El Nido swept me off my feet the first time i set foot on it. Nacpan made me fall.
Pinas has more than 7 thousand islands, so chances of coming across a beach is likely, uhm, say, around 7 thousand. fairly easy eh? just like running into a cunning cab driver when in Manila. easy.
an island hopping in Taiputan strait was scheduled that day but due to bad weather conditions, boats were shut out from sailing.
since getting stuck in our cottage was not an option, we rented a motorbike(heres the complete bike adventure), braved the rough roads despite the looming dark clouds on the horizon.
Nacpan should be less than 30kms away from El Nido town. a little over 30mins by bike depending on weather and rough road conditions. rough roads could get rougher during rainy seasons.
it was a muddy, bumpy ride nevertheless scenic as we passed by green and budding rice paddies.
oftentimes we stepped down from our humble bike for extra push and pull just to get through the muddy road. after 38mins and 39 mud slips and slides(with-bike included), we reached the beach. barefoot-with our slippers tucked onto our wrists(parang bata lang).
then, there we were, standing under a coconut tree(laglag brip) pleasantly surprised. all smiles. all covered with mud.
we knew there is a beach on that place, but we did not know it was that… nice.
its kilometers of powdery sands(its like Boracay minus the thrash and thriving blocks of concrete), clean waters, gradual slope of the beach, 3 islands in the backdrop, all serene and secluded. it actually is… more than nice =)
in the long stretch of the beach, there was nothing aside from a single bungalow.
Nacpan beach is 4kms of unspoilt natural beauty. need i say more
*unfortunately, Nacpan is not very photogenic at all( either that or i just suck at photography) *this is definitely on my list of favorite beaches
i was coming from Kalinga and my friend Angelika( haha, Lek) from Manila, we decided to meet up in the coastal town of Claveria(our jump-off to Calayan Island, Babuyan) around 5am the next day. btw, online data about the island are scarce and inaccurate( parang yon kampo lang ni Claudine Baretto sa latest NAIA mishap).
plan was to catch the last trip of vans from Tabuk(Kalinga) to Tuguegarao, Cagayan 5:30pm. but, then, i missed it by a few minutes( very typical of me,lol). i had no choice but to rush to the next terminal and hope that one passenger is tumataepa just so i could catch the trip. called my dad, hopped in his motorcycle, then we speeded up to the van terminal in the next (mini)town.
the adrenaline of backpacking, the excitement of being on the road, ooohlala, was ignited again. felt my backpacking mojo was back alive and kicking. sweeet.
reached Tuguegarao after 45mins. then i took the last bus trip that passes by Claveria, 7:30pm J&Wbus, and and just hoped that there are 24/7 burger joints or eateries in Claveria where i could wait til morning for Lek and the boat.
*** Of Dogs and Baboys
the bus dropped me off on the national hi-way in Claveria. the street was poorly lit and dark. and at 11pm, its empty. no people in plain sight. its a 10-minute walk to the town center. but those 10fukcin minutes were long and scary and doggy.lol. the minute i started walking, which i did as discreet as possible as not to attract any unwanted attention, the dogs on the first house started barking… or should i say howling. it was loud enough to awake all the ten thousand barking animals of the town. they swarmed the street. i walked with caution as those furry creatures were following and trailing behind close enough to bite my ass, if not only for my karate stance.
i arrived in the sleepy town center safely( karate stance was believable at least for the dogs).
things continued to go against my luck. all the town’s establishments were closed, not a single convenient store or burger joint.
i chanced upon the solely awake soul, the security guard of a pawnshop. last resort was to strike a conversation with manong guard and stretch it til dawn, so strike and stretch i did. i half listened to guards litanies about his boss whom he suspects has a thing on him( pero 9yrs na siya dun at la pa din nangyayari, labo lang).
after 11 times of him repeating the same story,( i had to be nice, and being nice takes a lot of effort on my case, i wasnt born nice i guess. lol) he let go of the 12th time and offered his bench for a sit and nap. since its a small bench, even too small for him to lay down, i declined and used my old malong instead and laid down on the concrete tiled floor. malong was too thin for the cool ocean breeze and the cold cement floor. i curled up, cold and hungry, and hoped for time to tick fast. ahhh backpacking.
*** of Majinbo and Baboys
i, 10 pandesals & 2 ensaymadas went to the fish landing at 5am and by 6am leck arrived. we bonded with other 2 waiting passengers by sheer absence of other options. lol. there was the curvy mom with two kids and majinbo. majinbo was on the phone 7 of the 6hours we waited. she just cant take away the phone from her, then, red and swelled ear =) . she phoned gaudily her family( every single one of them: nico, alex, mama, papa, kuya boy, tita baby, ton ton, tan tan, tin tin, ten ten etc) and asked them every 30 mins if they had eaten. just by listening( she was loud and we had no choice) to her calls, we already mapped out her entire family tree up to their 11th generation. lol.
and as if sleeping outside of a bank on a cold night and listening to majinbo wasnt bad enough, things worsened. no boat was leaving for the island that day. wow.
