Coron, Philippines

Growing up, all I could tell you about Palawan was that it’s that island hardly anyone knows about, far from the mainland, Luzon, and it would perhaps take years to get there by boat. I’ve only heard of El Nido, as everyone else did at that time and that its limestone formations and crystal clear waters were exclusive for the rich. Well, not anymore.

For years, people took a huge liking to El Nido – the closest you can get to paradise. But now, Coron is taking center stage, rivaling El Nido’s beauty with its pristine waters, majestic lagoons and a town that still, for the most part, feels local and not saturated with tourist traps.

Coron’s airport has got to be the smallest I’ve ever been to and my favourite thus far; nestling right in the middle of nowhere, between steep hills and so much greenery – our descent was one of a kind. The trip to our hotel was even more surreal as we drove past a seemingly foreign landscape (later I found out the grass was imported from Australia as well as the cows, hence) followed by an unexpected, upsetting scene that are the traces of typhoon Haiyan’s damage.

It suddenly became one of those trips where you get uber conscious on how you ought to spend and enjoy your time. It didn’t help that the place we stayed in encouraged a weekend of luxuriating and feasting. Still, I pushed the guilt aside and contented myself with the thought that even this kind of tourism will do wonders for the economy and the people, I hope.

We met Andy, a young tour guide, brimming with knowledge and enthusiasm. Our days were mostly spent with him as we explore the lagoons and islands that draw more and more tourists each year. The trip to Kayangan Lake would be a personal highlight. If there is one thing you must tick off your bucket list when in Coron, it’s this freshwater lake, hailed to be the cleanest in the country. It’s not a bad climb to get there although you may or may not have to sweat it out depending on your fitness levels and the weather (as for me, I was dripping in sweat before my toes even reached the water which I can only attribute to the scorching heat…). They say the islands boast more lakes although as they are considered sacred by the Tagbanua population, they remain off-limits.

Another personal highlight was our ride home in a tricycle. Now, this is far from novel to me as I grew up relying on these bad boys along with the jeepney. This ride was a memorable one however as it reminded me how odd things work in my country sometimes. As we went up a hill, the tricycle came to a sudden halt. “Ran out of gas?” we thought. Not to worry, apparently. The driver asked all of us to get off, step aside as he takes full control of the situation. Puzzled as to what his next move might be, he went to the passenger side, grabbed whatever metal he can hold onto and casually tilted the tricycle to one side. A few seconds later, it was good to go. Minds were blown that night.

Anyway, Coron – in photos:

 

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