Category Archives: Philippines

July 11, 2014

It’s More Fun In The Philippines: Coron, Palawan

Palawan or “The Last Frontier” is the biggest province in the Philippines and will always have a special place in my heart. To read about my first experience in Palawan when I was a youngin’, click here.

Coron is one of the islands in northern Palawan and is very popular among scuba divers all over the world because of the amount of World War II Japanese shipwrecks in its waters. An hour flight from Manila to Coron (Busuanga Airport) through airline companies like Cebu Pacific or Zest Air can get you to this paradise.

Getting around is very easy and extremely cheap. It is possible to get airport transfers for 150 PHP (around $3.50 USD- yup!) per person. Once in Coron, you can hail a tricycle the way you would hail a yellow cab in NYC (cause they’re everywhere) that will take you anywhere in town for 9 PHP (0.20 USD) per person. Yup, 20 U.S. CENTS!!!!! IMG_1407Coron pier IMG_1660Coron is very rustic, quaint, remote and not for those who are high maintenance. There are no big-name hotels, but a lot of very small, intimate, family-owned lodging. There are no fancy restaurants, but tiny ones that will serve you the freshest seafood and mouthwatering Filipino food to satisfy your tummy. A delicious meal of crab in spices served with Filipino garlic fried rice and ice-cold soda only cost 350 PHP ($8 USD). Other meals can go as cheap as 150 PHP ($3.50 USD).Coron PalawanUnlike other beach/diving destinations, one could look for tours and book them online. This is not the case for Coron because majority of the tour companies don’t have a website. Don’t worry because once in town, there will be signs and booths everywhere offering tour packages, or you can just ask any local and they will gladly tell you where to go.

Packages usually start at 200 PHP ($4-$5 USD) for a full day of island hopping and visiting different attractions. That’s the price if you want to share your bangka (outrigger boat) with other people. But since I can pretend to be a rockstar in Coron, I decided to go with renting the bangka for a whole day for our very own private use.Coron BangkaRenting a bangka for private use is 1500 PHP ($34 USD) and comes with two local men who will navigate the boat and go wherever you please. They will also take you to the local wet market in the morning before the tour starts so you can pick whatever seafood you want for them to grill for you throughout the whole day. I picked crabs, lobsters, and the delicious Philippine mango (the sweetest fruit in the world according to Guinness).IMG_1236Kayangan Lake and Barracuda Lake are just right next to each other, and both are considered the cleanest lakes in the Philippines. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lake with waters as clear as that! And of course, Barracuda Lake is called that way because… do I really need to say it?

IMG_1237 IMG_1234 IMG_1217Siete Pecados is a very popular snorkeling site because of the diversity of marine species and the very colorful reefs in the area. Unfortunately I was not able to take photos because the underwater camera wasn’t sealed and got filled with water the moment I jumped in.

Twin Lagoon is my favorite attraction in Coron. The limestone formations were so beautiful in contrast to the waveless, super clear water that the whole place looks fake! Yes, it was so gorgeous that I could not even comprehend that it’s real. I rented a kayak for 1000 PHP per day ($23 USD) which proved to be useful since I spotted a jellyfish at least 4 feet long chillin’ in the waters. 
IMG_1270 IMG_1370 IMG_1428 IMG_1439Malcapuya Island is 1.5 hours from Coron by bangka and is a white-sand island with really really really clear and warm (piss warm!!) waters. The trip is definitely worth it because of the water views getting there. I sat on the tip of the boat (in places like the Philippines, it’s possible to do it without someone telling you NO) just admiring everything in front of me. When we got to Malcapuya, there were no people there except for the island caretakers. It was so deserted that I got to go skinny dipping here for the first time in my life! Bucket list, check! IMG_1404 IMG_1399 IMG_1489IMG_1563 IMG_1524 After a long, lazy day on the beach and snorkeling, end the day by soothing your muscles with a trip to the very therapeutic Maquinit Hot Springs, a 15-minute tricycle ride just outside Coron Town. Because it is not in the town, it is best to rent a tricycle for 400 PHP ($9 USD). Note: This price is based on renting the whole tricycle (with the driver) that usually fits 5-6 people, and not per person. What makes this hot spring special is the fact that it is salt water instead of fresh water. I did not get to take a lot of photos because I went there in the evening so it was pretty hot and steamy (like all my favorite nights). Entrance fee is 150 PHP ($3.50 USD) per person. IMG_1635The people of Coron are very friendly, very accommodating and very hospitable- just like the rest of the country. I enjoyed my stay here, especially because of how underdeveloped the place is and the lack of obnoxious tourists. This is the reason why I can confidently say that Coron is one of the very few unspoiled natural wonders still left on Earth. Being there made me feel like I was somewhere millions of years ago when nature was still left untouched by the human soul. Will definitely be back, and this time I will be scuba diving the shipwrecks!

