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!
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.
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.
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.