Oriental Mindoro Province is located in the island of Mindoro under MIMAROPA region in Luzon, about 140 kilometers southwest of Manila. The province is bordered by the Verde Island Passage and the rest of Batangas to the north, by Marinduque, Maestro del Ocampo Island, Tablas Strait and the rest of Romblon to the east, by Semirara and the rest of Caluya Islands, Antique to the south, and by Occidental Mindoro to the west. Calapan City, the only city in the island, is the provincial capital. The province is touted as the country’s emerging eco-tourism destination. Most of the endemic species in the Philippines are found in the Verde Island Passage between Mindoro and the main island of Luzon.
Oriental Mindoro evokes images of a genuine tropical paradise with its white sand, crystal clear water, lush green forests covering majestic mountains and splendid waterfalls. Puerto Galera is known for its lovely white sand beaches and its exquisite dive sites with a biodiversity of marine life in and around the coral reefs. The province is also perfect for bird watching activities of local and migratory species, and is home to mammals like the Tamaraw, an endemic straight-horned water buffalo.
The western portion of the province is mountainous or rugged, while hills and flood plains are widely distributed in the eastern portion. Lake Naujan, the fifth largest lake in the country with an area of approximately 8,125 hectares of open water, is located in the northeastern part of the province.
Oriental Mindoro’s rich and arable land is suitable for agriculture. It is producing large quantities of rice, corn, coconut, vegetables and fruits like calamansi, banana, rambutan, marang, lanzones and durian. For that, Oriental Mindoro is known as the Rice Granary of Southern Tagalog and it is still the Banana King and Calamansi King of the region.
Oriental Mindoro is the most populous province in the region. The province is largely rural, with 70% of the population engaged in agriculture and fishing, with only 30% living in urban areas. Tagalong is the language widely spoken in the province. Other languages spoken are Ilocano and Cebuano. Mangyans are also the indigenous people of the province and their dialects are Arayan, Alagnan, Buhid, Hanunoo and Tadyawan. Oriental Mindoro has no distinct wet or dry season but experiences maximum rainfall during the months of June to October.
In pre-Hispanic times, Puerto Galera was a bustling port as early as the 10th century, hosting. Chinese junks and traders from India, Java and Sumatra. Early Chinese manuscripts mentioned that in 982 AD, certain traders from Ma-it (the present Mindoro) traded valuable merchandise to Canton.
In 1574, the Spaniards established town of Puerto Galera and in the early 17th century, after Mindoro was separated from Bonbon (now Batangas) and became a corregimiento, it was declared the capital of Mindoro. Brgy. San Isidro was the original capital site, but Moro raids forced a move to the current poblacion. The capital was moved to Calapan in 1837. On May 22, 1897, during the revolution, Juan Naguit led a bloody uprising, capturing the old Spanish fort at Sukol (now Bongabong).
Calapan was besieged from June 1 up to the 30th when 1,000 men under Col. Alfonso Panopio of Bauan affected the surrender of Spanish Gov. Rafael Morales.
Mindoro was liberated on July 21, 1898 by Filipino forces led by Macario Adriatico. On April 1901, during the Philippine-American War, Lt.-Col. Ramon Atienza of Batangas was made revolutionary governor and commander of the Mindoro Forces.
On July 23, an American expeditionary force was sent to Calapan to free U.S. prisoners of war. On July 27, another 800-man expedition on four gunboats led by Maj. R.K. Evans anchored at Calapan Bay. The town surrendered on August 1.
Atienza was captured on September 23 and the whole of Mindoro was pacified on May 1902. On June 23, 1902, Mindoro was annexed to Marinduque by virtue of Philippine Legislative Act No. 432. It became a regular province on February 20, 1921 by virtue of Philippine Legislative Act No. 2964. On February 7, 1942, during World War II, the Japanese under Kendo Susuki landed in Sitio Kapihan, Brgy. Silonay in Calapan. Two guerilla groups operated in the area: one under Capt. Esteban Beloncio and another under Maj. Ramon Ruffy (provincial commander of the 1st Mindoro PC Company). American forces liberated Calapan on January 23, 1945. On June 13, 1950, Mindoro was divided into two provinces by virtue of Republic Act No. 205. On November 15, 1994, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake left 100 people dead from landslides and tsunamis that hit Calapan.
