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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Under-the-radar film location stole the hearts of local tourists

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Brillante Mendoza’s crime drama, Pula, on Netflix, has sparked a buzz about a third-class municipality in Oriental Mindoro. While the film has garnered mixed reviews, its undeniable success on the platform has thrust Pola, the film location, into the spotlight.

Pula quickly climbed the charts, reaching the number one spot on Netflix’s top 10 movies in the Philippines upon its release on May 3. This unexpected popularity has brought joy to Pola’s mayor, Ina Alegre, who was also part of the film alongside Coco Martin and Julia Montes.

Tungtong Point is a naturally-formed rock formation that resembles the shape of an octopus head

“The film has a gripping story,” she acknowledged. “But Pola itself is just as captivating, especially if you experience it firsthand. I hope viewers enjoy the movie and also discover the warmth of our people and the beauty of our little municipality.”

The film delves into the unsettling investigation of a murder, throwing a close-knit community into turmoil. But Pola transcends the role of a mere backdrop in the movie – it feels like a character itself.

“Just like any character,” said Alegre (whose real name is Jennifer Mindanao-Cruz), “Pola has layers and depth. We have a rich cultural heritage and equally stunning natural landscapes.”

Visitors can take a boat ride to see the unique ecosystem of Mangrove Eco Park

“Pola has almost everything. We have the sea, the lake, the falls, different places, and lots of old houses here, with so many old houses that they can use for shooting,” she went on.

Pola is a small and mountainous town that lies in the eastern portion of the Province of Oriental Mindoro. It is about 73 kilometers from Calapan City. It boasts a collection of stunning beaches, each offering a unique experience. Bihiya Beach entices visitors with its creamy white sand and crystal-clear waters, perfect for a day of sunbathing and relaxation.

For a more secluded escape, Lambanog Beach, accessible only by boat, provides a slice of tranquility with its unspoiled beauty. Tagumpay Beach caters to those seeking a lively atmosphere, offering fine sand, refreshing waves, and opportunities for water activities.

From left: ‘Pula’ cast Raymart Santiago, Pola Mayor Ina Alegre, and Coco Martin

Beyond the coastline, Pola offers a diverse landscape brimming with natural wonders. The mystical Bilog Lagoon, hidden amongst lush greenery, boasts crystal-clear water perfect for a refreshing dip.

Nature enthusiasts will find solace in the Mangrove Eco Park, where a boat ride provides a chance to witness the area’s unique ecosystem and appreciate the vital role mangroves play in coastal health. For those seeking adventure, a moderate 40-minute trek leads to the cascading beauty of Calima Falls, offering a refreshing reward at the end of the journey.

Pola’s designation as the Heritage Town of Oriental Mindoro speaks volumes about its rich history and cultural heritage.

Poblacion has several well-preserved ancestral houses brimming with historical value

Visitors can step back in time by exploring the well-preserved ancestral houses in Poblacion, each structure whispering tales of generations past. Tungtong Point, a naturally-formed rock formation resembling an octopus head, serves as a testament to Pola’s fascinating geological history. This unique landmark also houses the Prayer Park of St. John the Baptist, offering a serene space for reflection with breathtaking views of Pola Bay.

Pola’s charm extends beyond its stunning scenery and historical sites. The warmth and hospitality of its people are sure to leave a lasting impression. From the welcoming smiles of local vendors to the genuine camaraderie within the community, Pola offers a glimpse into a simpler way of life, where connection and a sense of belonging are paramount.

“I hope more films will choose our municipality as their showcase,” Alegre said. “Many movies have already been filmed here, drawn by the unique beauty of our town. A few local tourists have already discovered Pola, and we hope more tourists will follow suit.”

Following in the footsteps of films like Mendoza’s Palitan (2021), Sisid (2022), and Bahay na Pula (2002), Mendoza and Reynold Giba’s Bata Pa si Sabel (2022), Freidric Macapagal Cortez’s Alapaap (2022), and Giba’s Sapul (2023), Pula has highlighted Pola’s interesting sceneries. 

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