Our base camp was at the very crowded but festive White Beach. My immediate impression was Boracay knock-off. It has white sand but not as fine as the polvoron like grain of Station 1 in Bora. But then again if you see the crystal blue waters against the clear blue sky you kinda think that matter is forgiveable. Add the fact that it is nearer Manila and a lot less costly than to go to the real mc-coy.
But after a supposedly quick breakfast (which became long because of the very long lines to get seated and the almost 30 minute wait for a tapsilog) and freshening up in the rooms we rented, our company set off on our real adventure destination. We were whisked away by a rented boat a few coves away to a semi hidden spot. Upon reaching it, the boatmen set anchor and one by one my companions alighted the bancas donning orange lifevests and snorkling gear. I did not immediately join in the action as I first panned my eyes on the peripheral vegetation.
The snorkling spot was an enclave surrounded by limestone cliffs and small beach interruptions. But the limestone surface was not at all that visible because majority of it is still covered with vegetation. My initial ocular was a bit hazy because of our distance from the cliffs but I could recognize the familiar coconut (Cocos nucifera) intersparsed with another provincial palm staple, the buri or buli' (Corypha utans). Both palms have economical use in most Philippine societies. These palms' silhouette shape the majority of the Puerto Galera horizon.
Seeing how much my officemates enjoyed the snorkling, I went in after them and took a few minutes to swim with schools of coralfishes. This is the second time for me to go on snorkling. The first one was in Batangas but we were practically near the safety of the shore. This time around we were about a hundred meters away from the beach and relied on our life vests for safety. Though I know how to swim, it is quite tiring for me to keep afloat coupled with the breathing through a mouthpiece. But the whole predicament was well worth the view you could see underwater. Makes you want to try the next step which is scuba diving - but not in this trip. After more than an hour of floating and poking our heads into the water, we all got tired and decided to head for the beach to enjoy a little land fun.
While all were basking under the sun and on the white sand, my friend Irene accompanied me exploring the nooks and crannies of the cove we were in. We first scrutinized the vegetation growing out of the limestone cliffs. There was a mixture of trees and shrubberies jutting out from the crevices. There were a lot of mangrove and beach species present. Some I could not identify at all. There were familiar ones like kalumpang (Sterculia foetida), Dracaena multiflora, pandan-dagat (Pandanus tectorius), talisay (Terminalia catappa) and bantigue (Pemphis acidula).
I opted to study the buri palms upclose so I ventured a little inland, but I never reached where the buris were. I got distracted with a few plant finds along the way. I saw a couple of plant species that are members of the Apocynaceae family which includes the familiar kalachuchi (not native but is actually abundant in Puerto Galera). The first was a variety of pandakaki (Tabernaemontana sp.). I took pics and a couple of seedpods, which made me regret it. My friend Ronald Achacoso once told me that pandakaki seedpods have some sort of irritant. I now personally experienced what this results into, with my hands and feet feeling like they were continuously bitten by red ants - made me to race back to the beach and dive back into the water. The pandakaki shrub has nice white flowers which would have probably made it a nice garden specimen, sans the potential pain it inflicts.
The second Apocynaceae species I found was what they call bayag-usa or Voacanga sp., probably globosa. This is a small tree with wide ovate leaves and white clusters of pinwheel flowers. They bear fruits bunched in twos, resembling testicles, reason why the plant is called bayag-usa or deer testicles. This tree is an attractive specimen plant when in flower and ultimately in fruit. But the fruits are not edible but rather toxic, laced with the white resinous sap common with most Apocynaceae members.
There were other plant finds in this trip but I would write about them in a future blog. Eventually our stomachs caught up with us, signifying that we had to head back to White Beach and prepare a late lunch. we again rode our rented banca and set sail into the clear blue waters of Mindoro. The sky had an overcast of clouds, making it ideal to sit near the bow of the banca. I tried to get a last glimpse of the cliff profile, spotting if I missed something from our earlier trip. But the limited light made it only harder to spot plants even if I squinted my eyes almost to shut. Had to content myself with the anticipation of that late lunch and maybe an early shut-eye. Besides, the day and the plant find list was already very long.