El Nido, Palawan: A Memoir (2016)

I closed my eyes as we raced through the waters. My empty mind was slowly filled by the music of the moment: first, the zephyr giving a calm welcome in hushes. Then chimed in the slushing waves, sending our boat to bob on the surface, slapping the wood on either side. The sound of the sea rendered our voices inaudible, more so after the engine drowned any attempt at uttering an ‘oh, so beautiful.’

After which, I decided to feast my eyes, taking in the surrounding with both pupils and mind fixated on the horizon and whatever lay before it. The ocean was vast. Staying out in the sea offered an unobstructed vision of the expanse’s majesty: a few hundred meters away were limestone cliffs, left and right, of different shapes and sizes–one was concave, one resembled a helicopter, others were like lumps on a camel’s back. Some were garnished with immaculate white-sand coasts, some welcomed with rich and vibrant marine ecosystems, and some merely flaunted their finely vivid greenery as a visual spectacle. All perfectly blended with the sky’s glorious blue gradient, as white fluff dallied along, gently hovering over the hilltops.

My third time in El Nido was nothing short of terrific. This place hits home so dearly, which is why I look forward to going back every time.

My first trip was over four years ago, and I remember how the six-hour car ride to the town drained me and pretty got me disliking the place before I even came to see it. The town beach was unattractive–the sand was rocky and the water murky. We certainly did not go all the way there to see that. But the following day changed my life. The earth spoke to me like it probably did to Pocahontas. My country is beautiful, is breathtaking, is worth loving.

Since then, nature continues to speak to me–here and anywhere in the world. This grand privilege is orchestrated by its Creator, the One True artist of all the earth and the universe, Who will always and forever be worthy of praise.

A Few Travel Tips

  • Lodging. Miniloc Island Resort used to be the only choice (in which you are somewhat captive to their expensive food and tour rates), but if you’re travelling on a budget and don’t mind staying in simpler-but-acceptable accommodation, then there are plenty to choose from in the town proper. Walk-ins won’t be a problem.
  • Taking a tour? Haggle away. Because El Nido is considered one of the best beach destinations by respected publications, plenty of foreign tourists frequent the place, resulting in a price surge local tourists may not be aware of. Rates today are at least two times more than when we first came a few years back (2011). Tour providers have a lot of alibis and gambits to keep you from bargaining, but you can always get away with a better package if you talk them out a little. If not, request for some freebies, such as inclusion of environmental fee (this is usually excluded) and adding kayaks / paddle boards to the package.
  • Not enough time to island-hop? Choose Tour A or Tour C! These two are the best options and are most family-friendly. You can also choose to kayak or paddle-board your way to the next island, which is a risky but great adventure!
  • Explore the main street at night. Daytime is usually reserved for island hopping and other activities, so most of the shops are closed and the district less lively. Evenings are a better time to head out, and what’s great is that the strip is only a short walk from end to end.
  • No fast food in town. Arriving at the hotel from a day full of adventure got my stomach grumbling, but I was dismayed to find that no restaurant offered a quick fix, and that it takes at least 15-20 minutes to prepare a meal. It’s not much of a big deal, but just so you can prepare your appetite.
  • The town does not yet have a good supply of potable water. Such is the reason most establishments don’t provide service water, which also means you should be careful of the eateries that do. I was happy to know our hotel provided free tea and coffee, only to find solidified acid clinging to the walls of the stainless flask. Eep.

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I’m extremely ecstatic for the next time I come back; but I hope the local government can keep tourism and capitalism well-regulated, and keep the place well-preserved. As for all of you who intend to explore these waters, may you leave no trace and pay respect to mother nature!

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