*** Of Boats and Baboys
we returned to the fish landing the following morning. at 5:00am, the curvy mom and majinbo were already there, plus some new peeps including the two anorexic pretty nurses on the waiting line. every one was ready and eager for the cruise except for the boat’s motor whose paddle was missing.
after some 30mins and majinbo dashing to the convenient store on the last minute for pic-nic foods, we were ready to sail. Its a small boat that has 3 noticeable passenger seats. i asked the boatman if me and lek could still tag along since majinbo, curvy mom and one of curvy mom’s daughter already occupied the 3 apparent seats. he said yes.
then after some more minutes… on the humble boat, there we were all 14 adults, 2 children, 1 bicycle, 19 bags and 3 roosters; jam-packed. thats a lot for a small boat eh? obviously, theres no room for say… another 16 life-jackets( i heard Babuyan with his evil life at this time, ride at your own risk he chuckled)
backing out was never an option. there were many things i sacrificed and heading back home was just not acceptable.
16 unsecured souls, 1 humble boat and 1 vast Babuyan channel. wow. i know i am not the best tourist, as im a cheap backpacker, and no stash of money can Babuyan squeezed out of me( but, Babuyan, really? youre not being friendly, your acting like a pig. hmmmp)
in fairness to Babuyan, it was a warm welcome. i mean, on a boat, no vest, Babuyan channel, of course, i sweated profusely.
since i was life-jacketless, i made sure i had a firm grip on the stern the whole 7hours while our boat shuffled through the Babuyan Channel( supposedly 4hour ride, if not for one of the boats motor breaking down)
plus, the Cagayan sun was scorching that day( just like any other day really). the sun was ruthless, and to make matters worst, our boat was roofless. we were like fishes getting all dried up. dang. danggit.
*** Of Baboys and Ooohs and Aaahs
we conquered Babuyan channel and reached Calayan island past 3pm.
then, tables turned, the island paid back all the horrors(kababuyan). and left us gaping in awe for the rest of our days in the island. just look at this
*will post all the pictures and stories of our Babuyan trip next fin~
Babuyan 101 its only Batanes thats being mentioned when people would speak of northern Luzon islands. i, myself, admit know next to nothing about it prior to my visit. well, actually that is aside from the assumption of the abundance of baboys(pig) in the island( i mean… uhm. right?)
Babuyan Islands is consist of five outlying islands namely Fuga, Dalupiri, Camiguin, Babuyan Claro and Calayan. Excluding Fuga, the four islands comprise the municipality of Calayan(Fuga is part of Aparri; a town in mainland Cagayan) and Calayan island serves as the capital.
van Tabuk(Kalinga)-Tuguegarao: 80pesos bus Tuguegarao-Claveria: 210pesos other jump-off points to Calayan, Babuyan Island: Sta. Ana, Aparri Claveria takes the shortest boat-ride time at 4-5hrs, fare at 500 *there are no definite boat schedules. all depends on weather, the sea, passengers and gin blue spend the night in Agri-Base in Claveria; 75/person/night. 150/person/night if room with tv.
its one of those August days when the weather is just as erratic as president p-noys lovelife(o ngayon si Iza Calzado naman, asa haha). past midnight and the raucous rain poured, for a close full hour. then there was complete silence before the break of dawn.
we decided to hit Matinloc and Tapiutan islands in Bacuit bay that day.
while were in the middle of our breakfast, dark clouds swiftly loomed in the horizon. and before we could even consume our tapsilogs in marina resort, the sky turned dark, so dark as dark as my batok(nape).
we had to forego the island hopping plan and opted to go with the biking adventure instead. come rainshowers and thunderstorms, we will still be able to have our day packed with our adventures. so we headed to pitstop to get our bike. paid 700 pesos for the Honda XRM- rent fee for the whole day. they gave us instructions on how we can go about circling the northern part of El Nido, some tips on nice spots, landmarks and mileage. grabbed our helmets and off we hit the road.
the first ten kilometers of road northbound of El Nido is paved and cemented. and anywhere farther than that is rough as rough roads can get.
first stop was Nagkalit-kalit waterfalls. it should be less than 20kms away from El Nido town to the jump-off. a small house at the right side of the road with a signage at the gate. we parked our bike then asked some locals for information about trekking to the falls. since we were trying to cut down on expenses, we decided to not get a guide and just trust manang’s tawirin-ang-ilog-lakad-sa-tabi-ng-bukid-at-kaliwa-pagbaba-ng-burol advice. Or in other words, go with our instincts. which is a bad idea. were terrible as we are, much more our instincts.
and just after the first river-crossing(it was quite difficult traversing the waist-deep water because of strong currents since it rained the night before, its only the first river-crossing and there are TEN of them), we decided to backtrack.
along the way we bumped to a farmer and he asked “where we are going”, i answered “we’re quitting the trek as there are several trails and we have the slightest idea which is which”( completely skipped us-had-difficulty-crossing-the-river part, its only waist-deep and were both guys, sabihin niya pa sissy kami, we maybe quitters but we have big egos haha). he said its easy( he’s thin and a lot smaller than us). so i was forced to quickly reply with a “yes it is (ehem) easy, its just that there are several trails… but given a guide we will definitely push through” and quickly he volunteered his son, patay. so we continued with the trek… it drizzled on most parts
it took us 45mins and 4bruises( joke lang) to reach the waterfalls. it was not that high but its cute enough for photographs. we let-go of the swimming-part since there was already a light rain, and an impending downpour was definitely seeming on the horizon. the water current was strong to begin with, even a slight rain may worsen it. this is one of those moments where the journey is more fun than the destination.
trekked down to get our bike and gave manang 20 pesos as tip for eyeing on the bike, shes not charging any fees for parking( yeah, were cheap =)).
next stop was Nacpan: a close bidder for my most finest beach destination. imagine a deserted beach with 4kilometers of gradually sloped, powdery sands peppered with tall cocos and clear blue waters. It fronts 3 small islands. plus, currently, theres only one concrete bungalow built there, so its pretty much wide-open. this should be less than 10kms away from the falls. this is apparently the roughest of all the rough roads i had ever passed on to. blog about Nacpan will be on a separate post =)
it was past noon when we continued our stride to the northern most part of mainland palawan. we went clockwise passing by barutuan, bucana and teneguiban. by this time, were cruising on with half of our bodies covered in mud, slippers covered with inches of mud, and prints on our boardshorts are no longer visible due to mud.
after getting zillions of stares and smiles( more on like laughs) from the friendliest of locals, we decided to clean-up a little in a beach in San Fernando. swam a little in the serene waters with brother and daracoton islands in the backdrop. both islands boasts white sand beaches. the coast here was calmer and sand a little beige. after cracking down inches of mud and we continued traversing to the west side and hunted down for the lone eatery in all of northern El Nido.
and oh boy, the guy giving instructions in the bike shop wasnt joking when he said theres only one place to eat at. the nondescript babes eatery. its a little hard to locate it since its not along the road plus the signage is too small and worn down to be distinguished by bikers( moreover to hungry bikers ).
we spotted down babes minutes later, before 3pm. its in sibaltan, northwestern part of el nido. met French couple jacques and marie( just made up that one for easier story-telling as im really bad with names, i even forget my girl’s name sometimes, and she tends to forget to control her hands sometimes, lol) our bike buddies in el nido. both nature-lovers, biologist and nature researcher by profession, fancy camiguin much. both very athletic as they chose to paddle their way around the islands in el nido.
babes is a unique eatery. its very japanesy( lol), omakase-style dining. as a paying customer you don’t get to choose what food will they serve you. it will all depend on what is available in their kitchen basket on your visit. and I cant complain with the lobster, surgeonfish(labahita), fresh eggs and organic mangoes we feasted on. those were the fresh catch that morning. nothing beats fresh seafoods as they are oh-so-tasty and oh-so-flavorful. we were more than happy( and hungry) to sip the juices of the lobster head to dry, eat up to the last rice grain, and consumed the fish til no visible meat can be traced on the bones. we were charged 200(foreigners) and 120(pinoy) for the complete meal. this is a destination in itself =)
after the pig-out, the pigs(ako piglet) raced to the next stop which is a beach in villa paz. nothing remarkably different from the other beaches in this area. a glimpse of bubog island in sight. a cute little island with a small tree and an abandoned house. by this time we were passing over the west side of el nido.
the shoreline cruise ended in new ibajay. we then rolled to the inland rough roads of new ibajay, villa libertad and pasadena completing the circumnavigation of the northern el nido (that sounded too explorer-ly haha). passed by scenic ricefields, forests, riversides and limestone mountain rock formations.
continued the race with the Frenchmen back to el nido town. arrived at 6pm, just in time before pitstop closes. we used up 4 liters of gas(and 1 liter of sweat… it was hot as the sun was out the whole time were out on the road) for the full bike tour.
of course we outbiked the French breads. pandesal pride baby! haha *Nacpan beach
if theres a picture of a beach in heaven, i am certain it would look something like this.
after the unwavering bouts of bickering with ken(Palawan Part 1) over to continue backpacking up north of Palawan or stop and head back to Manila, he finally did throw in the towel. us being hard-headed, coming to an agreement was never easy.
he’s return flight to manila was scheduled the next day so he can no longer tag along with us. so only me and the fat guy continued to head up north. our gracious host ken, still a little upset, drove us in his orange wrangler to the bus terminal.
it was a 6-hour bus ride to El Nido. 280pesos for students. i am no longer a student but i still have my student id =) and i was on a tight budget. so i just had to try the whole student-scheme. it worked out though with the bus driver.
so we held on firmly for our lives as we dangled with the metal bars on the roof of the bus as it traversed the stretch to El Nido. we were like gunghos swaying left and right as the bus zoomed even on street curves on the rough roads. eventually the bus engine overheated. we arrived at dusk. past 5pm. riding on buses can be a little daunting but apparently way more fun. it was like riding in a roller-coaster extended version sans the 360s.
we stayed in cliffside cottages which was cheap at 600pesos(300/pax/night). nice little nipa huts with two-single beds in our room. the only downside was, its a 3-minute-walk away from the beach. and 3-minute-walks can be far and difficult for drunken bastards.
what i love about El Nido town is, it is able to maintain its humble rural vibe despite its thriving tourism industry. moreover, El Nido has been on the tourism radar, not only to locals but even, to foreigners since the 90s. i remember marveling at its sceneries as it was once a staple on wall calendars. it was the Christine Reyes, heck it was Iwa Moto plus Christine Reyes of the calendar industry back then. it was so popular it regularly graced bank/grocery calendars alike year after year.
ofcourse that was before filipino’s realization that theres more to beauty, than what meets the eye. something that sticks to the mind… something that lingers even if hours had passed… even up to, most especially, the last moments of your day while on bed before you sleep(eyes closes, legs stiffens and big toe tweaks lol.you know what i mean =) ) , thus giving birth to the fhm hotties domination(and i am not complaining) on calendars.
our time in the island went past, fast like a breeze. the islands, lagoons and beaches were just divine. half of our days were spent frolicking under the sun, plunging into the cool south China sea, and enjoying lovely vistas both under and above waters. and the other half relishing bottles of cold beer.
and since i started mentioning about the hotties. let me continue then…
El Nido has similarities to some FHM hotties. Like Angel Locsin– it has this angelic almost cherubic beaches. it has soft powdery sands and gentle blue waters. Like Marian– it is a natural, and unassuming. the naturally lush-green forests and the lovely and almost dramatic limestone karsts. Like Sam Pinto– it is bare, simple and still poses to be the numero uno. the town hosts no atm’s, no 24-hour electricity ration(automatically shuts offs at 6am), no fancy hotels, yet it is one of the strongest foreign-crowd pleasers in our local tourism.
and lastly, allow me to compare El Nido to Booba(o maraming booba ah)- it is sexy, fun and CAN be cheap if handled well =)
*meals start at 40 *accommodations start at 400 *transportation at 280(from Puerto Princesa)
i decided to travel to catanduanes only because i rarely heard of it and second, know next to nothing about it. my formula for adventure.
so i went to the bus terminal, only to find out that trips headed there are fully booked for the next two weeks. but the ticket seller said she still has tickets to albay and that i could take that and just hop into a ferry from tabaco, albay to virac. 800pesos. sounds like a plan so i took it.
it was a long trip to puraran, where the majestics is, my beach destination for the weekend. the bus left cubao at 4pm and arrived in tabaco a few minutes after 4am. it was a long uneventful ride. except for the pits stop in quezon where they served overpriced overly salty dishes. i could have eaten the saucer of pork binagoongan with a pot of rice just to balance out the taste but decided not to. since it was night time, there were no scenic views from the window, only from the seat across where a hot momma was seated. i just listened to some music, fell into short naps, some occasional glancing, during the whole 12-hour ride.
it was cold and drizzling in tabaco that morning. the ferry leaves at 6am. so i killed time playing with my camera. it was a four-hour sail. 200 pesos for economy but sneaked into tourist class quickly after the usual crew inspection, and dozed off most of the time. stepped out into catanduanes island at 10am. the land of the howling winds, second to batanes as the top destination of typhoons.
as per google, i have to walk out of the pier and look for the road warrior jeep which will drop me off in the highway going to barangay puraran. followed as ordered. the jeep was huge, more like a bus. it sits passengers parallel to the driver like a bus. we passed by bato church which is along the highway. nice and old. it was almost a two-hour ride. 45 pesos.
a short steep,downhill walk from the highway to the beach. the view of puraran from the hilltop is indeed majestic. though the name majestic was coined as a description of the waves,not the beach in particular,by some american during the 80’s(yata).
the beach was serene amidst the big, rolling waves. very few tourists were in the area. less than 10 all-in-all at ako lang yata ang pinoy. i arrived in puting baybay(resort) around lunchtime. definitely the best accommodation in all my travels to date. 300/night for the kubo. and i got a balcony fronting the pacific. a serving of dorado(fish), pickled vegetables and rice consisted my lunch. i liked it so much that it was the same meal i had every single time during my whole stay. sarap kasi anlutong nun isda tas sasamahan ng atsara. haaay. nagkakaliskis na nga yata ako lol.
there were only four guests in the resort that time. shinjin, a japanese who temporarily escapes the havoc in japan, and kenji and his dad from hawaii. all surfers.
the beach somehow reminds of marinduque. sand is not that white. only difference is that there are rocks on the beach. inuman sa hapon with shinjin. after 6 hrs and a liter of emperador plus beer, basag na. good times. dont remember much though. i know i woke up the next morning with severe hangover. lakad sa dagat tas ligo. spend the rest of the morning walking around the area taking pictures of anything and everything. may nadaanan ako nag-iinuman, gin, tapos humirit sila ng picture. request nila was to take pictures of them kapalit ay libreng tagay. ayoko sana dahil umaga pa. pero yon napilit din.
para sa kin the best part of going to the beach is doing nothing at all. sarap tumambay ng walang inaalala, walang nang-aabala. inom ulit nun gabi, lasing.. si shinjin parang yon fukushima naglabas ng toxic waste.. sobra suka.
like typhoons, i should visit this place more often.
the whole wednesday afternoon was spent contemplating whether to head back to Puerto Prinsesa and take a plane back to Manila or to move further north to calamianes. where the island Coron is located, a place which i had been wanting to check-out for the last 4 years and for some reasons, something would always come up between me and the island. lol. its the last imperative destination on my local list.
so after sitting on a rock in a cove 2km north of el nido town, i walked back to our cottage to inspect if theres enough moolah left to continue travelling up north. and i had barely enough to stretch for 3 more days including transportations, accomodations, tours etc. but being the stubbornly carefree that i am, i was certain to set out the next day and just take it from there. i know il figure something out anyway.
so we went to the pier that night to inquire on tickets. with some twist of fate, i got a bargain from the security guard, scoring 800pesos less than the regular rate of 2,200. it was a good sign.
i was early at the pier next morning, instead of riding the banca “joe”, which was full to the brim, i was asked to ride the other banca “welia”. we sailed around 10. tada, maria, canadian guy and me were the only tourist on board. there were more crews than passengers. i bumped into tada and maria in el nido, theyre from a town next to munich in germany but currently calls hongkong their home.
it was some sort of like an expensive, long island-hopping tour sans water activities. we passed by different islets of el nido and after lunchtime we sashayed between islets of calamianes peninsula. it was a quiet sail under the clear blue sky over the azul sulu sea. it was nice that it sailed along waters near land so we got to see all those beautiful islands. it was a smooth 6hr ride.
we touchdown coron minutes after 4pm. our boat docked at seadive resort, instead of the pier. it was big let-down as we passed-by houses on stilts built under murky, littered waters. definitely not the picture of coron i had in mind. we scoured the town streets for affordable accommodation. i opted to stay at seabreeze for their 350peso-room while tada and maria went for a more expensive lodge.
we met up at coron galeri the following morning. its a lot cheaper to share a boat so thats what we did. it costed us 650pesos each for the island tour. we went with another swedish girl and a filipino couple on the tour. the limestone cliffs are beautiful and so are the lagoons. it resembles to those in el nido only i favor the ones in el nido more. the lunch was so good. rice wrapped in banana leaf, lechon kawali, salad, grilled fresh big fish plus watermelons and bananas. damn good.
we toured kayangan lake, twin lagoons, reefs, an island and a beach. the sun was out and scorching the whole time. snorkling at the coral gardens was definitely a treat.
that night, i bade goodbye to tada and maria as i was hitting home the next morning.
i left coron 10x darker and 10x happier. it is definitely one of those hassle-free, most relaxed trip i ever had.
i am happy to finally set foot on coron. its the last on my list. long awaited. i can say now that i am already contented with the places i visited in our country. i can now travel outside =)