The Philippine Island of Mindoro has a virtually impassable mountain range bisecting it into part tropical paradise and part provincial back water. Fortunately, we were staying at the former at the Infinity Hotel and whilst we there to relax, we had a couple of excursions.
TRIBAL VILLAGE – we visited the Iraya-Mangyan village, directly opposite our hotel who arranged the visit and took us there by golf buggy. One of the village elders showed us around and we saw girls embroidering brightly coloured shoulder bags and women sat on the floor in a huge, covered shed weaving baskets. Next door was a display of finished goods, which were destined to fill orders both home and abroad. There was a long, row of small stalls all selling the same woven platters, tiny boxes, baskets etc. and we bought a couple of items for out study, but it was hard to know which to choose from.
The village, with its 250 families, has support from the Ayala Foundation and is well organised. The wooden, reed and bamboo houses have a ground floor living area and to the side a raised area for sleeping. Good concrete paths linked the homes and we learned they build ten new houses each year. There was a locked computer ‘room’, basket-ball court and school with feeding programme for the malnourished children who get a meal of rice with chicken or fish for 1 Peso a day. One of the teachers proffered what I thought was a visitors’ book until I reached the column headed ‘donation’. Others had given 1000 Peso/£16.60, so we stumped up but then felt we had carte blanche to take as many photos as we wanted.
TALIPANAN WATERFALLS – An official tourist guide took us back to the village and introduced us to a local guide. He was young, agile and very sure footed in his flip flops: we are old, stiff and trailed slowly behind in our rubber sandals. What was said to be a 30-minute trek from the village, took us much lot longer as it was rocky and narrow in places and we were pleased to have our trekking poles. We carefully crossed the river using stepping stones careful not to get our feet wet: however, this later became irrelevant! Having passed one set of falls, we reached what we thought were the main falls, so perched on a rock, dangled our feet in the cold reviving water and after a suitable break, got up to head back. We then discovered we had the hardest, rockiest section still to climb until we hit the highest point where the fall was 25-foot. The day was cloudy, and although shaded by tall trees it was incredibly humid, we were to put it mildly, sweating like pigs. On the return journey I let Roy carry my camera which he put in his back pack. This was a wise move as I slipped on a steep rock and into a pool of water which came up to my waist. It was a soggy walk back to the hotel where having divested my wet clothes, I jumped immediately into the swimming pool
PUETRO GALERA – The main town, Puerto Galera was a 25-minute tricycle ride away (200 Peso/£3.30) and what fun the ride was. The tricycles are motorbikes with a type of covered sidecar which you can just about squeeze two big western bums in side by side. On arrival, PG wasn’t as big as we’d imagined and a short walk took us to the harbour with lots of boats, small ferries and queues of people waiting for the next sailing. Having turned down constant offers of trips and walked down through a tourist market, we found a small bar for a pre-lunch drink and enjoyed watching people and two little boys fishing.
At Robby’s Cafeteria, we selected seats on a balcony overlooking the road. The menu was an Italian fest and eventually we chose tuna carpaccio to share, a 12-inch pizza Romana and gnocchi bolognaise. Just as we were expecting our mains, we were told there was no gnocchi and so we chose lasagne instead. Consequently, the two dishes didn’t arrive together, so we just shared both. As we were waiting for the bill, the waitress introduced some local students who were wanting foreigners to complete a survey which we said we were happy to do. We sheepishly completed the form whilst finishing our wine – it was about alcohol consumption and its effects.