BRIEF HISTORY OF ONE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BAY IN THE WORLD!
Puerto Galera, one of the oldest settlements of the religious missionaries in the Philippines, was founded by the Spanish in 1574 as the provincial capital of Mindoro Island. However, the history of the locale goes way back into the metal age and probably beyond. Artifacts found at ancient burial sites at Lalaguna and Minolo suggest that a thriving culture existed here for many millennia before the Spanish arrived. Occasional Chinese records from as far back as the 10th century suggest frequent trading with the indigenous Mangyan peoples: exchanging glazed porcelains for gold, jade, corals, shells, birds, rattan and other forest products that were abundant on the island. The Mangyans still live in the surrounding forested hills and can occasionally be seen in the town selling woven abaca items and gold recovered from the rivers and streams that cascade down the towering mountains behind.
The port town was probably named after Spanish ships that were based here in the early years of colonisation – Galeras (English = galleys -- two masted, shallow draft, rowing/sailing ships) known locally as "prau" or "parao" – that were employed as short distance trading vessels, doubling as warships when required to subdue the populous or thwart attacks from pirates and nearby island chieftains. With the arrival of tourism in the 20th century it became more important to determine the origin of its name and in recent times the romantic translation, “The Port of Galleons”, has held sway over the more academic alternative. No matter the actual origin, Puerto Galera certainly offered a safe anchorage for many a galera and galleon during the tropical storms and typhoons (hurricanes/cyclones) that frequently cut across the country during the months of May through November.
The town lost its status as the seat of government for Mindoro in 1837; Calapan took over the role, as the focus of agriculture and commerce shifted East along the coastal plains. [Puerto Galera was briefly the provincial capital again, in 1902 and 1903, while the Philippines was under American rule] More recently, on December 26, 1973, PD (Presidential Decree) 354 was issued by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos making Puerto Galera a reservation area under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme.
Most recently, in November 2004, Puerto Galera was voted a member of the UNESCO affiliated ‘The Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World'.
And beauty is what you will find: entering the bay through either the Manila (West) or Batangas (North) channel for the first time it is impossible not to be splashed by the residue from eons of nature’s rich evolution that has elevated Puerto Galera to a metaphor for paradise.