayed in Puerto Galera.

Puerto Galera

Tricycles are waiting at the pier, actually at Muelle Bay, to bring you to any resort around (Puerto Galera itself is just a town and has no resorts).

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Puerto Galera map Puerto Galera view
The prime spot for scuba-divers is around Sabang up north (also connected with direct boats from and to Batangas). I do not recommend the village itself but the "Big La Laguna" beach.

The best (for me) and a little expensive resort (still modest) is just around a rock from there (best to be reached by boat), which is the Coco Beach Island Resort. The De Luxe Cottage (see photo) for two costs 40 Euro including breakfast buffet during the lean season from August 1 to September 31, for example. This resort also offers their own transport from Manila.
Coco Beach cottages up the hill Campbells resort of Big La Laguna
However, only two resorts I would suggest for a long stay. One of them is the Campbells Beach Resort (former Miller's Corner) at the end of "Big La Laguna", which offers rooms for 14 Euro per day (based on the monthly rate). The other one is the
Tamaraw Beach Resort
Aninuan, Puerto Galera
Oriental Mindoro
Tel.: 0927 597 5588
where we occupied a double room with an attached bathroom for 9 Euro per day in the new building on the fourth floor. Some guidebook says that this is an ugly motel type box, but we liked it up there. We could have had an old cottage on the beach even cheaper but we wanted more comfort, cleanness and privacy. It had even two queen size beds (for four). Aircon, Cable TV (CNN, BBC, Deutsche Welle, HBO, etc., etc.), fridge and hot water anyway.

Ok, that cheap daily rate was based on a monthly rate and we stayed two month (the regular rate per day is three times higher, thus staying half a month and paying for a full month is still cheaper). We could have had a studio with a small kitchen facility for the same price, but it was on the second floor with not such a nice view. We also could have rented kind of maisonette apartment on the ground floor, stretching over two floors, for 13 Euro per day. Nevertheless, eventually we did move to one for the last couple of weeks.

If you want to know more about this resort, especially about their last rates, then take a look at Tamaraw. By the way, a tamaraw is a smaller version of the carabao (water buffalo) and endemic on Mindoro.
The Tamaraw Beach Resort from another angle
The resort was located in a bay together with another small one at the very end, so it seemed that the whole stretch of beach belonged to the Tamaraw. Since there was no hinterland up to the road no other constructions could spoil this area.
View down from the balcony and from the cottage to the beach with hut
The reception and a small Sari Sari shop (snacks, drinks, detergent, etc., etc.) are located in the old main building. The restaurant is part of that and part in a pavilion right on the beach. The menu was simple but the meals were tasty ... and cheap: American breakfast for around 1.50 Euro and veggie curry with rice the same. The most expensive dish was grilled prawns for 5.50 Euro.
The proprietor loves flowers you see them all around
We had our own white beach and much better than the beach which is called White Beach just around the corner. To get there you either have to walk on the road over the hill or from the beach over rocks, which is not recommended if dark. I also do not recommend to stay at the White Beach. Look up Bad Governance, if you want to know about the things which went wrong with some tourist spots around Puerto Galera.
Rock Art on the way to the White Beach which can be seen in the background
We did not go to the White Beach often, just to get some exercises climbing over the rocks and walking along the beach.

More often we went the 8km to the town of Puerto Galera by tricycle (for 1 to 1.50 Euro one way) to do shopping in the market and supermarkets. Sometimes we ate late lunch or had High Tea at an Austrian restaurant (the Bahay Pilipino Pension), like salty Kasseler with Sauerkraut or sweet Palatschinken.

It is also nice to sit in one of the restaurants at the pier and have a pizza and a beer while watching the boats. This is also the place where you meet many other foreigners, having a small talk here and there, meeting some friends once in a while.
Austrian Gemuet-lichkeit Pretty yachts in the harbor
Then on the way back to the Tamaraw you will see the Swiss Butcher and Bakery on the right after the gas station, where we often enough bought French Baguette, real Italian Salami, original Swiss Appenzeller cheese, etc., and last not least an Oettinger Wheat Beer for our supper.

For some retired people this may be the only pastime: "Sittin’ on the Dock of The Bay” all day. Not so for us (yet). Once in a while we rented a boat for 24 Euro a day.
Renting a boat once in a while to go on a cruise the whole day
There are many secluded beaches around, some are deserted others are more frequented. We always tried to get away from the crowd.

Also, there are many corals in front of some beaches (there were none at the Tamaraw) or in the middle between the islands.
Relaxing on a nice beach with coral gardens in front
So what can you do on a nice white beach on an island? Picnic (if it is lunchtime), inspecting the surrounding (any path into the woods), looking for shells (if there are any) or just swimming and snorkeling (if not relaxing).
Ideal for swimming and snorkeling around
There is another means of transport (or water sport?): riding a banana boat going in circles. But actually walking a circuit is a better option.
My honey's dream: banana boat riding but also walking and climbing
Sometimes we walked to Aninuan, where Dieter has a beer garden with a billiard den. Also small snacks are served every day, and every week a billiard tournament takes place and sometimes there is a barbecue party.

