Last summer, I spent eight weeks on a series of short trips across Luzon. I called Manila my new home and each week I’d go out to visit particular places near Manila that I’ve always wanted to see but never got the chance before. I guess the reason was because I’ve put them off in favor of more far-flung and exotic destinations. I guess it seemed more appealing to visit Palawan, for example, than to spend some nights in Batangas or Laguna. Since I’ve already crossed out a couple of places in my “Philippine travel wishlist,” the time was ripe to visit a couple of interesting places that most Manilenyos have probably grown tired of by now. On my second week, I visited “Puerto Galera,” known as Manila’s cheaper alternative to Boracay. For me, however, I considered Puerto Galera as my gateway to Mindoro Island.

I teamed up with Darwin on an overnight exploration of Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro. The next day, we joined up with Gael and Marky for the long but worthwhile journey to Apo Island located almost 3-hours off the coast of Occidental Mindoro. It’s such a nice experience to be with other passionate travelers … I’d trade in traveling solo for the chance to travel with friends anytime. While the others went back to Manila after the weekend, I spent a few more days in Batangas. I spent a night in Batangas City and made my way to the historic town of Taal. Before finally getting on the bus back to Manila, I made sure to visit the exquisite old lighthouse in Calatagan, Batangas.

Day 1 – Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

Ferry Ride from Batangas Port to Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

First Glimpse of White Beach in Puerto Galera

Spacious Beachfront of White Beach. The sand is nowhere near as fine or white as Boracay but I loved the backdrop of verdant mountains.

Welcome to Tamaraw Falls :) One of the tallest waterfalls in the Philippines

Tamaraw Falls conveniently located right beside the highway!

Coastline along Puerto Galera town center or poblacion

Gorgeous Sunset at White Beach

Day 2 – Puerto Galera and Batangas City

Still no signs of blue sky on our second day

Passing through Aninuan Beach on our way to the Aninuan Falls

45 minute self-guided trek to Aninuan Falls

The underwhelming but totally refreshing Aninuan Falls

Fresh Coconuts at the (Fallside?)

Last glimpse of White Beach … still no blue sky ;(

Beautiful untouched islets off the coast of Puerto Galera

Another gorgeous sunset at Batangas Port (facing Mindoro Island). We thought there were no direct passenger boats from Puerto Galera to Abra de Ilog (in the occidental/west side of Mindoro) … turns out there was but Me and Darwin found out too late.

Late Evening / Early morning RORO Ferry ride from Batangas Port to Abra de Ilog Occidental Mindoro

Day 3 – Apo Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Suspension Footbridge in Sabalayan town center reminiscent (and I’m using that term very lightly) of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco 

Ready for the long 2-hour pumpboat ride to Apo Island

First glimpse of Apo Island … still no blue skies >:( 

LAMEST snorkeling experience of my life. You basically hang on to the bamboo thinggy, which is attached on the speeding pumpboat. There was no chance of appreciating the gorgeous marine life because the boat ran too fast. Such a disappointment, especially because it took a great deal of effort to visit this tiny far flung island.

Bamboo Bridge cutting through the mangrove forest of Apo Island

Scenic wooden raft ride crossing the swamp lake at the center of Apo Island

The lighthouse, the most recognizable landmark in Apo Island.

Marky, Darwin, and Gael at the viewing platform of Apo Island’s tall lighthouse

The imposing lighthouse viewed from the beachfront

It seems there’s an endless supply of gorgeous sunsets in Mindoro!

Day 4 – Apo Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Finally blue skies!!! So nice to wake up to such a beautiful scene!

Love the dead / dried up tree branches along the beachfront

Crossing the footbridge back in Sablayan. Overpacked much!

View of Mindoro mountainranges from Presing Park in Sablayan Town

Amazing, amazing, amazing sunset view from Sablayan’s Presing Park

Mesmerizing twilight colors of dusk

Day 4 – Travel back to Batangas

Local bus on the “rugged” highway of Occidental Mindoro

The bus wading through the river water. Doesn’t get more rural that this, huh?

Nice countryside views of Mindoro Island during the bus ride

RORO Ferry ride back to Batangas from Abra de Ilog Port, Occidental Mindoro

Day 5 – Batangas City and Taal, Batangas

Batangas City Cathedral

Plaza Mabini in Batangas City

Beautiful opulence of the Batangas Provincial Capitol

Welcome arch to the heritage town of Taal, Batangas

Great view of Taal town plaza and the grand Basilica of St. Martin de Tours

Basilica of St. Martin de Tours in Taal, Batangas is the largest church in the Philippines

Statue of Marcella Agoncillo, the mother of the Philippine Flag

Basilica of St. Martin de Tours Interiors

 Jusi and Piña Cloth Dresses sold at the Taal Public Market

Old Houses around Taal’s Heritage Core:

San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps

Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay

Sunset view from Taal overlooking the town of Lemery, Batangas

My room at Casa Punzalan. “Sleep in an authentic Spanish-colonial heritage house” … done!

Day 6 – Overland Travel to Calatagan, Batangas

Nice view from my room at Casa Punzalan in Taal, Batangas

Lemery Municipal Hall

Calaca Church

A quaint old house in Calaca

Balayan Church

Decorated sculptures at the Gates of Balayan Church

Calatagan Church

Tricycle ride to Calatagan Lighthouse

Walking up to the Old Lighthouse in Calatagan, Batangas

Fulfilled smile at the end of my six day journey across Mindoro and Batangas