Puerto Galera was founded in 1574 as the original capital of Mindoro; Calapan is now the provincial capital. The town was popularly known as “Puerto Galera” (Port of Galleons). Spanish galleons coming from Mexico and Spain used the presence of an excellent natural port to take refuge during stormy weather. The bay remains as refuge for ferries and other vessels during storms to this day.
Mindoro is the seventh-largest island in the Philippines. In past time, it has been called Ma-i or Mait by ancient Chinese traders and by Spaniards, as Mina de Oro (meaning “gold-mine”) from where the island got it’s current name. In 1942, the Japanese air force and naval auxiliary occupied the town. Mindoro’s Mount Halcon rises to 2,586 meters (8,482 ft) and is the 18th highest peak in the Philippines. It slopes have earned in the title ‘the Most Difficult Mountain to Climb in the Country’.
Sabang is one of Puerto Galera’s twelve coastal districts (or Barangays). On December 26, 1973 PD 354 was issued by President Ferdinand E. Marcos making Puerto Galera a reservation area under the Man and Biosphere Program of UNESCO. Most people who refer to diving in “Puerto Galera” are actually talking about Sabang Beach, as the prime diving spots are located in Sabang.
While English is spoken by most and through out all levels of education, the principal language is Tagalog. Mindoro Island is separated from Luzon by the Verde Island passage. Waters are flush by the current of the West Philippine Sea, claimed by many to be the center of marine biodiversity in Asia. This results in strong currents of up to 6 knots making the area well known for it’s spectacular, exhilarating drift dives. Puerto Galera boasts over 180 species of nudibranch as well as numerous fish and turtle species.
Behind the beaches are the huge and generally unexplored mountains ranges of central Mindoro. Mangyan tribes are scattered over the mountain sides – some of the more remote tribes have virtually no contact with the outside world. Of the eight tribes in Mindoro, the Iraya are the largest and they are based in the Puerto Galera area.
Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the area (and in the Philippines). They were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II and are known for their flamboyant decoration and crowded seating. They have become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture.