San Jose, Occidental Mindoro in one day

The jagged peaks of Hagdanan Peak in Magsaysay

San Jose in Occidental Mindoro is not known for its tourist spots. For visitors, it’s mainly a transit point to Sablayan a few hours up north. But it does have its own attractions which can be done in two days. Instead of going to the islands, I stuck to the land for a one day trip.

First off, I was offered a ride to the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm at Manoot, Rizal. Although it is not part of San Jose, the capital, it is accessed through it. Along the way, at the municipality of Magsaysay is a spectacular rock formation, Hagdanan Peak (I was told that it is entirely a rock, like Ayer’s Rock in Australia).

It has jagged peaks that at the back of my mind, I was thinking of it as the devil’s fingers as some portions are like disfigured digits rising up or a cock’s comb. At certain times of the day when the sun is strong, the ocher hue is so strong that it looks like it is on fire!

Bubalus mindoroensis, the tamaraw

It was a rather long ride to the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm with many portions of the road dusty and unpaved that it took us more than an hour to reach this place. Here, only two adults are left and segregated in different wide pens. Despite the distance, seeing this Mindoro endemic species is worth it as it’s quite rare and very much endangered. Wild population can still be seen in Mts. Iglit – Baco, north of the farm but it takes more than a day to reach.

Kuta, the ruins of a Spanish watchtower in Mangarin

The ruins of a church in Mapaya. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The barangays of Mangarin and Mapaya are one of the sleepy small towns of the provincial capital but, the former, was the original town center before it was transferred to present day San Jose.

In its heyday, it was an enclave of Chinese merchants and natives where trade was strong. These two towns are the locations of spanish colonial era structures that are now in ruins.

At the former is the Kuta, ruins of a watchtower similar to those found in Cebu. Mindoro was, unfortunately, one of those islands hardly devastated by the Muslim slave raids in the middle of the 18th to the middle of the 19th centuries. In Barangay Mapaya, at the middle of a field, is the ruins of a small church.

The salt beds of Mangarin

After the natural and historic sites, a visit to the many salt beds of San Jose can be a relaxing experience. The province is one of the major producer of the product and Mangarin, has their share of salt production too. The place I visited wasn’t that extensive compared to those found at the other salt beds but it does give one an idea of how this mineral is being produced the traditional way.

In upcoming posts, I will detail some of the areas featured here. My gratitude to Ms. Cynthia Cajayon Tuason, OIC, San Jose Tourism Office for providing assistance.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.


  1. marky
    March 15, 2011 @ 8:27

    Will try to pass through here on our trip to Sablayan this coming weekend…:)

  2. Pinoy Adventurista
    March 15, 2011 @ 10:29

    I believe, Mamburao is the capital of Occidental Mindoro not San Jose City… =D

  3. estan
    March 15, 2011 @ 10:48

    @pinoy adventurista, thanx bai. will update it

  4. BPS
    March 15, 2011 @ 14:10

    wow estan! aytsuperlayk! do you need a guide in exploring the jagged monolith or you went there on your own? if you had a guide, can you share the contact number please? thanks!

  5. estan
    March 15, 2011 @ 16:31

    BPS, you might want to get in touch with the tourism office. I was just at the base.

  6. pinoy boy journals
    March 15, 2011 @ 21:40

    i never knew San Jose could offer so much more. I thought it’s just the destination if you’re taking a flight on your way to Pandan! This will come handy when i plan a trip to Pandan soon! Thanks for sharing, sir!

  7. Photo Cache
    March 16, 2011 @ 0:37

    It is nice to hear about these places that many people don’t go to. Good job.

  8. Explore the Philippines in a Day: Best One-Day Itineraries | Travel Photographer Philippines - The 4AM Chronicles
    March 17, 2011 @ 7:49

    […] Blogger: Estan Where he went within 24 hours: San Jose, Occidental Mindoro What he did: What can be done in two days, he did in a single day trip. Estan uncovers what to do in San Jose. Wait, did I just read that you rode a tamaraw? Better read that part again.. Blog: Langyaw Post: San Jose, Occidental Mindoro in a Day […]

  9. Marlo Perez
    March 17, 2011 @ 8:25

    sir ang gaganda ng blogs and photos niyo! how I wish I could visit Occidental Mindoro at medyo malapit din dito sa amin sa Batangas..parang wala pa kayong nafifeature na lugar dito amin hehehe..or di ko pa lahat naexplore ang site niyo..marami sir dito like in Lobo and other hidden places of Batangas..

