MANILA, March 15, 2004 (STAR) By Nathalie Tomada - There are names of places that roll off the tongue like overused expressions. Some, however, could send you asking for directions.

Although Pinamalayan in Oriental Mindoro is easily overshadowed by the province’s celebrated destinations Puerto Galera and Calapan City, this lesser-known town is certainly not short of thrills to whet your appetite for adventure.

Thanks to the 919-kilometer nautical highway that can take you all the way to Dapitan City where our national hero lived in exile, you can board the roll-on, roll-off (roro) cargo and passenger vessels, ferries and fastcraft to reach Pinamalayan.

Oriental Mindoro is being groomed as the gateway to the south with the nautical highway plying the western seaboard, covering 17 cities, towns and islands in the Visayas and Mindanao. With Manila as our starting point, we drove to the Batangas port, the cleanest that I’ve been to so far in the country, and our van was ferried to Calapan for two hours.

Pinamalayan lies in the mideast, an hour-and-a-half scenery-laden trip away from Calapan. But first, a warning for the faint-hearted: there’s a rough road ahead that could jolt you out of your sleep. Still, it’s the only setback I could think of in this otherwise promising countryside adventure.

A drive farther down south of Pinamalayan, also a jump-off point to Marinduque, would bring you to Roxas City where a roro vessel awaits to transport you to Caticlan. And, of course, when you’re in Caticlan, you’ll know where to go next – Boracay!

Though we arrived in Pinamalayan missing its major landmark – an archway resembling a rainbow with a pot of gold at its end – we were blissfully compensated by the stirrings of a rousing town swept up in the spreading light of daybreak.

Pinamalayan Mayor Fred Hernandez talked about the town with relish, but the bucolic setting and flourishing activity should tell you of what to expect. Dubbed as one of the region’s growth areas, there are colleges, business centers, ricemills and a lively market in the center of the municipality selling sundry goods – from farm-fresh fruits and cheap seafood, to the official delicacy – banana chips. Lodging options can be found at the town proper and there are a sprinkle of charming white beaches in Banilad and Bongol. But some five minutes away in Barangay Rosario is the Glair Resort, tucked in between the foot of a mountain and a horizon of ricefields.

Actually, it reminded me of a previous travel, where our overloaded mini-van braved rougher roads and heaved up to the faraway town of Rizal in Cagayan, finding our lowly selves before the grand Cordilleras.

This time though we had fields of green in the background and the pleasant pastime of watching farmers, half-bent and lost in the synchronicity of their movements.

The same fertile paddies bred the town’s legend. Folklore has it that boatmen of long before searched for a place to settle. They followed a rainbow and discovered that its end descended on arable land. Pinamalay – roughly translated as "made known" – gave birth to the name of the town.

According to Mayor Hernandez, his town produces assorted fruits and vegetables, which are showcased during the annual Bahag-Hari festival every April. The festival also features street-dancing and a spin-off of the Moriones Festival since 60 percent of the town’s population hails from Marinduque.

We were treated to a feast of fruits – and seafood delights – at Glair Resort. The resort, owned by Dr. Greg and Edith Lamanilao, started out as the family’s vacation house. In 1999, its swimming pool was first opened to the public and got a good response. There was no turning back ever since. The overall look of the resort is courtesy of the couple’s daughter, a landscape architecture student at UP Diliman.

The resort houses a spacious social hall, function rooms, 25 fully airconditioned guestrooms, dorm-type rooms, canteen and restaurant, and basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. The resort is also smartened up with cottages, gazebos, trellis, picnic tables and a grill station. Guests can sample a rural adventure with the resort’s fishing wharf, campsite and mountain trek. Also within the vicinity is a PNP-recognized firing range for shooting practice, which doubles as a venue for provincial and regional shooting competitions.

One of the main advantages of the resort is its spacious activity area for corporate team-building. But my favorite would have to be the freshwater swimming pools. Clean, fresh water flows freely in Pinamalayan. Locals reveal that you only have to thrust a pole into the ground and voila, water runneth over.

Although a big number of local and even foreign tourists have made their way to the resort, the Lamanilaos are also planning to venture into tamaraw and butterfly breeding to bring in more visitors.

Your stay is made complete with a year-round fairly cool climate, though a crisp chill like Tagaytay’s can be enjoyed in Barangay Buli.

Pinamalayan isn’t just custom-made for people longing for peace and quiet – but also for those who know where real and lasting pleasures come from.

* * * For inquiries or bookings at Glair Resort, call 655-2595 (Manila office) or (043) 284-4033 (Mindoro).

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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