I should really try harder to write about trips within two weeks from the time that they happen if I’m still going to use “relive old memories” as an excuse to blog. As days and weeks and months go by, the number of words I could type and details I remember become less and less. Jotting down notes helps but there are times when I no longer understand the stories behind random words written in haste.
Take for example my El Nido trip with Dai and Ariel a few months ago. I remember planning the post in my head — the conversations between me and the boatmen, how our group in one of the tours was composed of six couples and myself, why I craved for crepes for a month after leaving, why it’s best to visit during summer, how unforgiving the waves are during January, and so on. Now I barely remember anything except the fact that El Nido — its vibe, sidewalk restaurants, gear rentals, foreigners, beaches, limestone cliffs, and friendly locals — charmed me. More than anything, I now understand why people hail Palawan as one of the best islands in the world.
Dai has been inviting me to come with them since last year but I wasn’t sure about my schedule and also wasn’t too keen on visiting El Nido because Batanes and Coron were on top of my list. Honestly speaking, I only said yes because Dai, knowing her parents wouldn’t allow her to travel with her boyfriend without a chaperone, said she’d pay for my one way fare hahaha. Also, the dates coincided with my school’s foundation anniversary so no classes! Armed with a backpack and what’s left of my Christmas money, we explored for five days (or was it four? See, I can’t even recall -_-). We flew via Puerto Prinsesa Airport which was still a six hour van ride through zigzag roads to El Nido. I thought years of passing by Dalton Pass increased my threshold but I still felt nauseated during our land trip.Arriving past midnight, we had a hard time looking for our homestay amidst closed shops. Good thing a group of Brgy. Tanods helped us find the way. I like arriving at night because you have no idea how close you are to the water until you hear the sound of the waves. It reminds me of a scene in Y Tu Mama Tambien where the characters, after fighting the night before, wake up to a beach that fits the description of what they were looking for.Unlike Boracay where you can swim on the mainland, in El Nido, you have to go to the smaller islands for a dip because there are a lot of boats docked and the shoreline isn’t that long. It gets really crowded in the morning thanks to tourists waiting for their rides. There are 4 main island hopping tours available namely A, B, C, D which usually start at 8AM till 5PM. The rates are standardized with a discrepancy of a hundred or so pesos depending on your haggling skills.We availed of all four tours but weren’t able to visit Hidden and Secret beaches because it wasn’t safe. I thought my boat ride in Guimaras was scary but it was nothing compared to Palawan. The waves were big I was expecting to see some tunneling. At one point, everyone was silent and holding on for dear life.All tours are inclusive of lunch cooked by the crew en route to your destinations. They’re all pretty much the same — grilled liempo or chicken, shrimp sauteed in Sprite, squid, fish, eggplant ensalada, rice, fruits, and soda — even after four days of eating the same thing, I’m still not sick of the menu. In fact, I’m craving for it. Definitely one of the things we looked forward to hahaha.Tapos gawin mong sabaw yung sawsawang toyo, tapos magkamay ka, tapos nasa tabing dagat huhu.Matinloc Shrine.This was the entrance to the hidden beach. I know I always try to put on a brave front and say things like “minsan lang tayo andito, try na natin” but I was scared to even leave the boat haha. We were all Filipinos in our group that day with a kid or two and as much as we deny it, we’re not the most adventurous race so we just watched these brave souls swim to the tiny hole amidst crashing waves with awe and respect and thoughts of wanting to learn how to swim.To top it off, the boatmen had a hard time removing our anchor and after close to an hour of futile effort going round and round and pushing and pulling (which only worsened the situation) and the boat falling apart, they just cut it off to the dismay of the boat captain.If there’s one thing you need in your El Nido trip aside from sunblock, it’s aquashoes! It’ll make your life more comfortable. The sand is fine but once you get in the water, it’s another story. The going rate for rentals is 100 per day but I got mine at a discounted rate of 70 pesos since I paid for four days.I also learned how hassle it is to have a drone camera. Yes, the