“One’s destination is never a place , but a new way of seeing things.”

-Henry Miller

What are you waiting for? Book your hotels now and see this beautiful gem for yourself!

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January 8, 2013

Discovering Honda Bay

I have never seen so much turquoise color in my life. That’s what was in my head the moment I looked out of the window. The sand bar was back, wider and brighter than when I first stepped foot on it the afternoon before. I’ve never seen sand so white in my entire 7 young years. Now that the tide is low, Señorita Island became visible again.

What I woke up to; the sand bar visible again

White sand bar

“Put on your swimsuit Pia, your dad is waiting for you.” my mom told me the moment I got up. It was around 9 in the morning of my first real day in Palawan. I remember putting on my favorite swimsuit. It was neon green with a bright pink flower brooch. I remember it being loose on me, but I didn’t care. It was, after all, my favorite swimsuit. I ran outside the hut to where I saw my dad was standing. He was standing by the shore and holding what seemed to look like a fishing rod. When he saw me running towards him, he screamed “I’m fishing right now, come! I have some bait for you!!”. If I knew how to curse during that time I would probably scream “Holy crap are you fucking serious right now dad???!?!”, but I didn’t. So instead I ran up to him and asked him if he could teach me how to go fishing. I was so excited!

Me and my dad fishing; in my neon green swim suit under a very dorky life vest.

This started my fascination with water, and the creatures that live in it. We started our island hopping some time before noon that day. One of the islands was called Starfish Island.

“Why is it called Starfish Island?”, I wondered

“Because there’s a lot of starfish there.”

I guess that made perfect sense. But I didn’t believe them until I saw it. When we were getting close to the island, and the water was starting to get shallow, the ocean floor became more and more visible. And then I saw them. Starfish after starfish covering the floor. I was utterly amazed by how many of them were there! We got to the shore and I see the starfish everywhere like a regular seashell. It was big, bigger than my palm. It was bright orange with black spikes. I asked if I could touch them, and the grown ups said I could. It was the most curious moment of my life! I picked one up and turned it over to see the other side. I was told the things that are moving are called tentacles, and I’ve never forgotten that word after that.

Starfish Island; I do not own this photo

Starfish all over the sea floor. Note: The amount of starfish in this photo is less from what I have seen in 1997, I’m pretty sure it’s because of increased tourism in the area. Good for the economy, bad for the environment; I got this photo online therefore I do not own this photo

Being very curious; My mom told me they couldn’t take me away from the beach!

We went to another island, but I don’t remember what it was called. I just remember it having this man-made floating hut that made it so much easier for me to be in the water and be protected from the uber hot blazing sun. By that time, I already loved fishies, shells, sand, the beach and the water so much. I was also trying to catch fish in the shallow waters using a plastic cup.

A blowfish paid me a visit while I was playing in the water 🙂

I don’t know how long I was doing it for, but before I know it, this group of Japanese came to where I was playing and just dumped around 5-8 big ass fishies on my arm. I was like… WTF? But of course I didn’t say that, I just know I would if I knew how to say it. Anyway, the Japanese crew told me to take it. What the hell am I supposed to do with these?!?! So I ran up to my mom and her friends, dropping the fish here and there. Picking it up, dropping it again. They were slippery, and mind you they were still alive! My mom was in shock as I came up to her carrying live fish covered in powdery white sand. I mean who wouldn’t be? Turns out, those Japanese people are divers, and they just came back from deep-sea fishing and were resting after their trip. They saw me waddling in the water trying to catch fish with the plastic cup, thought it was amusing, and decided to give me some of their catch. So there you go. I just earned my parents and their friends big fresh delicious fish for lunch. I didn’t know what those big fishies were, but was told later on they’re called Maya-Maya. It went straight to the grill and it was very delicious.

Me and my dad in the hut where we grilled the Maya-Maya given to us by the Japanese divers

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

-Oprah Winfrey

*This blog is the continuation of “When I Was A Kid and Traveling” post. Click here to read that entry.