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Destination: Coron, Palawan, Philippines
Tour Date: June 2008
The island is situated in the northern most part of Palawan, Philippines. If you are coming from Manila, you can travel by ship or by plane. For my first visit we decided to choose the latter. We were already at the port by 1pm but the ship left at about 4pm. Although there was news already about an incoming storm, the weather was hot that afternoon. We mostly slept through the 12-hour ride and woke up to a beautiful morning in Coron. From the port, we walked for a few meters to where our boatmen were waiting for us.
A good 20 minutes through our boat ride, we were greeted by the numerous towering limestone cliffs that almost looked like concrete on the surface, submerged in an endless ocean of blue green crystal clear water. We started our adventure in Kayangan lake. We reached the facade of a huge limestone cliff and as the boat made a turn, we entered the cove that guards the lake. Since the tides were still low, we were able to have a quick breakfast before starting the trek to the lake. From the main boat docking area, we hiked for about 150 to 200 steps and then again approximately 500 meters downhill to the actual lake. I did some research before going to this trip and I read that this is the cleanest lake in the Philippines so I had high expectations but simply saying that it is beautiful and clean is a gross understatement. To say the least, we were in awe. The lake was wide. Before jumping in, you have to take precaution because it is very deep. The fishes were small and lacking of a variety of colors though, as in most lakes. The brackish water was clear as glass with an aquamarine and deep, deep turquoise tones. It was serene and seemingly unruffled by its visitors swimming about. As we headed back to the boat, we stopped at the highest point of the track and enjoyed the view. I felt like I was looking at a postcard, only better…breathtakingly better.
We then headed to the Twin lagoon. It is composed of two lagoons kept apart by a limestone wall and connected only by a small, narrow passage. The first lagoon is accessible by boat but you have swim through the passage to get to the other one. If the tides are low, you can easily get to the second lagoon with a life vest on but if the tides are high and you can’t swim, getting to it is out of the question. By the time we got to the lagoon, the tides were already high. We jumped off the boat to the first lagoon. The water was cold and choppy but there was no stopping us from enjoying a good swim. We were all intrigued by what is on the other side of the wall but only a handful of us were able to go. Luckily, I knew how to swim. To get to the other side, you need to swim for about 15 seconds through a narrow opening. Be careful though because the edges are sharp and you can easily scratch and hurt yourself. Once we were inside, I instantly noticed the calmness inside. The leaves floating on the surface were seemingly unaffected by the wind and the waves outside…a striking contrast to the disturbance on the other side of the wall.
CYC Beach (Coron Youth Club)
It was already starting to pour so we decided to skip the other spots and go directly to CYC (Coron Youth Club) beach where we were initially planning to pitch our tents and spend the night. There is no freshwater source in the island so if you’re planning to stay the night here, be sure to bring enough water to rinse yourselves and to use for cooking and consumption. Since it was already past noon, I did not immediately appreciate the place because I was focused on attacking the lunch prepared by our boatmen. We feasted on seaweed salad, grilled fish, pork and chicken adobo and fresh mangoes and watermelon.
After our tummies were satisfied, we decided to explore the beach and the island. The beach was white and relatively wide and there were many mangrove trees. The sand is not as fine as in Boracay and Bohol but if you want to do away with the crowd and you’re after a more relaxed and tranquil outdoor experience then this is the place for you. We did not see much under water because the current was too strong so we just did what we do best…chill! If you’re anything like me, you’ll find a lot to do to kill time. If luck is on your side and the beach is still wide, you and your friends can throw a Frisbee. I, on the other hand, savoured the moment and read quite a number of pages in my book while lying on the white sand.
One thing disturbed me in this island…trash…anything from plastic and glass bottles to small plastic containers and cigarette butts. It is sad that, an island as isolated from the city as this is tampered because if the carelessness of many. If you are planning to visit the island, please spare even a little concern to take your own trash back and maybe pick up some of the others that you will come across around the area so that others can still enjoy it the way we did.
By mid afternoon, there was more news about the storm. It started to rain again, and it poured hard…really hard. The seawater started to creep higher and higher up on the beach and we realized that it will be too risky to spend the night so, for everyone’s safety, we ditched our plan for more island hopping the following day and went back to town.
Coron Town Proper
We reached the town at 5:00 in the afternoon. During that time, except for a handful of foreigners, only a few people go to Coron so we immediately got accommodations in one of the resorts there. Refreshed, we walked in town to ask around and plan an alternative activity for the following day. Ironically, it is still distinctly an “old little town” with the comforts of a modern life. There are no jeepneys and taxis and regular people generally travel by tricycle. One can easily walk throughout the town center. There is no need to carry excess amounts of cash from Manila because one or two ATM machine are conveniently situated in town. There are also a few internet cafes. My impression on the Coron locals was that they were aloof but I realized that they are just shy and maybe a bit overwhelmed by the several tourists visiting their home. We met Mark, a British architect who has been living in the Philippines for 6 months, who was thrilled to guide us on what to do and where to go on our last day. Since we were about to have dinner, he highly recommended Bistro Coron where he said they “make pizza the way they make it in Europe”. We did not think twice about trying the place and we were definitely not disappointed. We had delicious Chicken curry, spicy seafood Tom yum soup with a heaping serving of fresh fish fillet, crab, shrimp and squid topped with a whole lobster and a large pizza margherita! It was worth every penny. After dinner we stayed in the restaurant for a late night game of billiards and a few bottles of beer.
On our last day, we had an early start. At 6:00am we had breakfast at a carinderia along the main street where we had chicken curry, sweet and sour lapu-lapu and bamboo shoots in coconut milk. It was a great hardy meal to start our day. Everything, especially the fish, was very fresh and the prices were very reasonable.
To save our energy for the 720+ steps to the peak of Mt. Tapyas, we rode a tricycle to the base/jump off point. The ascent is easy because there is a stairway and there are several covered stops where you can sit down and rest. As we neared the top, I could clearly see the huge towering cross peeking, as if it was motivating us and whispering…come on, just a few more steps!
We had an amazing 360 degree vision of the whole island and those that surround it. If you still can, you can hike downhill to the small huts a few meters from the top.
We then had lunch at Kawayanan grill, an al fresco restaurant that looked interestingly native. It turned out that it was their soft opening and we were one of their first customers. We ordered crispy kangkong, ginataang lobster (lobster cooked in coconut milk), grilled tuna, pork barbecue and chicken barbecue. They were excellent. This is probably a great place to hang out and drink the night away.
Maquinit Hot Spring
From the town proper, Maquinit hot spring is a 20-minute ride by tricycle. When we got there, the place was packed with people, mostly locals. Maquinit is a local dialect that means hot. And HOT it was indeed! I wouldn’t be too sure about dipping in on a hot summer day but since it was raining and the weather was cool, it was a perfect day to jump in.
Our Last Night in Coron
We had our last dinner at the Seadive resort. There were a lot to choose from in the buffet table but I’d say it was ordinary and uneventful.
I left Coron that night with an assurance that I will travel back. Aside from the fact that there is still so much outdoor adventure to experience, something about the place enchanted and intrigued me. It may be the wonder of its nature, the distinct personality of its town and its people or the momentary peace that it has brought me and many other visitors. I did not bother to try to fathom it anymore but I was certain that I will be back…it was just a matter of time.
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