Philippines: Beyond Puerto Galera - Exploring a different side of Mindoro

Forget about Puerto Galera for the mean time as we talk about a sleepy town ready to wake from slumber on the south west side of Mindoro Island. The town of San Jose, found in Occidental Mindoro is no longer just a transit town to Apo Reef. It is also a jump-off point to serene island retreats, scenic white sand beaches, enthralling nature walks, historical sites, indigenous cultural encounters and home to an endangered species.

Go Island Hopping.
Off the coast of San Jose are three islands each with its own unique character. The blinding white strip of island seen on the horizon from of San Jose is Manadi Island popularly known as the White island. A 15 minute boat ride is all it takes to reach the island. It is also the same amount of time to explore the whole island, that's how small it is. But its coral-crushed sands are home to many turtle eggs waiting to hatch.

The nearby Ilin Island has its share of attractions. At Cansubong Cave Resort, the scenic pathways alongside limestones rocks leading to the Cansubong Cave are so picturesque with splashing sea waves on one side and foliages and huts on the other side. What is truly impressive is that the pathway and structures was hand-built by former San Jose Mayor Ernesto Javarata making the whole resort a labor of his love.
A boat ride through the Ambulong straight down on the westside of Ilin island is a beautiful small stretch of white sand beach called Inasakan Beach. Guarded by towering limestone rocks on each side and a gentle slope of sand under crystal waters, this beach is ideal for a friendly swim.
Cupped like a precious pearl on the south cove of the nearby, Ambulong Island, is the small and enchanting Grace Island. An air of serenity fills the island, with floating huts off shore mildly rocked on the cobalt waters surrounding it and picturesque mangroves dotting the island. The waters are also teeming with marine life for those who enjoy the underwater world.
Get a glimpse of the Endangered Tamaraws. From more than a thousand in numbers ten years ago, the Philippine Tamaraws, scientifically known as Anoa Mindorensi, have recently reduced to an alarming number of 265. This endangered species of a Buffalo found only in the Iglit-Baco mountains of Mindoro dwindled in numbers through a spread of disease from imported cattle, deforestation and poaching. The Tamaraw Conservation Program was established in 1979 to preserve and protect the tamaraws. At the Tamaraw Gene Pool center in Barangay Monte Claro, there are two captive tamaraws where they study their breeding patterns in order to preserve their numbers.

Discover the Rich Mangyan Culture. The original settlers in the island of Mindoro are the Indigenous Mangyans. There are seven Mangyan tribes scattered throughout the island and in San Jose, you can interact with the Hanunuo and Buhid Mangyan tribes.  The Mangyans are generally known to grow rice and root crops, and also for their crafts in creating colorful beads and intricate weaving.  They are also known to have preserved an ancient script descended from Brahmi Indonesia. If you're lucky, you could catch them at one of their villages or the Mangyan Mission House in San Jose, where they can share their crafts with you.
Marvel at the Historic Sites. The root entangled ruins of the Mangarin Watchtower dates back to 14th century when the Chinese would drop anchor in Mangarin, San Jose to trade. It was also used to ward of pirates including the notoriously famous, Limahong. The first modern and biggest sugar mill in South East Asia was also built here in 1910 by Welch and Fargo Sugar Company. The relics of a boiler's large smokestack can be found in Baranggay Central.

Perhaps one of the most significant historical sites in San Jose is McArthur's 2nd Landing Marker at the Aroma Beach. McArthur may have landed first in Leyte but it was in Mindoro where he strategically set his plans in motion. The McGuirre Airdome was one of the three airstrips he built and now serves as the main San Jose Airport
"Mindoro became the key that unlocked the liberation of the Philippines" wrote Jean McArthur (The General's Wife) in a personal letter to San Jose Mindoro. To the People of Mindoro, the Second Landing was an important story needed to be told in Philippines wartime history.

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