The Pulchritude of Puerto Princesa

Those “hitting two-birds with-one-stone” trips are the kind  that I usually look forward to, I found it more productive and obviously it is time and money saving and with trip arrangements in place, all I need is to extend one more day to accommodate flying restrictions after diving. Being the gateway in the last Frontier, Puerto Princesa is impossible to be unknown and more than that, the city evolve in tourism as it cradled one of the seven new wonders in the world!  And its being the greenest and perhaps cleanest city is not for nothing.

My dive plans at the start of the year was clueless as other priorities that needs my immediate attention were at hand, but the week-long official trip in the city was just perfect.  All previous visits in the city were too brief being just for stop-over to El Nido, Cuyo and Sulu Seas.

Puerto Depths

After haggling for a slot for a Friday dive, they took me in and informed the diveshop as a caution that I was alone.  Actually, the confirmation was last minute on Thursday, later I learned the water conditions was unfavorable. The big waves were uncontrollable and all water activities in the city were cancelled for safety reasons. So on that Friday morning, I took a trike though I knew the diveshop can be reached for a walk but I need to be early for the appointment.  It turned out the driver was not familiar with the streets, how come? – such a pity. I was much earlier from the rest including our DM and after almost an hour of waiting, we all piled up in the multicab heading for Pristine White Beach.  And again, we were a bunch, majority was foreign nationals!

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Although the sun was brightly shining, the waves were insurmountable.  At the back of my mind, I trusted the DMs judgment, and we all piled up on the speedboat after assigning our buddies. We sped off riding on the big waves, spraying us with salt water like rain!  Our first descent was in Crossing, the DM offered me to go down immediately thru the anchor line to avoid the surface turbulence, and wait until we go around down together.  Indeed, it was more calm down but alas, the viz was hazy.  It rang a bell in my mind, I must be careful not to get lost! Despite the blurred vision, I found active fish life.  A parade of breams swimming coyly at a distance, there were variety of trigger fish but no titans! 😛 And there was a turtle!  Our DM had to drag me to catch up but there was only blurry outline of the turtle swimming away.  I think if not for the murky viz, I could have sighted more of the marine life. We surfaced after 52 minutes, my deepest at 19m still with 100 bars air.

We sped off back to the beach for our surface interval, which is much better than stationed there with waves rocking our boat high and low. The Taiwanese couple begged off after the first dive.  We stayed on the shallows biding our time, the waters was perfectly calm.  With the sun shining and blue skies, it was a picturesque summer scene.

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As we prepared for our next descent in Maris Rock, I heard the friendly Canadian asking if it was safe with the big waves, and again I trusted the DMs judgment.  We sped off holding fast for safety, I knew the waves were getting higher!  The site has rock clumps scattered over white sands, the surface was still choppy so immediate descent was appropriate.  The viz wasn’t any better, it was still foggy but thankfully there was no current.  The fish life was much better, sighted giant puffer fish, clown fish, triggers, anthias and throng of juveniles over corals.  We went slow and perhaps I was more observant in the second descent, even with the haze we found cleaner shrimp, some nudis and a small frogfish!  We surface after 45 minutes, my deepest at 21 meter and with air still at 100 bars.  The choppy water was heart pounding in a way, but it was another learning to my advantage.  I believe the depths of Puerto Princesa has much in store even more in clear visibility.

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Around Puerto

There were much more to see around the city – Mitra Ranch, The Bakers Hill, the Crocodile Farm, the famous Underground River , the island beaches in Honda Bay. The last two requires more time and getting a quick hop of the first three visibly offered more improvements compared a decade ago.  Personally, I was more impressed what I saw in Iwahig Colony, it have transformed into an agricultural community with the detainees as workers and producers. The rice fields were maintained as well as the fresh water fishpond, other crops were also produced at the same time working with their handicrafts.  It is a big boost for all the detainees inside Iwahig, aptly the facility is now called Iwahig Penal Farm.

