While most tourists are familiar with Puerto Galera, on the opposite tip of the province of Oriental Mindoro lies Bulalacao. Roughly 3-4 hours by land from the capital Calapan, the southernmost town remains a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
With a direct roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) Port in town, Bulalacao is linked to Caticlan in Aklan. FastCat, a fleet of modern fastcraft ferries, will also be launching a new route from Bulalacao directly to Coron in Palawan soon.
If you’re looking for a quiet and remote destination to enjoy the beach minus the crowds, Bulalacao will definitely appeal to you. Here are five things you can do there.
1. Go island-hopping
Island-hopping is the main draw in Bulalacao, as the area has the longest coastline of the province. The town facing Bulalacao Bay has lots of hidden coves, beaches, islands, islets and uncrowded dive sites. Tourism here is still fairly new and many spots retain that laid-back charm where visitors can enjoy beaches all to themselves.
Bulalacao boasts of 11 islands and islets, including Aslom Island with its crescent shaped sandbar; Buyayao Island, which contains limestone formations and forest reserves; and Tambaron Island, where visitors can camp out or stay overnight in rustic beach cottages.
2. Tick extreme activities off your bucketlist
Suguicay Island, the most popular of Bulalacao’s islands, is where you can try typical beach activities like kayaking and beach camping. The island has floating cottages and other beach items for rent. The water surrounding the island is abundant with corals, which makes it an ideal destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Suguicay Island is one of the spots you can enjoy a thrilling ride with friends onboard a FlyFish or banana boat and glide in the air via parasails. The activities are managed by Bulalacao Island Adventures (BIA), a tour operator that was formerly based in Boracay before its closure. Other activities such as diving, rock climbing, rappelling, wind surfing and kite surfing are currently being developed in the area.
3. Check-in at By the Sea Hotel
Given the travel time from Manila, it’s best to allot at least three days to enjoy what Bulalacao has to offer. There are a handful of resorts and hotels located along the main highway for those staying overnight. The most convenient option is By the Sea Hotel, a modern two-story establishment located in the Ro-Ro Port area of Sitio Kabangkalan.
The 66-room seaside hotel is fairly new, with all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay, including air-conditioned rooms, private showers, toiletries, towels and TVs. They also have an in-house restaurant, 24-hour front desk, large swimming pool and kiddie pool for relaxing stays. Free WiFi is available in public areas and the hotel has a wide parking area for those with private vehicles.
By the Sea Hotel is a good option for road-trippers who want to bring their own vans, cars, motorcycles or bicycles aboard the ferry. Those traveling by public transportation on the UV Express vans can also easily access the hotel, since it’s just walking distance from the port.
4. Enjoy unique local specialties
One of the best parts of traveling is trying the local dishes. By the Sea's in-house restaurant serves delicious Filipino meals like binakol, a native chicken soup dish served in a coconut shell, and an interesting pizza topped with lamayo, a marinated and semi-dried fish which is a local specialty.
While Puerto Galera is known for the classic Mindoro Sling, Bulalacao has its own signature cocktail called the Bul-Shot. The drink makes use of fresh local ingredients including gin, coconut, calamansi and Blue Curacao to reflect its seaside charm.
Seaweed farming is one of the main sources of livelihood in town, which has resulted in some interesting seaweed food products. Take your pick from Seaweed Canton, Seaweed Crackers and Seaweed Pickles. For those with a sweet tooth, you can even buy delicacies like Seaweed Polvoron and Yema with seaweed bits.
5. Visit the Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement
Though not geographically located in Bulalacao, visitors traveling by land will pass the neighboring town of Mansalay. Famous for its weaving industry and ancient burial grounds, Mansalay is also home to the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe, whose culture is the most preserved of the eight Mangyan tribes of Mindoro.
The Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement, an upland Mangyan community focused on the preservation of the Hanunuo script and language, is worth a visit. In order to preserve their ancient writing system known as Surat Mangyan, the script and language is taught in Mangyan schools.
Skills in traditional handicrafts are also passed on to younger members of the community, who now sell beautiful woodcarved pieces, beaded necklaces, woven products and other souvenirs to visiting tourists.
For a more detailed travel guide, visit the author’s blog at www.traveling-up.com.