36 hour beach break: Manila – Sabang (Mindoro island)

On Friday 1 February, I received a forwarded email from Simon.  One of his colleagues was suggesting a one-night getaway to ‘Puerto Galera’ on Mindoro Island (the island immediately south of Luzon, where Manila is).  It was rather serendipitous as we’d been planning to get out of Manila in one way or another that weekend.

I say ‘Puerto Galera’ because whilst this is a place in its own right on Mindoro, it is also the name used generically to describe the areas of Sabang, White Beach and Puerto Galera itself on Mindoro.  We were going to Sabang.

To get to Sabang, you need to:

  1. Catch a bus from the bus station at Buendia MRT station in Manila to Batangas Port.  This takes about 2 hours and costs ₱167.
  2. From Batangas Port, jump onboard a Bangka to Sabang.  This takes about 1.5 hours and costs ₱300.  When you get off the bus, follow the crowds towards the port building and soon enough someone will have helped you buy a ticket.  Beware – they will, of course, ask for a tip for their services!  You can do it on your own, just look for the ticket booth with your destination on it.

So at 7am on Saturday we met Simon’s colleagues George & Daniela to ride a taxi to Buendia MRT station to catch the bus.  By about 1pm we had checked into our hotel and were wandering along the beach to find a spot for some lunch.

When you write it down like that, it seems like a long time to travel to be somewhere for only 24 hours.  But somehow it didn’t seem that bad at all.  The journey was a great experience and it was worth every hour to swim in the crystal clear waters around Sabang.

As soon as the bus is almost full, various vendors come aboard to peddle their wares.  You could buy newspapers, drinks and snacks before we’d left Manila.  As we meandered through a town called Lipa, en-route to Batangas, we encountered vendors selling snack bags of 3 hardboiled eggs complete with a salt sachet, buko (young coconut) pies, peanut brittle and peanuts fried with garlic.  On the way home, one vendor was even selling hamburgers!

After a short wait in Batangas Port (where, of course, there was more food on offer.  Simon ended up with a pizza slice, George with a multi-pack of Skyline crackers) we boarded our brightly coloured Bangka to take us to Sabang.  As I often find at the start of the journey, everyone was in felicitous spirits (can you tell I’m reading a Jane Austen novel?) and full of optimism.  That was until we hit the open sea and the ride became a bit bumpier, and a lot wetter.  Poor Daniela was soaked through by the time we reached Sabang.  After being soaked about 3 times whilst sitting at the side of the boat, she moved into the middle.  Even there, she wasn’t safe from the waves.  The boats are open-sided, and although the crew did try to cover the sides with plastic curtains, they didn’t completely waterproof the inside of the boat.  Still, with the prospect of some beach time, she didn’t mind too much.

Our hotel, Red Sun Resort, was a short walk along the beach from where we docked.  We were on the ground floor with lovely views out to the clear blue sea.  Simon and I were delighted to have a full double sized bed, which didn’t feel like a waterbed every time one of us moved in the night.  We didn’t even mind the rather odd arrangement of the toilet in the shower cubicle and no bathroom door, other than the clear glass shower door.

It was on this trip that I tried Filipino food for the first time.  I am a bit ashamed to say, that after almost 4 weeks in the Philippines, I had not yet tasted the food!  For lunch I had chicken adobo which is a stew of chicken previously soaked in vinegar and soya sauce.  Other than being a bit salty, it was delicious.  For dinner that night I had beef caldereta, a stew of beef, onions and peppers.  Also salty (makes a change from sweet) and delicious.

We spent Saturday afternoon lounging on the beach, with the odd dip in the lovely sea.  The beaches were strewn with coral, providing further evidence to The Philippines’ reputation as a world-class dive destination.  Although, that would mean that there would need to be some coral left in the sea too.  Which I’m sure there is.

On Sunday the weather didn’t start well.  We’d planned on hiring a bangka to take us to nearby beaches, but as the rain came down we decided to have a leisurely breakfast instead.  The rain did clear, but we opted to go on a walk up behind Sabang instead of getting on a boat.  We were rewarded with fantastic views and we stumbled upon the lovely Coco Beach resort.

See more photos from our time in Sabang.

All too soon it was time to reverse our journey home.  Certainly a great, very do-able, weekend break from Manila.  Where will it be next weekend?  Lake Taal perhaps?

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