Asia Dive News :
Dive Puerto Galera, a short history
THE SPANISH CONQUISTADORES named the big island of Mindoro "Mina de Oro" because gold was abundant in the region. The galleon ships—heavy with merchandise like spices, silk, gold, bee's wax, silver, farm products, manufactured goods from China—passed through here on the way to or coming from Acapulco, Mexico.
There was a lush mountain, Halcon, ancestral home of the 10 tribes of Mangyans, where the tamaraw roamed; a lovely lake at Naujan; and on the west coast, the superb Apo Reef and Pandan Island, with its jungle ambience.
The Spaniards must have been enchanted with the area, as would be the Americans 300 years later.
Referring to the country in general, American author Stanley Karnow in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "In Our Image," wrote:
"Subsequent Spanish settlers, and the Americans who came centuries later, were awed by the beauty of the Philippines.
Their wonderment was not misplaced. The archipelago, one of nature's glories, is indeed a brilliant tapestry of land, sea and sky, fields, forests, mountains, wildlife and peoples—all so dazzling and diverse as to seem unreal."
Then and now, Oriental Mindoro's center of natural beauty was Puerto Galera, with its beaches, coves, superb natural harbor where the Spanish ships took refuge during storms, marine life, corals, scuba diving sites, falls and bay (recently adjudged one of the 10 best in the world).
By the mid-1930s, Puerto Galera had become a marine reserve of the University of the Philippines Zoological Undersea Garden and Marine Biology Laboratory.
Tourism as we know it began in 1979 with the modest Montiel's Nipa Hut, which flourished and soon gave way to other inns and resorts. These grew in number as Puerto Galera's reputation spread, and the coastal town began to attract adventure tourists, scuba divers, foreign backpackers and all sorts of characters.
With substance abuse, sex and pedophilia, Puerto Galera acquired an unsavory image. But that was years ago, and things have improved since then.
Both Action Divers and Dive VIP offer direct airport transfers for dive travelers who prefer to avoid public transportation on arrival in Manila. The first leg of the trip from the airport to Tabangan Pier in Batangas City by private air-conditioned 'limo' takes about two hours. From the pier, it's another 90 minutes or so to cross Verde Island Passage by boat.
Dive VIP offers all-inclusive 'Dive & Stay' packages at its own seaside hotel. Action Divers also offers all-inclusive packages with several local resorts including the Deep Blue Sea Inn, Portofino and Out of the Blue.