Unfortunately,  I failed to visit the public market , my office mates always aimed for pearls and dried fish getting cheaper deals!  Puerto has now a mall which is another improvement in terms of market & economic activity.  There are new cafes and restos down town, Angel and I used to have lunch in barefoot at Ka Lui for their delectable dishes and lounge at Atoy’s Café while waiting for our flight.  Well, indulge after a dive is the usual thing, and I went to White Fence for that French café ambience. To my delight –  the homey atmosphere, good food and reasonable price was a perfect combination. I think the café deserves another visit in the future!  🙂

Another Reminder

I thought there would be no hitting the grounds as I go through the transports heading home alone, the perennial flight delays almost created disaster in my connecting flight. I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I literally race for the gate as soon as I got my luggage from the carousel.  It was miracle, my final flight towards home was accordingly delayed and in less than five minutes after I step on the area still catching my breath, the gate opened for boarding!  And these are the kind of circumstances that prod travelers, which I correlate in diving as S R T A.  A dose of adrenaline was in the rise. 🙂  Just the same, it was another miracle!

Travel Notes

  1. I booked at Dive Puerto Princesa (www.divepurertoprincesa.com) for my dives
  2. Best month to dive is between March to August, January is still habagat and waves can be too rough
  3. There is lot of low-priced accommodations around the city, some have easy access to the airport

 

Bits of Paradise!

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Camiguin Island is one small paradise between Bohol Sea endowed with nature’s beauty and wonder as well as heritage treasures. Be in surface or in depths, amazing scenes and adventures awaits for you.  Here are few snaps during my recent travel in December 2015!

This small island province is undoubtedly one of the jewels in Mindanao. Have you visited the Island Born of Fire?

Calamian Group: Diving in History

For some time since I was hooked in the blue world, exploring a wreck has been a major highlight in my dive trips. Just as I love history, wrecks are akin to museums holding important artifacts, stories and information. What is more interesting is it is out there in the depths in silence, barely visited and untouched by human hands.

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I believe there are places meant for another visit, those kinds that you will never get tired coming over and over again. For me, Coron lured my inner senses more that its pieces of paradise on the surface – but the secrets in its depths! We explored almost all of the wrecks in Coron Bay, yet there are still reasons to be back in Calamianes.  So, last October I took leave from work, booked tickets, packed my gears and head to Busuanga undaunted of the coming typhoon. Leaving office earlier than usual, taking things slow, having booked for the late night flight.  I was alone in the shuttle heading for the airport, which I found comforting as I watch the night scenery on the road to Laguindingan silently. Even at past 10PM, the terminal was still teeming with people.

Welcome to Busuanga

I had a long wait for my flight the next morning, the cheery weather welcomed me as the Dornier taxied on the airstrip amidst the greeneries of the Yulo King ranch.  But I had another long wait though for Angel whose flight was in mid-day.  Unlike our previous trips, we headed for Brgy Decalachao which is about seven kilometers away, the northern part of the town.    Our hosts in The Riverhouse welcomed us warmly, Mr.  H’s reception trick was kind of ceremonial and perfectly gave us warm smiles as we step on watching the grand view form the terrace!  🙂

The remaining hours was for some good rest to compensate for my sleepless night, our large comfortable cottage was just perfect then. Our sumptuous dinner was even more to our liking.  So, it was sleep and eat kind of relaxing for the rest of the day, such indulge. I felt spoiled in some way.  The Riverhouse was a perfect refuge in our get-away.  I might add that the lavish environs engulfed me – mangroves, river view, mountain view over the wide horizon, lush vegetations and peaceful silence.  The stillness of the night peppered with cicadas singing, more beautiful and relaxing than the booming videoke in the downtown area.  🙂

Pure, Idyllic and World Away

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The next morning was cloudy but not a deterrent for our exploring the quiet and laid-back side of Busuanga.  Wrecks always thrilled me and I was hoping for discoveries again as I always expected.  The port was just down the house garden over the steep pathway, our small boat was already waiting for us when we got there.  We had a river cruise over the vast mangroves, the tranquil scenery was a good start as I remembered my childhood days in the Agusan River back home.  Towards the river end to the open sea was the immaculate dive boat of Dugong Dive Center docked near a coastal community, we transferred, met our DM and finally headed for the bay.  The other side of Luzon was greatly disturbed by a typhoon but our location was perfectly calm, the waters flat and mild breeze blowing.

