The lure of El Nido

By Ram Alcoseba-Martinez |May 11,2018 - 11:00 PM

MY SISTER generously invited me to another adventure.

I was hesitant to go, thinking of the long-distance travel to Palawan from Cebu.

I hate to admit that lengthy land trips at my age are becoming more and more undesirable.

Then again, the unfamiliar sights and sounds of a place beckon to me.

Natural history, culinary explorations, and even native peoples of different ethnicities fascinate me no end, and with that travelling is somehow necessary.

From Mactan we took a Cebu Pacific 12:40 p.m. flight to Puerto Princesa.

After an hour and 15 minutes we arrived and transferred to a van that would shuttle us to El Nido.

My excitement started to dissipate as soon as we saw the traffic. Yes, traffic is heavy in Puerto!

The roads are winding and we occasionally encountered vehicles on the other side of the road.

The van was spacious but it was torturous trying to hold on to my seat lest I fall off.

My only respite from motion sickness was a quick stopover in the town of Roxas halfway through the six-hour trip, where we ate a bit and went to the bathroom.

The 15-minute break to regain my balance was a welcome treat only to get back on the road again.

After travelling for more than six hours we reached our destination.

The night sky concealed the town’s splendor, its numerous hills already covered in darkness.

We quietly settled in our assigned rooms.

I took a warm bath and went to bed.

I woke up early just as the sun started to shine.

The limestone formations caught my eye.

One doesn’t have to be a geologist to appreciate this awesome beauty.

After breakfast, we embarked on the much-awaited island hopping.

We had four tour choices: A, B, C and D. Tour B covers discovering caves and coves.

Tour D is basically a snorkeling adventure and a visit to beaches.

We opted for a combined A and C tour, which consisted of seven stops at the most beautiful lagoons I have seen in my life.

First stop was Commando Bay, which got its name for the Japanese commando stragglers that lived in the island after World War 2.

Then on to an island shaped like a helicopter, which is aptly named.

Third stop was Talisay beach on an island that had Talisay trees on the shore.

Here, the boat’s captain and his crew magically laid a table on the boat and spread the food they prepared for lunch.

Food was prepared on the boat since cooking on any of the islands is prohibited.

The tour continued after lunch. We passed by Miniloc island resort and on to the “secret” beaches and lagoons.

A supposed underwater passageway leads to the secret beach.

We decided to skip that because … I can’t swim.

I frantically signaled to the boat captain to stay away from the madding crowd of other island hopping guests, mostly foreigners.

Then off we went to the big and small lagoons.

As soon as we approached the entrance of the big lagoon, everybody became quiet.

We were dazed, conversations were put on hold as the boat inched its way through.

I stood up as if in reverence to the majestic splendor before me.

Iwas overwhelmed by emotions.

The rock formations appeared like welcoming arms.

Below the crystal clear waters, its fine white sand like clouds cushioning the boat’s bottom.

It is truly a jewel of the Philippines.

The last stop was the secret lagoon.

This time all sorts of vendors were there, selling fresh coconut juice to delicacies, and even Selecta ice cream.

We bought some refreshments to cool us down as it was almost 3 p.m. and the heat was becoming unbearable.

Despite my inability to swim, I wanted to give kayaking a try.

But I coudn’t make up my mind.

A fee of P500 for the large kayak and P300 for the smaller one.

Finally, one of the boat’s crew volunteered to do the rowing, or paddling for me.

Another thing I was apprehensive about was the entrance to the lagoon.

The tour guide told us to lie down while passing through sharp rock protrusions.

Wearing a life vest, I took a large kayak, did a quick lesson on how to paddle, and lined up to enter the lagoon.

This time I was bent on uncovering “the secret.”

Truly, it was well worth it —one of the best experiences in my life.

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