First chance a schoolmate asked if I want to join him in spending the New Year in Puerto Galera, I readily got swayed being the kaladkarin that I am. I haven’t been to this resort town in Oriental Mindoro before, although I have sailed to the nearby towns of Calapan and Naujan in the past via friends who reside there. It’s a popular destination not only among foreigners but also among gays, and not just seasonal but all-year round, so I have to travel there to find out for myself the reason why.
Less than two hours after my blissful departure from the Batangas pier, I safely reached that strip of paradise in Mindoro Island’s northernmost tip. So this is it, I whispered to myself. From the time of my arrival up to the time I went aboard the motorized boat to return to the port en route to Manila, Puerto Galera seems to me way overrated because it appears like an ordinary fishing village except for the tourist establishments. Let me explain before you fire off unprintables: first, the only saving grace of the sand is its fineness, so it is not comparable to the white sand of the more renowned Boracay. Second, the beach is rocky, so there’s always the danger of swimmers hurting their feet. Third, seashells have become so rare that I got to accumulate a total of three pieces in my four-day stay there.
In fairness to this place so named because this former colonial capital used to be a Spanish galley port, the people are friendly, the lilting cadence of their southern Tagalog reflecting their sweetness. Whether the warmth is a touristy put-on, the trick works wonders because visitors—notably foreigners like the Middle Easterners, Caucasians, East Asians and Blacks—trickle in even at this off-peak season. This is not to mention that due to its proximity to the big city, Puerto Galera is highly accessible.
Secondly, the waterscape and the landscape are incredible. Contrary to my expectation that the exploitation of the place must have led to its pollution, the sea remains emerald-like and clear and the mountains surrounding the clean beach remain lush with trees. I just felt disappointed that it drizzled most of the time, obscuring the sparkling skyscape at night.
Thirdly, accommodation, the food and the local products are relatively cheap. Whereas the isolation of this planet could possibly breed cold-blooded monopolists, rooms are being rented at P700 to P800 at the lowest. Also, prices of vegetable, seafood and meat dishes are not as steep as may be anticipated. The healthful buttered veggie dish, for instance, is pegged at P50, while steamed rice is at P10. Souvenir shirts, meanwhile, are at an affordable range of P100 to P130 at their lowest. Wrist bands and necklaces are tagged P10 apiece, floor price. Everything may undergo price hike, however, during peak seasons like the Holy Week.
And the beach, aside from cruisy, is perfect for contemplation and waxing sentimental. One midnight, while walking topless along the coast purposed at nursing my broken heart, I heard two girls chorus “hi, boy!” The scandalized Eva Fonda had to rush off to a quieter place before transforming into Ploning. Had the girls pursued, Ploning would readily dive underwater to transfigure as Dyosa Agua (fortunately for the aborted galactic apocalypse, they didn’t). If Ploning was waiting for the offshore lover or someone else by the darkened beach lapped upon by foamy waters, I can only surmise. By the way, here are several glimpses of Puerto Galera during New Year’s Eve: before setting foot in White Beach, caucasians reading while sunbathing, the dramatic scene of the land, the sea and the sky, a familiar gay cruising area, a beauconera struts stuff with a stray dog to the tune of miss congeniality's ost "one in a million," and, ahhh, the fireworks display by the beach. happy new year!