There’s more to Oriental Mindoro than the famed white beach of Puerto Galera. At the southern tip of the province is the municipality of Bulalacao. A place locals used to fondly call “Bula-layo” (layo means far) due to its remoteness from the rest of the towns in the province. It was a time when the roads were rough and people had to bear almost a day’s travel to get to Bulalacao. Now with paved roads, sea ports and nearby airport, Bulalacao opened up a set of islands and beaches sans the tourist crowd. A place still with provincial feel, less commercial and genuinely laid back good time.
Road to Bulalacao
There are several options to reach Bulalacao (see essential info below) but for this trip, we took a land + ferry option. A popular option even for our local guide, Angel as it is cost efficient and comfortable. Hopping on a Jam bus at Buendia-Taft, we arrived at the Batangas Port in about an hour. We rode a FastCat Ferry to Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro. Once we reached Calapan, we had a briefing, courtesy call and lunch at the provincial Capitol. From here, it was a 176km long drive that usually takes 3-4 hours. But since we had a videoke equipped coaster, we sang our way towards Bulalacao.
Island Hopping Bulalacao
We stayed overnight at By The Sea hotel in Bulalacao, conveniently located near the Roro Port so we were able to start early. Island hopping and water sports are the main activities in Bulalacao. There are nine major islands in Bulalacao. Since tourism development here is fairly new, some of these islands are private property but visitors are allowed access with permission.
The first island we visited is Target Island also known as Alibatan Island. A 5 hectare island with a white beach, a lake in the middle of the island and foot paths around the island. There are interesting rock formations on the rougher side of the island. Waters were clear with corals seen below. A few living facility were built on one of the limestones. It was called target island as it was used as bombing practice area during World War II.
Next stop was the 12 hectare large Aslom Islet distinguished by its long 500-meter sandbar. Much of the tree-covered main part of the island is privately owned but the sandbar can be enjoyed by visitors. Aslom came from the Cebuano word “aslom” which means sour since the island has abundant sampaloc trees known for its sour fruit. There’s excellent snorkeling here as I’ve heard but wasn’t able to try.
The mountainous 160-hectare Tambaron Island is one of the most visitor friendly with beach cottages readily available to visitors. Water is available, snacks and even a videoke machine if singing is your thing. The beach also looks nice and I heard excellent snorkeling too. But the place was just too conducive to relax. There were interesting art panels. Hammocks were too inviting to resist. Not to mention the friendly dogs in the area.
Last island we visited for the day is Suguicay Island. About 12km from main town, it’s one of the more popular island in Bulalacao for picnics, beach bumming and water sports. This oblong shaped island with mangroves on one side and topped with coconut trees is home to Bulalacao Island Adventures (BIA). Used to operate solely in Boracay, they moved their operations here while the popular island was closed for rehabilitation. Things went well and reception was good and they decided to continue operations here. We were able to try the banana boat, fly fish and parasailing here. Lots of fun!
Going to Suguicay Island, we had to go through Bankal Port. The port is quite a scenery by itself. A vast mangrove forest and the longest footbridge I have probably walked on. Flying my drone from the stilt cottage at the end of the pier, I managed to approximate the distance at least 300 meters from the shore. We rode a boat here to take us to Suguicay Island and back.
Other Islands and Attractions
Due to time constraints and weather, we weren’t able to visit other islands. Next time I hope to visit Buyayao Island and it’s expansive 206-hectare forest reserve and lovely beach. The Pocanil Rock Formation in Brgy San Roque is being developed by BIA as potential site for rock climbing, rapelling and spelunking. Something to look forward to in the future.
There’s a lot to be excited in Bulalacao. Aside from the island hopping, Bulalacao is being geared as a gateway around MIMAROPA and even Boracay due to its close proximity. Now its possible to to a land + ferry travel to these places. But for now here are the options to go to Bulalacao:
How to get to Bulalacao
By Air: The nearest airport to Bulalaco is San Jose Airport in Occidental Mindoro. Both Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines have flight from Manila and Clark to San Jose Airport. Flight time is 45 minutes. From the airport, there are vans to Roxas, Oriental Mindoro passing through Bulalacao. Travel time is 1.5 to 2 hours.
By Land + Ferry: From Manila, ride any bus heading to Batangas Port (+6343 723.1701). There are buses from Cubao, Pasay and Buendia like JAM, Philtranco, Ceres, RORO and Alps Travel time is 2.5 to 3 hours. Fare is less than P200.
Ride a ferry to Calapan. For this trip, we took the faster and newer FastCat. Fare is P290 and travel time is 1.5 hours. For more info on schedule and rates, visit www.fastcat.com.ph.
From Calapan town proper, there are vans heading to Bulalacao. travel time is 3-4 hours. Fare is P250.
There are also buses going directly to Bulalacao. In Alabang, there is DimpleStar. From Cubao, Ceres and Alps travel directly to Bulalacao. Fare is P700-800.
For Island Hopping Tours
Accredited Tour Guide Association
Bulalacao Tours Association (BulTourA)
Agnes F. Sabulao, President
Contact: 0946-5413588 / 0927-1678995
Bulalacao Island Adventure
For water sports adventure and other activities in Suguicay Island, best to contact BIA General Mgr, Ryan at 0917.773.2700
- Parasailing: Php 900 per person (minimum of 2) if solo flyer – Php 1,300
- Fly Fish: Php 500 per person (minimum of 3)
- Banana Boat; Php 250 per person (minimum of 5)
- Floating Cottage Rent: P700 whole day, P100 per hour
- Life vest: P30/day
- Cottage Rent: P500/day, P1000 (with generator) overnight
- Kayak: P100/hour
- Goggles – P100/day
- Videoke: P1000 (with generator)
- Tent: P500 (with free 1 set of beddings)
- Lodging House (2 rooms only): P2,000/room (maximum of 10 persons); Accommodation P200 per person
- Additional Fee for Generator: P500 (6:00 pm – 6:00 am)
Where to Stay
For this trip, we stayed at By The Sea Hotel. A fairly new hotel at Sitio Kabangkalan near the Roro Port owned by the same company as FastCat Ferry. The two-story hotel has 66 container-type assembled rooms, a pool, 24-hour front desk service. Rooms are airconditioned with TV, toiletries, and private shower. Shower room’s kinda weird though with a pullout shower from the tub.
- Premier Room (A/C) – Php 2,999.15
- Superior Room (A/C) – Php 1,557.90
- Superior Twin (A/C) – Php 1,557.90
- Deluxe Room (A/C) – Php 1,069.90
- Standard (Fan Room) – Php 696.15
- Dormitory (Fan Room) – Php 350.15
All rooms include complimentary breakfast except for the Dormitory Room.
By the Sea Hotel
Address: Roro Port Area Sitio Kabangkalan Brgy. Poblacion, Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.