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Puerto Galera offers Sanctuary and adventure

- Dina Sta. Maria (The Philippine Star) - June 10, 2012 - 12:00am

Manila, Philippines -  Mention Puerto Galera and immediately the images of fine sand beaches, tranquil coves and lush underwater marine life come to mind.

And with good reason.

Puerto Galera was named by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” in 1973, while the bay was accepted to the France-based Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World in 2005, the only bay in the country to be so acclaimed.

The award was given because of its natural beauty, diverse marine life, rich cultural heritage and vital economic contribution.

Puerto Galera offers some of the best diving in the world, with over 30 significant dive sites within 10 minutes’ banca ride from Sabang beach.

The bay is sanctuary to 152 coral species, over 180 species of nudibranches and 19 mangrove species, as well as nine out of the world’s 16 seagrass species, making it a biodiversity hotspot and a snorkeling and diving haven.

Puerto Galera is located at the southwestern end of the Verde Island Passage, referred to as the “Center of the Center” of biodiversity in the world.

Sabang beach is easily the most popular beach destination in the area, and includes Big La Laguna beach and Small La Laguna beach, which offer excellent accommodations for different budgets. This area also features excellent dining choices, as well as a vibrant nightlife.

To the west is the also popular White Beach, which offers more rustic accommodations suitable for those seeking a more back-to-nature experience.

The town also boasts of the alluring cascades of the Tamaraw and Talipanan waterfalls, and trekking up and around Mount Malasimbo. Learn about the culture and lifestyle of the indigenous Mangyan peoples in the Mangyan Iraya indigenous village, and visit the Excavation Museum which houses centuries-old jars and implements unearthed from sunken galleons.

But beyond these beguiling tropical images that lure beach bums and sun worshippers, this resort town is a treasure trove of culture and heritage which makes it a unique getaway.

The past comes alive in the De Galera Festival held every May, making this merry summer month even more sizzling. Now on its fifth year, the festivity is anchored on the rediscovery of the town’s roots and its rich maritime tradition.

Literally meaning “port of galleons,” Puerto Galera was so called by Spanish navigators because of the safe moorings it provided their ships against storms. No other place in the archipelago can provide such a series of coves and safe havens, with shimmering shores and rich underwater life to boot.

A variety of sporting events, beach games, entertainment shows, a beauty pageant and a street dance tilt comprise the festival.

Dance presentations depict the town’s beginnings and cultural roots – the people’s way of life as fisherfolk, farmers, shipbuilders, sailors, and tribal inhabitants.

The fun continues with sporting events and the grand parade, a beach bikini tilt and reggae night.

Festivities conclude with a fluvial procession carrying the image of the Virgin Mary around the picturesque bay as part of the town’s patronal fiesta of Our Lady of Fatima.

The De Galera Festival might not be as magnificent or as popular – yet – as the more established festivals around the country, but the town’s quaint charm and the people’s welcoming nature make the festivity yet another good reason to visit Puerto Galera – and linger just a little bit longer in this laid back hideaway.

Just as the mariners of the ancient galleons found safe haven in these beguiling coves, so too modern day travelers may find both sanctuary and adventure in this enticing and welcoming town.

BEACH BIG LA LAGUNA CENTER OF THE CENTER CLUB OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BAYS DE GALERA FESTIVAL EXCAVATION MUSEUM GALERA MAN AND BIOSPHERE RESERVE MANGYAN IRAYA PUERTO GALERA
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