Saturday, February 26, 2011

San Jose, Occidental Mindoro

San Jose is a standard provincial town, with most people just passing through or using it as a gateway point to Palawan or the magnificent Apo Reef. Stick around though and you'll see, that this is the kind of place where friendship flows freely. It's also home to world class diving and an abundance of marine life. People may try and touch your skin here, but with the accompanying look of bewilderment, and eyes that know no malice - it's hard to get upset. Just smile back and drop some Tagalog, you'll be amazed at the reaction you get.

It's also one of the most romantic cities in the whole country, with waterways akin to those of Venice (if only used in the suburbs) and an annual event dedicated to love on Valentine's Day. Referred to as 'Happy Heart Day,' the town is awash with tinsel and decorations that wouldn't look out of place on a Christmas card. The central plaza is flooded by neon love hearts, while couples stand hand in hand (or cheek to cheek) and a series of events put on by the beloved town Mayor. These include a battle of the bands, synchronized break-dancing routines, comedy sketches and prizes galore.

Occidental Mindoro is a Filipino province that sees few western faces. While Oriental Mindoro offers the beaches of Sabang, naughty nightlife and a ferry to Boracay, the other side of the island remains largely untouched and authentically Filipino. It provides visitors with a chance to see the real deal, not to mention village life when peering out of the jeepney on the journey there. Villagers are very friendly too, so don't be surprised if you're invited home for a glass of Ginebra, a local hard liquor (not for the faint of heart).

In town itself there is a very reasonable beach that you're more than likely to have to yourself. Nightlife is restricted to competing karaoke bars, where you won't be so much encouraged to sing - you'll be downright forced to. At sunset, take a walk along the beach. See traditional houses on stilts, bathing in a silky orange glow that only happens for a few moments each day.  On the way you're bound to pass some children engaged in torom po (a yo-yo variant), while dozing dogs yawn happily at their surroundings. Everyone you pass is more than likely to greet you fondly, as if you were an old friend. Wear a big smile and keep an open heart. If you do, you'll never want to leave.

After nightfall, the karaoke boxes go into overdrive, but that's not where the fun ends. San Jose is a haven for live music, with restaurants such as Chowder (Rizal street, opposite Jolibee) hosting bands every night of the week. Although covers of western pop songs from yesteryear are the norm, if you're lucky enough, you might just hear some Filipino folk songs.


  1. Hey! This'd be a GREAT post to link up to the 'round the world' adventure I'm hosting on my blog ... come to think of it, ANY of your great posts would be ideal!! C'mon over and have a look!!

  2. Feel free to post it on your site =)

    I'm glad you enjoyed it, I want the world to know what a wonderful place San Jose is. Barely any westerners ever visit, but believe me - it's their loss!

  3. I like the blog. Following it now. I am backpacking the world solo now, and blogging along the way. check it out, maybe give me a pointer or too.