History Of Puerto Galera

The 160.5 km long by 84.5 km wide island of Mindoro was first mentioned in Chinese annals when merchants from Cathay on ships carrying native products traded on the island in 982 AD. Ship captains and their men often referred to the island as "Mai", which was later corroborated by the Chinese historian Chen-Jua Kuan in the first known description of Mindoro in 1225 AD.

The name "Mindoro" was derived from Minoro, sometimes spelled Minolo - a small coastal settlement northwest of the poblacion of present day Puerto Galera. Captain Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo explored Western Mindoro on their way to Manila on May 8, 1570. After fighting with the Moro pirates and capturing the island of Lubang, Legaspi imposed Spanish rule upon natives of Northern Minforo the following year. While Moro piracy was in existence during the 17th century, the island was organized into a corregimiento, with Puerto Galera as the capital. The island became part of Bonbon (Taal, Batangas) under the encomienda of Calilaya (Unisan, Quezon Province).

Since the 10th century, Puerto Galera was known to seafarers as a trading port and a strategic harbor along the important trade routes to and from Near East, Indian coast, Indo-Chinese coast, China, various points within the Philippine archipelago, and the kingdoms of Sumatra and Java. The Muelle Bay area, recognized as one of the safest natural harbors in Asia, was used extensively for dock repairs and as a safe anchorage for all types of sailing vessels. 

Sixteen century reference to Mindoro often only meant to harbor of Minolo, which was then the center of trading between the Chinese and the natives. Chinese merchants bartered glazed porcelains for gold, jade, corals, shells, birds, rattan, and other forest products that were abundant on the island. The antiques unearthed from an ancient gravesite near Minolo were traced back as early as the 10th and 15th centuries. Most are Chinese, but substantial quantities from Thailand and Vietnam have also been excavated.

When the Spaniards discovered the island of Mindoro in the early 17th century, the natural beauty and safe heaven that is Muelle Bay astonished them. They thus named the land Puerto de Galleon or Port of Galleon. It was later called Puerto Galera. 

When the Spaniards conquered the whole island, they made Puerto Galera the capital of the province. Due to the regularity of the Moro attacks, the Spaniards built watchtowers and stationed battleships outside Muelle Bay to deter the Moros. One such battleship was the Cañonero Mariveles, which sunk due to a violent storm in 1879. The Spaniards also built a rice granary in Puerto Galera that was used to stash grains ready for shipment. This grain storage was believed to have caught fire in the late 18th century, but the carbonized palay grains were preserved by the sea water and remain scattered along Muelle Bay to this day. 

The natives primarily lived by fishing, crude farming and hunting. They raised animals, planted rice, corn, sweet potatoes and other root crops - using the slash and burn method to clear and prepare the land for planting. Then the Spaniards introduced the plow - increasing the productivity of the land. However, the tributes and taxes imposed by the Spanish government discouraged farmers, causing them to seek other means livelihood.

After more than two centuries the capital of the province was transferred to Calapan (the present capital of Oriental Mindoro), which was geographically blessed with wide agricultural lands. Puerto Galera became a barrio of Calapan. It was only on December 7, 1927, when the Philippine Congress passed Act 3415, that the municipality of Puerto Galera was created.

The people of Puerto Galera engaged in shipbuilding and repair, mat weaving, fishing, and crude farming before the advent of tourism in their town. It was only in the early 1970's that Puerto Galera, by word of mouth, was established as a tourist destination. The earliest tourists would stay in the homes of the locals for periods of several weeks to several months. This was the origin of backyard tourism in Puerto Galera. This type of hosting, called "bed and breakfast" in other settings, became the backbone of the thriving tourism program. In Puerto Galera the trade benefited not only private homes turned pensioned houses, but local traders, market vendors and stall owners as well who found new and brisk markets from visitors. The local transport operators had to expand their fleet to accommodate heavier volumes of visitors, particularly during the peak tourist months of March to June and November.