I felt a different sensation when my feet landed on the black sands of Aroma Beach in San Jose, Mindoro. It was on these sands where Philippine wartime history was written 66 years ago. On December 15, 1944, 16,500 soldiers, led by the prominent figure Gen. Douglas McArthur, stomped the black sands amidst the bombings that took place on these shores.
San Jose in Occidental Mindoro was one memorable trip and photo assignment for me. To summarize the chronicles, here’s the article I wrote for the June 2009 Issue of Philippine Airline’s Mabuhay Magazine.
Secrets of Mindoro
Text and Photos by Ferdz Decena
The mere mention of Mindoro conjures images of the more popular Puerto Galera and Apo Reef of Sablayan come to most people’s minds. But is there anything beyond these popular places that is worth discovering?
After spending three days in and around San Jose, the gateway to Occidental Mindoro, the answers came to me. Think of discovering unspoiled beaches, serene island retreats, beautiful nature walks, indigenous cultural encounters, and sumptuous food. Imagine a wild encounter with a rare animal found only in Mindoro.
Our last stop for the day after visiting some Buhid Mangyan Villages was the historical town of Mangarin. Just close to the sea and cut through by a river, the town of Mangarin plays a major role in the history of San Jose, Mindoro. Along with Iling Island, Mangarin is one of the oldest settlement in the island.
We ate our packed lunch there at the Tamaraw Gene Pool Center after visiting the captive Tamaraws Kali and Mimi. It was a simple packed lunch which we ate kamotan style (with our barehands) there at the outdoors but it was fun as if we’re just having a picnic. Had a little rest at one of the huts then made our way back towards the city but not without stopping for a visit at a couple of the Buhid Mangyan villages in San Jose.
I enjoyed a night of rest at Villa Paulina Resort and glad I didn’t have to wake up too early on my second day in Mindoro. This time we’re going into the mainland up towards the north western part of San Jose to get up close to see the rare Philippine Tamaraws. The Tamaraws are endangered species of buffalo, scientifically known as bubalis mindorensis. They can only be found in the Philippines and endemic to Mindoro Island. It’s gonna be an exciting day. My service from Villa Paulina drove me early at 7am to another resort, Sikatuna where I’ll have breakfast and meet my companions for this trip.
Island hopping is fun but beach hopping and let alone spending hours on a boat as well can take a toll. One moment I’m looking at those beautiful islands and in seconds I’m looking at the wooden paint patterns on the boat. I think I was bobbing my head up and down getting minutes of those micro-sleeps. While I enjoyed the tour in Ambulong and Ilin Island, I was also yearning to go back to the resort and rest up a little and check up what’s in store at Villa Paulina Gardens and Resort.
Just across Inasakan Beach at Ilin Island is another interesting island called Ambulong. Coming from a local word “bulong” which means “medicine”, the island is known as an “island of healing.” Local tourism are intending to make the island known for its medical tourism. It’s barely one fourth the size of Ilin but it also has its a few villages. For my visit, I was able to explore a couple of places perfect for quiet and soulful retreats.