Puerto Galera is classified as a FIRST CLASS municipality by the Philippine Department of Interior and Local Government. That means the town is one notch below a CITY.
According to the 2010 CENSUS, the population of Puerto Galera is more than 32,000 spread in 13 barangays (villages).
Puerto Galera is located on the north shore of Mindoro Island, 130 kilometers south of Manila and 14 nautical miles away from Batangas City. It comprises of 12 coastal villages (barangays) and 1 mountain district scattered over an area of 23,247 hectares, bordered on the north by Verde Island, on the south by Baco and Malasimbo mountains, on the southeast by the town of San Teodoro and on the northwest by the province of Occidental Mindoro. Its natural seawall, exciting dive sites, lush mountains and pristine beaches make Puerto Galera one of the Philippines’ top travel destinations.
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Topography – The terrain is rugged with sometimes dense jungle, an irregular coastline with crystal clear waters and white sand beaches, a natural harbor which serves as an all-weather anchorage for all types of sea vessels.
Climate – March to May are hot and dry; rains and typhoons abound from June to October; November to February are pleasantly cool and dry. Peak tourist season is from December up to May.
Accommodation – Numerous, mostly family-run cottages and hotel rooms of all categories are available. The types of accommodation range from simple beach huts, made of bamboo and rattan, to comfortable luxury bungalows with kitchen facilities. Nearly all accommodations are quoted for double occupancy and range from 500 to 1,500 pesos for simple beach huts with porch and from 50 to 120 US dollars for suite rooms in high-end resorts. Discounts are commonly given for extended stays and depend largely on the visitors’ bargaining ability. During the low season, from June to October, rates are about 20 percent lower than quoted above. Beachfront accommodations are generally more expensive than those further inland.
Water – All resorts have running water. However, bottled mineral water (widely available) is recommended for drinking. Mindoro Spring’s bottled mineral water is the preferred choice.
Food – Most resorts have restaurants. Native as well as international cuisine is served in a variety of restaurants, along with a wide selection of fine wines, imported and local spirits. Needless to mention, seafood is the best choice here.
Watersports – The waters around Puerto Galera are rich in corals and manifold marine life. The best diving sites are located around Sabang, Small and Big Lalaguna, and on the north coast of Medio Island. The latter, known to world scientists because of its treasures of botanical and zoological specimens, abounds with thousands of terrestrial and marine plants. Fully-equipped, modern training facilities for all levels of diving are available. At most beaches, there are surfboards, sailing boats, kayaks, jet skis, dive masks, snorkels and fins for rent.
Shopping – Souvenir textiles and RTW are sold in stalls along the pier, in boutiques in Poblacion and by street vendors. Handicraft particularly marble novelties, rattan and coconut products can also be purchased. Fresh fruits and fish can be bought at the public market in Poblacion.
Postal Service – The post office is located in downtown Poblacion. Some beach resorts take care of their guests’ mail for a small charge.
Communications – National and International DDD (Direct Distance Dialling) can be made on numerous call stations using CATSI-PLDT or Globelines telephone. Cell sites abound in Puerto Galera providing maximum coverage and strong signal for subscribers of Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular.
Currency – It is advisable to take a sufficient supply of peso since the exchange rates offered by resorts are usually 10 percent below the rates in Manila. Cash, checks and tickets and other valuables should be deposited with the resort management against a receipt.
Electricity – Since power failures occur frequently many beach resorts and hotels are equipped with electric generators. The voltage is 220 volts
Medical Care – There are several medical centers in Puerto Galera. Serious ailments or injuries should be treated in Batangas City or in Calapan. A list of all the medical clinics and their corresponding emergency phone numbers are provided herein: Municipal Hospital 287-3049, De los Reyes Medical Clinic 287-3260, Metropolitan Doctors Clinic 287-3156 and Puerto Galera Urgent Care Center 0927-4655946.
Puerto Galera was founded in 1574 by Spanish Conquistadores as the original capital of the island of Mindoro. It was the seat of the Spanish provincial government known as the Corregimiento. Originally, the town was located at Lagundian (Minolo), a small sitio (district), which was chosen owing to its excellent harbor and natural beauty. However, frequent raids by Moro pirates, forced the Spaniards to relocate the town to present-day Poblacion.
The Spaniards called the town “Puerto de Galera” which means “Port of the Galleys” in English. Spanish galleons, galleys and Chinese junks usually took refuge inside Puerto Galera Bay especially during stormy weather.
The Spaniards built Several guardhouses and watch towers at the top of surrounding mountains, the biggest of which was constructed at Dampalitan Point, north of the town facing Batangas channel. A wharf was built at Muelle Bay. Adjacent to this, stood a warehouse for rice which caught fire one night. The burned grains of rice was preserved by sea water and to this day, remain scattered along the shores of Muelle Bay creating a local myth known as “the black rice of Muelle.”
