Wednesday, February 4, 2009

iPhone Presents the Deserted Coves of Pola, Oriental Mindoro


WITH more than 7,600 islands sprouting all over the Philippine archipelago, you can be sure that there are nameless, deserted patches of isles and stretches of beaches and coves that escape the attention of 90 million Pinoys. One such piece of paradise sits quietly in northeastern Mindoro – a little town of 6,500 households and a population of 35,000. Locals endearingly call it Polacay – an obvious reference and homage to the more popular and ultimately more populous Boracay in Aklan.
Pola is a 4th class municipality in the province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines. It has 23 barangays (counties) and is part of the 1st district of Oriental Mindoro. Its Mayor - Alex Aranas – seems content in the craggy, end-of-the-world atmosphere of this laidback, albeit mosquito-infested corner of the world. Just 2 hours north from the capital of Calapan, Pola thrives on agricultural produce, livestock farming and survives with the bounty of the seas. Despite its affiliation with the country’s 2nd most powerful man – Vice President Noli de Castro, Pola is still mostly untouched by any hint of neither commercialism nor de Castro’s patronage. In fact, the roads from the pier to this municipality are uneven yet serviceable dirt roads.


There are several features that truly stand out from a visit in Pola. One, you can swim all day long in its deserted beaches. Though dark, the fineness of the sand competes with Boracay and Palawan. This is a sand that other legendary beaches are made of. Your feet gradually sink as you stand on them – like standing on jello. Two, you have the whole stretch of the clearest waters all to yourself. There are no pesky gravel and pebbles; no knife-sharp rock formations rising from these waters. And finally, as you head towards town, the warm hospitality of the residents embraces you like the long awaited visitor they’ve long expected.

Forget the frivolities of a congested
Puerto Galera. If you want a true escape from it all, head north and experience the natural beauty at a quiet corner of a beautiful world. Here is how an iPhone photographs Pola.

Wikipedia says:

Mindoro is the seventh-largest island in the Philippines. It is located southwest of Luzon, and northeast of Palawan. In the old days, it has been called by the Spaniards as Mina de Oro (meaning "gold mine") from where the island got its current name. The island was divided into its two present-day provinces, Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro, in 1950. Before then, since 1921, the entire island was one province.

Prehistoric China’s
Sung Dynasty – year 972 – has chronicles of trade with Mindoro, previously called Ma-I (or Mait). These includes as follows: "beeswax, cotton, true pearls, tortoise shell, medicinal betel nuts and jute clothing material" for Chinese porcelain, gold, iron pots, lead, colored glass beads and iron needles.

Economy: agricultural, livestock, fisheries, tourism (Puerto Galera and Sabang Beach)City: Calapan (population: 110,000)Highest point: Mount Halcon (2,582 meters)Province population as of 2000 – 1,062,000
Popular personalities from Pola : Philippine Vice President Noli de Castro and PBB Teen Edition Big Winner, the Franco-Pinoy
Ejay Falcon.

How to get there:

- If you want to take a car with you, you can head straight to the Batangas Pier where you can safely leave your car at the parking lot for the whole duration of your holiday. Of course you have to pay for parking.

- If you want to take the bus from Manila, which seems more convenient, head to the nearest
Jam Bus Stations (Kamuning, Cubao, Quezon City and another in Pasay City). Purchasing a ticket is very convenient. A one-way bus ticket AND your Supercat ride to Calapan City, Mindoro are available at a single counter for only PhP250. Travel from Manila to the Batangas Pier will take somewhere between 2 to 2 ½ hours. (Give Jam’s Pasay Branch a ring – 8310465. You’s be extremely lucky if you’re able to get though. LOL)

- Your Supercat crossing from the Batangas Pier to Mindoro will take 45 to 50 minutes. Return takes an hour – a little longer as per navigating conditions.

- Upon reaching Calapan, you have 2 options. If money is a concern, then hire a tricycle and haggle hard. Ask several before choosing your ride. If however, you are with a group, then it is best to
hire a van – a more comfortable 2-hour ride going to Pola. The more people there are, the van operators won’t nudge on anything below PhP1,800.

- There are inns and small guesthouses in Pola. Just ask around and people will be glad to help you find them.

- Finally, don’t forget to bring your mosquito repellant. Mosquitoes in that part of town are ravenous.

- And yes, although telephone signal
while on the road to Pola is intermittent, signal is good upon reaching Pola. And crime is relatively unheard of. Just be sensible.
Here is a separate feature on Calima, one of the 24 barangays (county) in the municipality of Pola. Photos are generously shared to us by Mr. Michael R. Karklin of Plymouth Massachusetts. -

A partial moon and Venus beaming brightly.

This is the Eye in the Sky.


Anonymous said...

Pola is SOUTH of Calapan (not north). A tike will not be willing to take you to Pola (to far).

There are three ways to get to to Pola. You can take your own vehicle as there are regular ro-ro services from Batangas to Calapan. There are the (FX) vans mentioned in the article from Calapan, and there is an air-condition bus service from Calapan.

The FX vans and buses will only take you to Socorro. From there you will need to hire a trike (or motorcycle if you travel light) to take you to Pola (about 30 minutes). The vtrike price should be about P50 (2012) but expect to pay "white-man tax" of P300 per person.

eye in the sky said...

Am glad am not a "white man" then. Like many towns in Asia, there's always a double standard in transportation rates where visitors/tourists are concerned. :(