  10. thepinaysolobackpacker
    March 17, 2011 @ 8:47

    sana makita din namen yan. I read sa LP mahal kase pagpunta jan eh. 😉

  11. Aleah
    March 17, 2011 @ 9:32

    There are so many beautiful places in Mindoro. I’ve been to PG countless times but I haven’t had the chance to go to San Jose. Hopefully I can go this year 😀

  12. cindy
    March 19, 2011 @ 21:37

    Thanks for the write up Estan. I am inviting everyone for our fiesta celebration starting April 24 till May 2. Our street dancing competition will be held on the 26th with 23 participating groups. Hope to see you!

  13. cindy
    March 19, 2011 @ 21:46

    @pinaysolobacker: Please come to San Jose. Only an hour ride by airplane and will cost you P1,000.00, more or less. depending on the date. Just drop by our tourism office and we will assist you, anytime. thanks.

  14. Kwin
    March 20, 2011 @ 2:53

    Hi,ang ganda naman po..taga san jose po but i never know na may ganyan kaming kagandang bundok..honestly,di naman po ako gala but i appreciate that you made effort of visiting our province..nice picture po…lalo ko tuloy namiss ang pinas lalo na at marami na rin pagbabago…God Bless po…sana kuha pa po kayo ng marami pang pictures..i have been in bato-ili before..its a nice place also..

  15. fidel
    April 8, 2011 @ 9:15

    hey, how did you get to the tamaraw gene pool? did you rent a car and hire a guide? im planning to go there tommorow and i don’t have arrangement yet on how to go there. could you share with me your contact? will appreciate it much, thanks!

  16. estan
    April 8, 2011 @ 17:50

    @fidel, I was offered a ride 🙂

  17. pjjosh
    August 3, 2011 @ 16:23

    estan/cindy, may i ask if road condition from san jose to roxas has already improved? specifically, would appreciate knowing if the whole stretch is already of concrete/asphalt. thanks, kind regards

  18. Elal Jane Lasola
    January 16, 2012 @ 16:45

    I will use this in early Feb. Very helpful for a first timer like me!

  19. Anonymous
    January 20, 2012 @ 7:06

    Good luck Elal on your trip 🙂

  20. chacha
    March 8, 2012 @ 21:47

    hi, i would like to know the nearest and best resort we could stay yet “affordable” from San Jose Airport, we want to maximize our short stay in the place, we only have 3 days and 2 nights, leaving early morning on the 3rd day, early flight back to mla. Its our first time to visit San Jose Mindoro. We want to experience island hopping and water activity as possible on our short stay.
    Thank you and excited to be in San Jose Mindoro this May.

  21. Jose
    April 16, 2012 @ 12:30

    Closest places to airport are White House Beach Resort and Sikatuna Beach Hotel (3-5 minutes). You can find White House on facebook or Sikatuna at their website for rates.

  22. estancabigas
    May 2, 2012 @ 20:05

    @fidel, i was offered a vehicle by the local tourism

  23. Paula O
    January 11, 2013 @ 21:14

    I’d like to visit this town. Im yearning that provincial, ladi-back life most provincial towns near the metro now lack!

  24. Yuvs
    June 20, 2014 @ 13:04

    Is there a place where I can buy a Lechon in San Jose?

  25. estancabigas
    June 20, 2014 @ 13:11

    Yuvs, that I don’t know.

  26. Lailyn D. Ramos
    October 7, 2014 @ 10:32

    mindoro is a great place!!

  27. Bar
    November 8, 2017 @ 20:46

    Hello Estan,

    Your blog is a good resource documenting Spanish-colonial settlement.

    As pointed out in this blog:

    “In Barangay Mapaya, at the middle of a field, is the ruins of a small church.”

    Where exactly in Mapaya can this ruin be found? Any help will be greatly appreciated.


  28. estan
    November 11, 2017 @ 23:43

    Hi Bar, hmmm, I’m not really familiar with the place and only visited it once so I can no longer recall where exactly. Perhaps you can ask people from there.

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