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The only wreck in the area lies near an uninhabited Dimalanta Islet at the north coast of Busuanga, Kyokusan Maru which is a 136 meters cargo ship of the Japanese imperial army was like the others, it sunk in September 1944 now lying more than 70 years underwater. Other ships anchored in the area was believed to have remained afloat and managed to escape the raid of US troops.  This wreck was sunk on the north side of Busuanga Island and, because of its distance to the other wrecks the Coron dive operations don’t make this trip very often.  The wreck lists about 10° to starboard and has a compass bearing of 160°.

Our first descent was at port of the wreck, going down to the mast at 16 meters now fully covered with corals, over the deck area and to cargo room. I barely noticed the fish life except for the giant bat fish that tried to get near us.  You can still see the remains of trucks and cars in the cargo holds. The wreck is still almost intact and quite easy to penetrate.  We found the fossilized truck, its chassis, and tires; we inspected also the machine gun platform fossilized and full decorated with corals. We went our deepest at 31.6 meters lingering over the deck area covered with corals.  I have always loved the mystery and the stories behind this piece of history.  Although I still wanted to linger, my 43 minutes was good enough considering the depth, I signaled for surface when my NDL went down to 2 minutes!

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Our surface interval was spent for our light lunch and hearing the stories of our DM.  It was a relaxing break embracing the stillness of the surroundings.

Our last descent was still at Kyokusan Maru exploring its bow end, as suggested by our DM taking advantage of the flat waters, going to another site could be with choppy conditions. They always recommend at least two dives in this wreck to cover at least major attractions, it depth can never allow longer bottom time.  Going down again to the mast and went inside a hole in the right wall into some dark chambers.  We lingered over the bow area all covered and fossilized with corals, some bivalves quickly snapped close as we passed.  We sighted few nudis, puffers, chromis, damsels, anthias, crinoids and feather stars. We lingered until my NDL was down to 1 minute!  I had forty minutes at 31.6 meters as deepest.  🙂 The two dives had been another discovery and learning opportunity, again it was a mind blowing experience.

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We had our river cruise again when we got back to our house.

 History Treasures

Diving on a WWII wreck helps us connect to our heritage and gain insight into our past. When our favorite diving environments host a piece of history, it’s our duty as a scuba diver to honor this gift.  It is fortunate that in the country’s depths lies and had share of WW II wrecks, not all sites held such piece of history.  Our affair in Coron has not ended, other wrecks lie farther (like at Black Island) and it is a reason to be back again.

Travel Notes:

Transport to the north is rare and expensive, public utilities from Coron have specific schedule which likely are filled from the town

  1. Decalachao Port is for boats heading to Club Paradise in Dimakya Island and El Rio y Mar in San Jose – two exclusive resorts in the area.
  2. There are two available dive shops in the area – Dugong Dive Center and Club Paradise.

 

 

Diveshop Discoveries

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The iconic dive flag

My passion for diving and the underwater life had given me that keen sense for the red flag with the diagonal line, it seemed I am drawn to it even in the midst of other travel agenda. I have promised myself to be productive in every trip, learn and discover especially marine issues and activities and possibility for diving trips in the future. I always believe that many places are worthy for diving, this country has 7,107 islands and literally surrounded by waters. Indeed, many interesting spots are not in the diving map but some brave souls just establish dive shops in rural areas even if scuba diving is unpopular in the locality. Recently I unexpectedly found dive operators in the least popular setting, new discoveries that sent flutter in my heart!

Surigao City

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Mabua Peeble Beach is just 10 minutes away from Surigao City

We went to this popularly unique pebble beach in Mabua to fulfill my promise to the kids – my nephews and nieces, it was long overdue and have to squeeze schedules for a two-hour travel from Butuan to Mabua and another two hours for the return trip. We drove to the tip of the cove for the beach cottages, and somewhere halfway I caught sight of a cottage painted white with the dive sign, it was a surprise! I thought there was only Punta Bilar Dive Center in the city. It is operated by Dirk/Doris, a friendly couple who just started the shop few months back. Mabua Divers (www.mabuadivers.com) can be reached at 09166439982. The site is a good prospect as it is in the nearby Caraga region and can be reached by land, there’s no need to fly!

