With its swaying palm trees, ruggedly forested topography, and a long stretch of white sandy beaches, the group of islands in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro is everything you would hope for in an untainted tropical heaven. And, like paradise, it is difficult to reach – about 8-10 hours of combined land and sea travel from Metro Manila.
Located in the southernmost tip of Oriental Mindoro, Bulalacao’s blessed with unspoiled beaches, gorgeous landscape,
and cheap dilis. Its close proximity to the island of Panay in the Visayas explains the blended ethnicity of its inhabitants. As such, both Tagalog and Bisaya are widely spoken in the area. Bulalacao is also home to one of the biggest subtribes of ethnic Mangyans, the Hanunuos, occupying a portion of the town’s mountainous slopes.
Most travelers have never heard of this place – and that’s good news. At least, for the moment, few people who have knowledge of its existence can revel in the blessedly quiet islands of this unappreciated gem.
Tambaron Island, being the most developed, stands out among the 13 outlying islands dotting the Bulalacao Bay. Its beaches, nestled in coves, provide gentle waters perfect for swimming and other aquatic activities. Snorkelers will likewise enjoy the diversity of marine life this island prides itself with. Within 10 meters from the shore are colorful coral gardens teeming with vibrant reef fish and an assortment of sea grass. After getting your beach fix, you can laze around in one of the hammocks with a bestseller – or get entranced by the rustle of palm fronds until you
(prick your finger on a spindle of a spinning wheel and) fall into a death-like sleep. A sleep from which you will never awaken! Ha!
About an hour away to the south lies the unfrequented Alibatan Island. More commonly known as Target Island, this piece of land was used by the American soldiers for their bombing practices during the 2nd World War giving the island a mix of huge rocks and a coral-sand beach. A concrete walkway outlining the entire island has been constructed by the rumored British owner. This walkway leads to the center, a natural lake occupying almost half a hectare of the property. To be honest, Target Island, with its strong winds and intense waves, is not your ideal swimming beach. But for kite and windsurfing enthusiasts, it might as well be paradise!
If this were a beauty pageant, our last destination that afternoon would be in the running for the Miss Congeniality recognition! With calmer waves and finer, cream-colored sand than the nearby Target Island, Aslom Islet has been a venerable favorite among local tourists. Also adding to its appeal is an angled sandbar that stretches about 100 meters from the shore. Most visitors come here to catch the early morning sunshine and to enjoy a picnic food fest. But whatever beach activity you prefer, Aslom will never fall short of your expectations.
An entire day would not be enough to fully explore Bulalacao’s 13 island destinations. Unless you’re an orca, I see no reason why you should even consider making such an attempt. For a place as charming and as quiet as this one, a return trip is imperative.
And as the weakening daylight illuminated the unruffled waters, I couldn’t help but beam at the thought of finding my laidback barefoot sanctuary.
How to get there:
- From Metro Manila, take any Batangas Pier-bound bus or vans (in Cubao, Pasay, or Alabang).
- Choose from a selection of fastcrafts (fastest), RORO (roll-on, roll-off) ships, or catamaran vessels bound for CALAPAN CITY once you’re in Batangas Pier.
- Upon arrival in Calapan Pier, take a Bulalacao-bound bus or van.
- Enjoy the rest of your 3-4 hour butt-numbing journey to the town of Bulalacao.
- In Bulalacao, charter an outrigger boat from Sitio Aplaya. The rate for island hopping as of posting is 2,000-3,500 depending on the boat’s capacity (and your haggling skills).
- Alternatively, you can fly to San Jose in Occidental Mindoro. From the airport, Bulalacao is an easy 1-hour van ride.
- From Caticlan Jetty Port in Aklan, a 2 ½ hour-boat ride via FastCat will take you to Bulalacao.
- Fastest way to get there? Find an orca! :p