In 1837, the seat of government was transferred to Calapan due to its suitable and wide agricultural plains. Only the missionaries remained in Puerto Galera. A “Capitan Del Pueblo” was appointed by the Provincial Governor to collect the tributes or taxes from the people and to maintain peace and order. Among the first the town leaders were Jose Salamat, Juan Quinto, Aguido Cobarrubias and Hilarion Axalan.
Guarding the coasts of Puerto Galera was a Spanish warship, named “Cañonero Mariveles”. However, on November 18, 1879 the ship was sunk by a powerful storm outside the west coast of Muelle. As a tribute to the lost ship and its crew, a wooden cross was erected right at the center of Muelle with the following inscription: “Ultima tierra que pesaron los tripolantes del Cañonero Mariveles el 18 de Noviembre de 1879, memoria de sus companero”.
Revolutionaries from Puerto Galera participated in the overthrow of the Spanish government in Mindoro in 1898 under the leadership of the brothers Miguel and Estanislao Cobarrubias.
At the time when the rebels was about to overthrown the Spanish government, the Americans came and wrest control of the archipelago. The Americans appointed Captain Robert Offley as the Military Governor.
On November 2, 1902, Puerto Galera was again made the capital of the entire province and then a year later, under Act No. 500 of the Philippines Commission, it was annexed to Calapan in 1905. Don Hilarion Axalan represented Puerto Galera in the Calapan town council.
In 1919, under Act No. 2324, it was made into a municipal district with Isidro Suzara as “Municipal President”. On February 21, 1928, under Act No. 3415, it was organized into an independent municipality with Anacleto Atienza as its first Municipal President. Estanislao Cobarrubias, Sr. was the last Municipal President of the Colonial Government and the first municipal mayor of the Philippine Commonwealth.
On February 27, 1942, the town was occupied by the Japanese air force and naval auxilliary. Leoncio Axalan, who was supposed to end his term as mayor in 1942, was made to extend his term until 1946. He fought the Japanese and led the underground guerrilla movement while running the affairs of the local government.
After the liberation in 1946, Governor Arturo Ignacio appointed Rafael Garcia as the municipal mayor of Puerto Galera. In 1948, Estanislao Brucal, an officer of the guerrilla unit in Mindoro during the Japanese occupation, became the first elected municipal mayor of Puerto Galera under the Philippine Republic.
On December 26, 1973, PD 354 was issued by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos making Puerto Galera a reservation area under the Man and Biosphere Program of the UNESCO.
Puerto Galera Today
Puerto Galera is is considered one of the most beautiful and developed beach resort community in the country today. Starting from “backyard tourism” wherein local residents accept local and foreign tourist as stay-in guest, tourism in Puerto Galera has flourished. In the course of time, several hotels, resorts, inns and restaurants have mushroomed within the area.
Upon arrival in Puerto Galera, visitors board any of the waiting bancas that ferry passengers across the surrounding waters and into the various resorts dotting the coastline. Jeepneys to the inland hamlets of Sabang, Small and Big La Laguna, White Beach and Talipanan Point likewise traverse hilly, tree-lined routes that offer a sweeping view of the island’s less aquatic, but equally tropical side.
There are a thousand things one can do in Puerto Galera. Landlubbers can pitch tents, light bonfires, play volleyball, toss a Frisbee, go beach-hopping, watch the sunset, gaze at the stars, hike, go rock climbing, carom off on a motorcycle, discover Oriental Mindoro’s other tourist spots or simply live it up.
But water is certainly the main attraction of the island. Crystal-clear and shimmering especially during the hot summer months, the sea framing Puerto Galera is ideal for swimming, sailing, surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. In fact one doesn’t have to go by boat to get to a dive site. Within a kilometer from the coast, schools of Moorish idols, trumpet fish, frog fish, lion fish and leaf fish weave in and out of thriving corals and sea anemones while species of starfish – from the speckled red-and-white to the neon-blue Pacific-rest on the sandy floor.
Gradually sloping beaches – with the terrain ranging from powder white sand to grainy dark sand to smooth stones to rough coral rubble – comprise a large chunk of the island’s 23,247 hectares. And while the Tourism Office last count pegs the number of resorts at 150, pockets of isolated and virtually “resort-less” coves and beaches that are tucked between massive rock formations.
Outside of minor glitches, Puerto Galera is a tropical paradise that is both rustic and thriving. By day it echoes with the soft breeze and the pounding waves. At night, it comes to life with heady laughter and the clink of wine and glasses, only to segue one again to the barest whisper of the elements.