Legazpi City

Recently visited the city through a work trip, at the airport while waiting for my luggage I hastily approached the tourist info booth and asked about diving, it was again surprising as the attendant handed me a calling card. I mentally noted Pacific Blue (www.pacificblueasia.com) not sure to find or visit the shop. Later that afternoon, a friend’s friend showed us around and drove us to Embarcadero and further to Legazpi Boulevard. There tucked in between with newly constructed establishments is a lowly but with large ground space is the shop. I asked our host for a short stop to inquire which he politely obliged. A Japanese which looked like a Filipino to me, attended to my inquiries – a casual conversation about the divesites and its marine life. There were damages from dynamite fishing and currently they are working on coral transplantation to revive the coral reefs in the surrounding Albay Gulf. It was interesting to note their effort to restore the marine environment, in coordination with BFAR.

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As expected diving in Misibis Bay is in dollars!

The luxurious Misibis Bay offers diving but I cringed as I inquired for the rates, the bay is still reviving from dynamite fishing damages.  A sanctuary is maintained by the resort, giant clams transported from Bolinao, Pangasinan were planted and adapting well, tropical fishes which includes over-sized groupers are decorating the nearby resort waters.

Butuan City

Right in this city where I grew up, I wasn’t expecting that diving will come right at home. In my own opinion, hardly would anybody set up a dive shop in Butuan, it was unbelievable. The notable body of water in the city is the Agusan River, with its murky waters it is not feasible for diving. The decent beaches worthy for the usual weekend outings are in Nasipit and Carmen, which is more than 25 kilometers away. Most likely, diveshops will open in the coastal towns with obvious reasons. JJ Dive Center started operations just few months back this summer, with the vision that Butuanons will embrace Scuba Diving as a sport, hobby and passion.

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Punta Diwata Reef is offshore of Punta Diwata Cave (Photo credits of wikipedia.org)

I found their announcement online through a diver Mexican contact and noticed that their dive spots include those located in Surigao City and Carmen, Agusan del Norte. These localities have notable marine environment and have existing partnership with government agencies for marine preservation and protection. I’m looking forward to discover and explore the mysterious depths in Caraga, and again there’s no need to fly!

Diving Responsibly

Diverse, healthy and colorful reefs for the future!

“I get excited about the concept that we can do for the ocean what’s been done for the land in terms of protecting areas of national parks.”  ~Dr. Sylvia Earle~

Ecotourism is becoming fast popular due to the growing awareness and concerns on environmental issues, the advocacy to manage tourism in an ecological sustainable way. Many divers, dive operators and resorts lead in protecting marine ecosystems but as reefs attract increasing numbers of tourists and more resorts, greater controls became necessary to prevent the reefs from being damaged.  Many people are also concerned on damage that can be done by divers. Keeping the areas of marine environment ecologically sustainable depends as much on divers as well as dive operators and resorts.


Divers have great responsibility in protecting marine world much that no other can defend the ecosystems than those who first love the seas and oceans.  Here are few reminders for responsible divers who are keen on sustainable ecotourism management:

  •  Master good buoyancy control, coral is killed by divers touching it while adjusting their buoyancy
  • Be properly weighted and have all equipment tucked in to avoid touching marine organisms
  • Do not use deep fin-strokes next to the reef – the surge of the water stresses delicate organisms
  • Do not wear gloves to avoid the temptation to hold onto live corals
  • Reef hooks will  be used only when necessary and on dead part of the reef
  • Do not move marine organisms around to photograph them or hitch ride on turtles, manta rays or whale sharks – it causes considerable stress
  • Avoid several people crowding in underwater caverns or caves and do not stay long as diver’s exhausted air suffocates the resident creatures
  • Do not participate in spear-fishing for sport – selective killing of the larger fish upsets the reproductive chain
  • Do not collect or purchase marine souvenirs
  • Before booking on a resort, check the company’s environment policy
  • Donate to group or organization to offset the carbon emissions of flights
  • Every dive is a clean-up dive, your hands is not too full to pick any trash during the dive
  • Support every marine conservation activities and programs in your area

Divers are ambassadors of the ocean, the tiny minority who witnessed the wonders of the marine world and understand the importance to the health of planet.  Divers would be more evangelical about the seas, without doubt divers had a special role in broadcasting the message that our ocean are in trouble.  The health of the oceans is an indicator of the health and future of our whole world. We have great responsibility!

