The dreaded Day 3 soon dawned upon us, the long (210 kms.) haul, with Charlie again at the wheel, from San Jose down south the previously mentioned horrendous stretch, then up north to the Mindoro Oriental border and on to Calapan City, the provincial capitol and the island’s only city. We hoped to make it in time to meet with city officials. After a short, early morning visit to San Jose’s Caminawit Port and 6 kms. of concrete road out of the town, the road soon returned to gravel up to Magsaysay town.
This was heaven to what awaited us: a “short” 35-km. uphill/downhill stretch along one of the worst “roads” I have ever seen, still tossing about, even in a car with good suspensions. We never encountered any car, only motorbikes and an occasional bus. The bad road condition was tempered by beautiful mountain scenery untouched by “progress” (brought about by good roads). Upon entering Bulalacao, the road soon hugged the coast opening, before us, a panoramic, offshore scenery of beautiful islands along Bulalacao Bay. Upon reaching a gas station, we had our dusty car washed, thinking that the road ahead would be better. How wrong we were! Although the worst was behind us, it was still gravel all the way to Mansalay and Roxas, again coating our newly-washed car with dust.
We arrived at Roxas town’s Danggay Port by noon, taking our lunch at a small eatery, part of the time watching people and cars unloading from a slow ferry at the RORO pier, the gateway to the white sand beaches of Boracay Island (a 5 to 6-hr. boat ride away), the country’s No. 1 tourist destination. The road from hereon to Calapan City was paved, partly concrete and mostly new and ancient asphalt (with occasional potholes). It was still a long, nearly 100-km. drive to the city but, from now on, it was all smooth sailing. Still, we were in a rush.
However, old habits die hard and the tourist in us egged us to veer into a narrow dirt road, hoping to get a better view of the 79-sq. km. freshwater Lake Naujan, the largest (covering the towns of Naujan, Pola and Victoria) in the province and fifth largest in the country. Ideal for birdwatching (it supports a large number of ducks and other waterfowl), the lake’s rich fauna also includes the country’s two crocodile species: the highly endangered Mindoro freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) and the estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). However, no matter how far we went, no good vantage point was in sight so I decided to leave the car, go by foot up a hill and there, get a good shot.
|Calapan City Hall|
We finally reached Calapan City by 4 PM and got to meet with city officials at their stunningly new, white-painted and 2-storey high City Hall, built in the Neo-Classical style of architecture. Calapan has changed much since my last visit and the city is now booming, with new hotels sprouting up. One such, the Calapan Bay Hotel, where we stayed overnight, is worthy of note. Aside from its 12 beautiful airconditioned rooms with bath and cable TV (standard and superior), its appeal lies in its porch-like, multi-cuisine coffee shop (Café Angela) facing the sea. Here, one savors not only the good food but also the all-embracing whiff of the cool sea breeze. Too bad it was just an overnight stay. I would have enjoyed a longer stay. Just the same, we still had to proceed to Puerto Galera, our final destination and debarkation point back to Manila.