He and many other retired Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Norwegians and some Japanese are living in this small place in either rented houses or apartments which cost between 120 and 240 Euro a month, so actually cheaper than living in a resort, but with no direct beach in front (20 minutes walking distance).

There are other foreigner's "settlements" within small villages around Puerto Galera. Some are more inhabited by Anglo-Saxons (British, Americans, Australians, etc.), others by Vikings (Danes).
Aninuan is a little set back from the beach Another small village is right at the coast
Some other day, same boat, but this time we are going on a fishing trip with several lines for ground fishing (24 Euro again plus another 1.50 Euro for small shrimps to be used as bait). Some times we were lucky, other times: only small fish or none. Trolling instead of ground fishing can be really frustrating: it's hard to catch big game fish here (not like "The Old Man and the Sea"). Then there is still the option to snorkel in between and look for fish and why they are not biting.
Fishing is another option while "sailing" along the coast
Renting a kayak for half a day for 8 Euro is another possibility. Either paddling all the way to the end of the Aninuan and the Talipanan Beach and eat the famous pizza at the "Italian" (around one mile to the east) or continue farther around the rock to some really deserted beaches (one with a sliding sand dune), where nobody can see you whatever you do.
Kayaking is fun though strenuous but awarded with a stopover on a deserted beach
Ok, altogether, there is lot to do and you usually can do what you want, but there is only one must: to organize some cash if you didn't bring enough from Manila. There is no ATM in Puerto Galera. Travel agents in Sabang charge an exorbitant fee for a credit card cash advance. Most resorts and restaurants charge up 7% extra, if paying with a credit card, even if it is against the law. Though not the Tamaraw, but only for the accommodation bill.

The next ATMs are either in Calapan (one and a half hour jeepney ride) or in Batangas (same duration by boat). The boats are leaving from the Puerto Galera pier several times at different times. Better inquire the day before. The one way fare is around 3 Euro.

Batangas is also good for shopping at the SM Mall, where also several ATMs are installed. By the way, I have a Visa Credit Card without being charged any ATM fee worldwide.
Once in a while to go to the pier to take a boat to Batangas
Going to Batangas one day in the morning the sea was calm but on the way back in the afternoon (last boat leaving between 3 and 4 p.m.) the sea became really rough. One typhoon which was already on the way north, turned around all of a sudden and surprised us in the middle of the sea.

The waves just splashed into the boat but we did not get so much wet but then more so while getting off at the pier in Puerto Galera in heavy pouring rain and into a tricycle and then driving through torrential rivers coming down from the mountains. But we safely arrived at the Tamaraw.
Now the typhoon hits our beach but we are safe on our balcony up here
From our balcony we could see how the waves really came onto the beach and flooded into the restaurant. All the muddy brown water stretching far out into the sea was coming down from the mountains. Fortunately, this was not one of the strongest typhoons, so the damage was not as bad. But still, a lot of work was to be done next day to clean up the mess and repair some damage.
But down there you can already see the damage and next day its time to clean up and rebuild
As I mentioned before, the last couple of weeks we moved into our "maisonette", which had a fully equiped kitchen. Despite the cheap meals in the restaurant, you save even more if you shop and cook yourself.
Now "we" are cooking ourselves and it does also taste better
We also did another and last excursion by boat to one of the islands where we ate our own pre-prepared picnic lunch on a secluded beach.
Another boat trip to a beautiful island and picnic with "my" family on the beach
Ok, that's almost the end of our two months stay at the Tamaraw. I could have written more about the things we have done, which I didn't mention before, like playing badminton and table tennis, seeking beautiful sea shells and nice pebbles, having a massage once in a while, reading books from the library, watching some movies (one DVD with an average of 8 movies for 1.60 Euro), surfing in the Internet (free WiFi in the restaurant), writing emails and "working" on my travel reports.

And there are other things we could have done again: walking along the more than one mile beach to the east, walking up to the Ponderosa Golf & Country Club (opportunity to play golf, too), joining the quiz or barbecue parties at the Yacht Club, running the Hash Harrier Run from Sabang every Sunday, or going to the Hidden Paradise and visiting some indigenous people living in a village (reachable via a hanging bridge), or trips to more beaches south of Puerto Galera.

Beautiful Hidden Paradise is inviting for a swim
and then having a picnic lunch down at the pool before getting some exercises over a hanging bridge
So there are a lot of things which can be done, also to stay much, much longer. You easily can get a visa extension (valid for another 59 days) at the municipality in Puerto Galera, if you don't want to opt for a permanent resident status.

It's just an estimate: if somebody wants to settle down here, the cost of living in a resort and eating in a restaurant is less than 1000 Euro a month for two people. In an efficiency apartment (or studio) it would be even less.

And renting a house (with an annual lease) is the most economical option.

As far as we are concerned, we are not yet up to settling in one place for so long. From Mindoro we went to Samar to stay in Joy's house in the countryside for a while until our next endeavor.

If you want to know more about our village life then just hit Calingnan.

© 2002 by WEW Tours