 

Isla Sta. Cruz del Grande

My recent stop-over at Zamboanga on our way to Bongao, Tawi-tawi gave me an opportunity to rediscover this historic city and I had my share of surprises. Since our time was limited, we just planned for a quick hop at Sta. Cruz island, the famed islet with the pink  beach.

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Angel and I was in awe, the island is more than just a  glimmering white beach or pink beach for that matter, its depths is teeming with marine life.  And right there in the beach front nestled are turtle eggs waiting to be hatched, about more than thirty days later!  The nearby Pequeño Sta. Cruz is MPA, that explains why going to the island is forbidden.  The tourism officer (who happened to be a diver) informed us later that diving is allowed in certain parts of the sanctuary – hallelujah!

Getting a dip and swim at Sta. Cruz was irresistible , I gave in and joined Angel in the refreshing waters under the cheery sun – as if it was summer!  It is always an advantage to be at the beach on weekdays, the little paradise was all to ourselves!

Zamboanga – yo quiero la mar y la playa!  Soon, you will be our diving destination…

El Nido Affair 2

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One of the secrets in El Nido

“We will be back after five years.” – it was a promise to ourselves…

My first visit to El Nido three years back was with two reasons – to nurse my broken spirit after my mum’s demise and to fill the gap of our aborted Tubbataha 2010 plan. Discovering and diving in this quaint town was more than good enough, I came home with my light tan and twinkling eyes, that trip with my favorite dive buddy gave comfort somehow. And as if to console our selves as we left, he promised we will be back in five years and I was thinking if I would still be around after such time. Gladly, we were back not after five years but shortly, my buddy just gave in to my whims for a return this June, exactly three years from the first visit and what a joy! I was anticipating for a relaxing long weekend in this quiet town with sights like karst cliffs, mountains, greeneries, underwater life, beach and sunsets.

Simple Wishes

The trip was challenged again – confusing changes of my airline tickets, the rains and my buddy’s late arrival in PP but we made it though. Last evening flight from CdeO, overnight in Cebu, flight to Puerto, five hours wait, six hours bus ride, then I finally hit my bed almost midnight in El Nido. It was like more than 24 hours on the road! Indeed, I was wishing for an unhurried pace during the get-away.

We woke up the next morning with heavy downpour, the rains pounding the roof creating ground pools. Eager for our day’s dives I was hoping it would stop but refused to be bothered, I always considered rains as blessings. The downcast skies and showers did not prevent us in reporting to Palawan Divers at 8am as agreed. Accordingly the day’s dives were cancelled by management for safety reasons, inarguably it was logical and we trusted their judgment.

Wish granted! So our day one was all about relaxing and food galore, yes literally we hopped in three restos for all our day meals.  So as a start we had breakfast at The Art Café (tuna pesto, bruschetta, fruit shakes), lingered for sometime in their breezy second floor terrace, leisurely playing sungka while having our meals. For lunch, we chose The Alternative Resto and tried mixed veggies soup and fish steak with mashed potatoes. The place is at the waterfront overlooking Bacuit Bay and so we had a good view of the overcast horizons, it was an opportunity to sit by the seascape with such gloomy mode, and it was surprising that the surrounding waters was so calm. No sign whatsoever of disturbance. We got chance to walk around town on our way home, many changes were evident – lot of lodges, inns or hotels sprouted and so with restos, cafés, spas, bistros even new dive shops now lining the street. The down town is getting a bit crowded compared three years ago, though the bucolic atmosphere is still there. Funny was, we were in our wetsuits getting around – talking of properly dressed! Our afternoon nap compensated for the previous day long trip, and we had few hours to rest and unwind until evening.

