BRIEF HISTORY OF PUERTO GALERA
Puerto Galera was founded by the Augustinians in 1574 with Minolo as the earliest cabizera. It was a former provincial capital and a bustling trade port, it was a thriving settlement called Minolo even before the arrival of the Spaniards. It was transferred to Lagundian (now Brgy. San Isidro) and later to its present site inside the cove due to constant Moro raids. The town’s name was derived from the Spanish words meaning “Galleon’s Port.”
The popular translation of Mindoro [Island] to “mina de oro” (Spanish – gold mine) may have been the Spaniards’ misinterpretation of the native word “Minolo”, referring to Puerto Galera’s, Minolo Bay. Recent academic and archeological research suggests that the shore (and hillside behind) of Minolo Bay was probably the site of the largest human settlement along the Mindoro coast, prior to the Spanish colonization.
With the arrival of tourism in the 20th century it became more important to determine the origin of the name “Puerto Galera” and in recent times the romantic translation, “The Port of Galleons”, has held sway over the more academic alternative, “The Port of Galeras”. No matter the actual origin, Puerto Galera certainly offered a safe anchorage for many galera and galleon, during tropical storms and typhoons (hurricanes/cyclones) that frequently cut across the country during the months of May through November.
Puerto Galera was one of the oldest settlements of the religious missionaries, founded by the Spanish in 1574 as the provincial capital of Mindoro Island. However, the history of Puerto Galera 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 Mangyan still live a traditional loincloth–lifestyle in the surrounding forested hills and can occasionally be seen in the town selling woven abaca items and trading gold recovered from the rivers and streams.
The port town of Puerto Galera was probably named after Spanish ships that were based here during the early years of colonization – 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 Chinese pirates or nearby island chieftains.
In 1983, a remarkably preserved, 500-year old Chinese dragon jar from a sunken ancient inter-island trading ship was discovered by Australian diver Brian Homan in the Manila Channel approach to the harbor.
Varadero Bay, Puerto Galera, was originally a ship repair facility, probably with a dry dock of sorts; Varadero translates from Spanish to English as “dry dock”. Puerto Galera was accorded the status of the principal seat of government for Mindoro but lost this status in 1837; as the focus of agriculture and commerce shifted east along the coastal plains, so Calapan took over the role of provincial capital. [Puerto Galera was briefly the provincial capital again, in 1902 and 1903, when the Philippines was first under American colonial 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 Program.
Last March 30, 2000, Puerto Galera was awarded exclusive and prestigious membership to the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club, an international non-government organization based in Vannes (France) which aims to promote, protect and develop marine and bay sources.
There are huge and generally unexplored mountain ranges located in central Mindoro.
A particular local attraction is the 9-hole golf course perched on the hillside above White Beach which commands spectacular views over Puerto Galera’s natural harbor and the Verde Island Passage.