Waterfalls, wild camping, and skinny dipping in Mindoro

Christian Sangoyo takes the road less travelled by in Occidental Mindoro in search of waterfalls and so much more

Photos by Christian Sangoyo

It was close to midnight when the ferry from the port of Batangas dropped anchor at the relatively unknown town of Abra de Ilog in the province of Occidental Mindoro. It was my first time to ride a ferry and I was amazed at the multitude of stars that dotted the sky that night. My friends and I soon boarded a tricycle and zipped through the road, the chilly night air hitting me as we passed row after row of trees; where we were heading, I had no idea. My friend did all the planning for this trip, she told us to simply pack our bags and that we were going to her hometown.

Hiking along the coast through sand, cliffs and boulders to reach Agbalala Falls

Abra de Ilog is found on the northern tip of Mindoro Island, right at the border of Oriental Mindoro and on the western side of Puerto Galera. It is a coastal town but is hardly found on any tourist map.

Our tricycle ride took us to my friend's ancestral house where we were to spend the night. Early the next day, we woke up to the sound of roosters crowing and the aroma of garlic fried rice and danggit (sundried rabbitfish) frying. Today was to be our first real day at Abra de Ilog.

The hundred-foot Agbalala Falls, one of Abra de Ilog’s most popular tourist destinations

Breakfast was quick; we were raring to explore the town. We rode the same motorcycle of the previous night, passing the coast and watching the sea sparkle in the morning light. After half an hour, the road ended and we started our walk along the beach to get to the waterfalls.

After a couple of hours of walking along a cream-colored beach littered by strange rock formations, crossing a small ravine by the sea to get to another beach filled with multi-colored rocks the size of mangoes and basketballs, and clambering up boulders the size of cars, we finally reached our destination. We were panting as we hauled ourselves up the final rock before being greeted by Agbalala Waterfalls.  On one of the flat boulders near the edge of the pool of water, we laid down our picnic brunch —adobo, tuyo dried fish and fried rice— before jumping in the water. It was surprisingly clear but it was cold. Our teeth were chattering as we went back to the bank for our lunch.

Agbalala is about 115 feet high and some local kids were crazy enough to jump from a ledge about two-thirds of the way up. It was definitely not for amateurs as the basin below is only about 11 feet deep at the most.

Packing our things, we clambered down the boulders, passing a family sorting out pebbles to sell, and proceeded on hiking Abra de Ilog’s second waterfall. Following the trail of an abandoned road, we eventually reached a bamboo forest and heard the familiar gush of rushing waters.

The diminutive Apyas Falls is surprisingly more popular with the locals of Abra de Ilog

With a height of only 8 feet, Apyas Falls is infinitely more popular with the locals since it is relatively near the road. It has a broad water basin covered overhead by a canopy of trees. We went on a Saturday so the local crowd was there in full force —by the waters for a picnic and a swim and at the concrete picnic tables set up near the waterfalls.  

That same afternoon, as the sun was setting, we rode a tricycle to the coast and found Amazona Beach. It stretches for a couple of kilometers along a slight curve and has fine gray sand. It was absolutely deserted at the time; there were no resorts and we had the beach to ourselves. We pitched our tents; Amazona was going to be our bedroom for the night.

Gathering piles of driftwood, we started a bonfire. It whooped into life at the same time the sun hid behind the horizon. The blaze warmed us as we chatted and prepared our pork belly and fish for grilling.

Fishermen hauling in their day’s catch at Amazona Beach

The chatter of fishermen hauling in their nets woke me up the next morning. I watched bleary-eyed as they worked. On the horizon, the sun was starting to rise. With my friends still sleeping, I gave in to the crazy impulse to strip and jump in the water. Certainly a great, crazy start to the day. 

Essentials

Where to stay  Tuko Beach Resort, Munting Buhangin, Barangay Udalo, Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro, tel +63 949 314 0062

Tour Guides Best to ask your resort or homestay to help you arrange your trip and get advice on negotiating fares for tricycle rides

Published November 2015