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Blue skies, blue waters and serenity….

The gorgeous sunset that I wanted to view again by the bay was nowhere, downcast skies was all the way to the evening. But it didn’t stop us to walk the dark path to have our dinner at Bacuit Grill. Hadefe Cottages is in Brgy Masagana at the far end of the shoreline quiet accessible to the resto. Angel and I both loved the place, it has lovely view of sunset and night lights lining the coast in the evening. Most importantly, the food is great – we both loved the creamy shrimp spaghetti! I was imagining I was in St. Tropez (again) sitting there watching the night lights under a canopy of stars. But there were no stars this time, and the rain started to pour again after we ordered our food – and yes, we had shrimp spaghetti again with veggies salad! Bacuit Grill I think is iconic in El Nido, it was filled with diners especially evenings foreigners or local tourists alike.

Sometimes a simple wish is granted inscrutably, the poor weather turned the day as purely relaxing – easygoing and comfortably indulging us with good rest and good food.

Bacuit Depths Once More

The next morning promised bright skies despite the light morning rain, we found already other divers when we got at the dive shop and again all were foreigners – all four of them: a couple doing intro diving, one doing confine dives for OW course and one with high-tech cam doing some documentary who was joined to us with DM Doy. It was a bunch and it felt good to be back. I was glad to see DM Yoshi again and reminded him of our dives with them three years ago – amazing three long dives one sunny day which he described as crazy!

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Exploring once more Bacuit in the depths

We cruised about 10 minutes to Cadlao Island – the largest island in Bacuit Bay and dropped off Ms. Abby with the OW student at Paradise Beach. We got back to the nearby Natnat Beach for our first descent unto a sandy slope decorated alternately with soft corals, crinoids and tropical fishes. Mysteriously the viz was not bad despite the previous day rains. There were rabbit fishes, sergeants, clownfish, trumpetfish, trigger fish and a herd of striped eel fish. I tried to follow a giant bat fish that came near but was so elusive. There were several specie of nudis and found some bristle worms too. We ascend after 56 mins with my air still at 100 bars.

Giant bat fish!
Giant bat fish!

The sun was generous enough and brightened the skies for our dives. We proceed to Entalula Island as our next site and had our surface interval there. Our next descent was at the western side, DM Doy briefed us to go south bound halfway then swam back in same route for the boat. Rolling back for our entry we descend to a drop-off and drifted with the mild current. Tropical fishes hovered over soft and hard corals, there were damsels, puffer, triggers, trumpets and variety of anemone fishes. Then a blue spotted ribbontail ray resting on under sand crevice surprised us, but quickly hid from view disturbed by our quick movements. Our first time to spot such colorful ray, its radiant numerous blue spots and its flattened long tail with blue lines looked interesting. We found also a gray stingray resting on sand, quickly hopped nearby after our DM gently poked him. The stingrays for me were great find, absolutely. Our return to the boat meant swimming against the current which become stronger, such conditions made me cringe – swims against current are tiring! We hovered over a coral area for our safety stop, where a curious remora swam near us perhaps inspecting for a possible abode! We ascend after 50 minutes with my air at 100 bars.

Christmas tree bristle worm!
Christmas tree bristle worm!

Our surface interval was spent on a patch of white beach of West Entalula for our late lunch, obviously everyone was starving, it was past 1pm already! It was a perfect setting – turquoise waters, white beach, karst and blue sunny skies. We lingered a little while until we all piled up on the boat for our next site. The DMs were aiming for Pinaglugaban Rock but as we cruised, the waters went choppy so they decided last minute for Twin Rocks which is located at the north side of Miniloc Island. It was better I thought as it would be something new to explore than the Pinaglugaban. The water was

An alligator flat head - rare find!  But sorry, the blue ribbon tail and blue spotted  stingray quickly hid for a photo
An alligator flat head – rare find! But sorry, the blue ribbon tail and blue spotted stingray quickly hid away

indeed calm and the afternoon waters welcomed us as we back rolled for our entry. We ascend unto a reef slope with variety of tropical fishes, decorated with table corals, whips and sponges. We found two blue dotted stingray both resting on sands, it was surprising that they were not threatened of our presence, as they keep their grounds. There were yellow scadfish, sweetlips, anemone fish, pipefish and puffers. We passed by a school of transparent barracudas – another great find! At first I thought they were different specie of jacks. One more great find was a crocodile flathead, as bottom dweller it was camouflaging on the sands, I thought it was a stonefish. We ascend after 52 minutes with my air at 90 bars.

