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Tamaraws - Mindoro Travel Guide

When you have lived all your life in a country like the Philippines, and have seen too many white sand beaches that their features in your memory merge with each other, you no longer seek out the waves and the wind when you arrive at a certain province. You go straight to the place that makes that certain province unique. For example, Mindoro is unique because this is the only island where the Tamaraws lived. But I never expected these animals to play hide and seek with me.

Mindoro island is separated into two political divisions, Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro. These two provinces are also divided by mountain range. The rest of the island’s topography is made up of valleys, plateaus, and rolling hills. Beyond these are beaches, diving areas, and of course, the famous Apo Reef, with its colorful corals and more than 500 species of marine life.

Mt. Iglit in the sleepy town of San Jose, is the sanctuary of the tamaraws. Tamaraws resemble the Philippine water buffalo, the carabao. But tamaraws are smaller and have shorter straight horns that form a V. While the carabaos are like the arms of farmers in the fields, the tamaraws could never be domesticated.

In the past, some conservationist wanted to help increase the population of the tamaraws. They utilized the same method used in helping the Philippine monkey-eating eagles. That is, the eagles are placed first in awesomely large cages. However, the tamaraws could not be trapped in a cage. When tamaraws are placed in a cage, the attack the walls over and over again. They are relentless in their bid for freedom that they ignore their horns that have become bloody. They continue until they become so weak and eventually die. And so the conservationists gave up the idea of trapping tamaraws. Instead, they declared the whole Mt. Iglit as a game sanctuary for the tamaraws.

Even when they have the whole mountains to themselves, to roam and lord over, the tamaraws are elusive to human eyes. They never go out in the open in broad daylight. Our guide told us that the best time to see them is at dawn or at dusk. This is the time that they roam the mountain side. And even at these times, you don’t get to see a whole tamaraw. You will only glimpse at a portion of the body, or spot a V-horn.

Nevertheless, it was still an exciting experience. The suspenseful waiting is part of the adventure of getting a glimpse of one of the most shy, yet freedom-loving tamaraws.



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