shots are amazing but it’s too much effort. One of our tour mates (not pictured below) even dropped his because the earlier versions don’t have the automatic avoidance feature so it collided with the cliff and fell into the water. Ouch.Payat tayo sa anggulong ito.Pizza and pasta from Artcafe. The pizza was good. The pasta, not so much. A bit overpriced.Entrance to Cudugnon cave.Another small entrance with the guide showing us how to roll.Lover’s in Snake Island. We arrived late so it was already high tide. Hence, the sandbar is not very prominent.An ingenious use of shells.THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.Tours A and C are the most popular and recommended if you have a limited time in El Nido but my personal favorite is Tour D especially Cadlao Lagoon. A crew explained to me why the water isn’t clear, something about the proportion of saltwater to seawater — another thing I forgot 😦In one of the islands, we climbed a cliff. For others, it might be a relatively easy hike. Heck, it’s not even Taraw Cliff, just a lesser version of it. But months of sedentary lifestyle plus X kilograms gained made it a lot harder for me I wanted to give up halfway but I didn’t have a choice. I am amazed by how strong limestones are! Even the thinnest didn’t crumble under my full weight plus the increased pressure of my trembling knees.The view on top made up for all the scratches and bruises I had.Our days in El Nido typically went like this: Wake up early, breakfast care of our homestay, island hopping tour till 5PM, wash up, walk around while looking for food to eat and things to buy, go back to our homestay, play pusoy dos, sleep, repeat. I wasn’t complaining.
Our dinner in one of the paluto along the beach.A lebanese food I got curious with while walking.Summer (even in January) isn’t complete without fresh fruit shake.During our trip to small lagoon, we saw a boat on fire while the crew were cooking their guests’ lunch. For a minute there I was scared because the boats were docked very near each other it’s not far from reality for them to catch fire too.My favorite destination next to Cadlao Lagoon is Small Lagoon where you can rent a kayak and explore the place. While paddling, I couldn’t help but thank God for letting me witness the beauty of His creation.Big Lagoon.Fearless.Third wheelin’Thanks Dai for always holding my hand whenever we snorkel because I couldn’t swim even with a life vest on. Labyu!Usually, we don’t talk with our fellow tourists in a tour group. We just mind our own businesses. But on our last day, everyone was cooperative and in the mood to socialize. We had lots of fun.Water fight!We even went reverse train train on our way back to our boat 🙂A recurring theme during our trip is me asking our boatmen for their real names because they were giving me things that are obviously fake. Then one of them slapped me with the truth: “e kahit naman sabihin namin, ‘kuya’ pa rin ang itatawag niyo kaya wag na lang“. Now I feel guilty for not remembering a single name of the fun and competent crew we had.I miss walking these streets. Not much is happening. It’s developed but not too developed. There are stores where you can buy necessities but there’s no loud party on every corner. I hope it stays this way. I hope it doesn’t lose its charm when I come visit again.Best burger in El Nido from a corner store near the beach. And I craved for crepes because there’s an abundance of stalls selling one. Even the butter and sugar variant is so good after a day of swimming but our favorite is the Nutella banana. After arriving in Manila, I visited Crepes and Cream to satisfy my craving but it’s just not the same. Luh!This was our view every single day for breakfast at the rooftop of our homestay. The food was basic — tapsilog, tocilog, hotsilog and another log I forgot — but Kuya was always a welcome presence. I don’t remember his name as well but I do recall that he was originally from Manila (he worked in one of the restaurants in Binondo) until he decided to settle on this island.We bypassed PPS to explore El Nido so the underground river would have to wait. But we had lunch at Ka Inato restaurant where their inclusion of PWDs in the staff gets a plus point for me.3Ms of a good meal: Masarap. Marami ang serving. Mura.Pusoy dos while waiting for our flight which was, of course, delayed. We had separate flights going back. Dai and Ariel still with AirAsia while I flew with Cebu Pacific.The famous Ube Hopia from Baker’s Hill. I think we finished one box while waiting for our flight hehe.Thank you El Nido! I promised myself I’ll attend this year’s school festivities because I’m (hopefully) graduating but I don’t regret anything.