The province’s foremost asset is Puerto Galera, blessed with one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbors. Known as the Pearl of Mindoro, it is world-famous for splendid beaches, coral reefs, and exquisite dive sites for new and experienced divers alike. There are shallow coral gardens, interesting rock formations, and colorful species to watch, like crabs, shrimps, sea anemones, moray, and trumpet fishes.
Alibatan Island in Baco, noted for its white sand, serves as a breeding place for seagulls and turtles. Corals and oysters can be found all around the area. Also in Baco is Mt. Halcon, the country’s third highest peak and a favorite destination for nature tripping and mountain climbing. In Puerto Galera, 423-foot Tamaraw Falls is a series of asymmetrical falls, leading to a grand fall, dropping to the frothy waterbed below. Another attraction within the area is Sabang Beach, a portion of which is tourist-flocked for water sports and a cluster of nightspots popular for evening socials. Beside Sabang Beach is Small La Laguna, with amazingly beautiful coral reefs, and water ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Indulge in a number of special interest tours while in the province, from mountain climbing to trekking, hiking, camping, butterfly watching, game fishing, and adventure trips to the wilderness. Enjoy active water sports such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming. Visit the Mangyan settlement areas, and find it rewarding to engage in natural cave and waterfall exploration and island hopping.”
Mountain climbing, trekking, camping, caving, bird watching, island exploration, adventure trips, windsurfing, scuba diving, scuba macro photography, snorkeling, keelboat and dinghy sailing are among the exciting recreational activities possible in the province. With its largely unspoiled natural beauty, Oriental Mindoro has much to offer in terms of tourism and other economic opportunities.
Visiting Oriental Mindoro does not entail memorizing bits of conventional lines in dialects spoken other than Tagalog, which serves as the predominant dialect. Other dialects spoken are Ilocano and Cebuano. Strains of the Mangyan dialect spoken are Arayan, Alagnan, Buhid, Hunuo, and Tadyawan. The working population can read and speak Filipino and English.
The Tagalogs comprise the majority of the people living in Oriental Mindoro. Many are descendants of migrants and most of the people can trace their lineage from the provinces of Batangas and Quezon. In the interior of the island live the cultural communities known collectively as the Mangyans.
There are about seven major groups into which the Mangyans are divided, and there are further sub-groups among them. The Mangyans are basically subsistence farmers living in small family-based communities at the head of rivers and streams. They are shifting agriculturists who move out of an exhausted patch of forest to clear a new patch of land. The Mangyans, in general, are docile and are predisposed to move on rather than come into conflict with lowlanders.
Although simple in manner of dressing and in their material culture, the Mangyans reserve the distinction of retaining the use of pre-colonial script of Indic origin. This syllabary uses 48 characters. This is true among the Hanunoo and the Buhids. They write their poetry in this script, on bamboo slivers, carabao horns and wood using knives and stylus to make shallow grooves.
The poetry written using the script are known as ambahan and urukay. The ambahan are rhyming love songs in riddle form that are used in courtship. Urukay are words of wisdom and folkloric records sung by elders. The singing and chanting are accompanied by guitars, fiddles, flutes or jew’s harps.
Calapan celebrates the Sanduguan to commemorate the earliest contact between the people of Mindoro and Chinese merchants. The festival is a reenactment of the historical encounter and participants dress as 12th century Chinese merchants or as ancient Filipinos and form into camps. The camps meet at the beach and reaffirm the ties, which bind them in peace. Sanduguan comes from the word “sandugo” which literally means ‘of one blood’ or brother.
Oriental Mindoro can be reached through land and sea transport. From Manila, take the Batangas-Laguna-Tayabas (BLTB), Tritran, and other Batangas-bound buses to the Batangas City pier. From there, take the super ferry boats bound for Calapan, which has several trips per day, or those bound for Puerto Galera. A roll-on-roll-off (RO-RO) ferry is convenient for those wishing to take their private vehicles.
In Mindoro Oriental, a number of jeepneys ply the capital from the neighboring towns and to the interior. Due to ongoing infrastructure development projects all over the province, access from the capital to some outgoing municipalities is difficult.