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Something new – different specie of nudi

Well, we finished off the day with pasta dinner in Bacuit Grill – I guess Angel just love the place and their great food. Again, it was pouring hard while we dine but the aura of the bistro was cheerful – it was filled with tourists again. As if everyone was oblivious of the dark night and rains….

Luxury Redefined

The next morning greeted us with bright skies which what we just wanted, one more day to relax and discover the twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang! No rushing, we wanted our last day in our unhurried pace so we left the town by mid-morning taking Tolit’s motorcab. The first-half of the roads were paved and the rest were bumpy and pot-holed, there were ongoing road works leading to next town of New Ibajay. Just like back home, I think these on-going road works are all over the country. Watching the bukid sceneries is pure joy to me, the mountains, the fields – so serene and pure. The rice fields which I believe are rain-fed in different states – few were left from last harvest, some started to plow, few had seedlings sprouted already, few are ready to plant and some have started to plant already. And I am always amused of herons gathering near the carabao in the middle of the field, some even would hop on the carabao picking its back – two contrasting colors yet in harmony – white heron on black carabao’s back! We arrived Nacpan beach after an hour, the long stretch of long beach was almost deserted and the clear blue waters decorated with waves – like beckoning us! Such luxury when all those beaches out there are crowded and filled with man-made structures.

Nacpan and Calitang Beach
Nacpan and Calitang Beach

The mild sun was a blessing though the sky wasn’t blue enough for the photos, the subdued sky over the horizon created an unobtrusive milieu. Angel and I found a new friend, a local dog just came over us while we’re taking refuge under the coconut trees, she lingered with us and even joined us as we tried to walk the long beach but have to get back when it started to drizzle. I remembered the pup that joined us in Daku Island.

A pink boat in the beach!
A pink boat in the beach!

We started to walk the westward stretch, you can never miss the colossal resthouse on the beach which appeared ominous and hollow – a sharp contrast from the simple and ordinary abodes of the locals! We climbed the hill for a vantage of the two beaches – taking the higher grounds is the best way to get a good view of this extraordinary works of nature. We spotted few tourists taking photos on our way to the hill top, bit arduous and filled with tall grasses, I was wary of bee and insect stings. It was somewhat slippery due to rains. We got it to the top with the breathtaking view – extraordinaire indeed! The 360 degrees view of this little paradise was indeed soul-filling.

The scorching heat got us, we hastily got down with our guide Tolit, passing again the wide cogon grass area and almost run for the beach. We needed a quick swim, the heat and my itches were getting over me. It was all to ourselves as we swam, enjoying the turquoise waters like kids. Another luxury…

The hilltop for the grand view of this paradise
The hilltop for the grand view of this secret paradise

We were starving already, so we walked back again to the other end straight to Catian Beach. A quiet place with few beach huts under the coco trees, we had our late lunch while waiting for the fresh buko which Angel wanted. The buko was costly but undoubtedly good. 😛 One more luxury – dining at the beach front with the sounds of the crashing waves. The skies have cleared but still not blue enough for my photos. Anyway, after a relaxing lunch we had another swim at the front. The clear waters and the crashing big waves was irresistible. We swam and swam like kids and played with the big waves! I haven’t done it for a long time, I can’t remember when was the last. 

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To swim in this beautiful beach is an act of worship!

We finally left at 3pm passing again all the greeneries and fields, and got back to town in 45 minutes. Surprisingly shorter than going there, I think Tolits drove faster going home. We have enough time for some good rest before our long bus trip back to Puerto Princesa. For the second time, coming to El Nido is an affair for relaxing and for new discoveries. And again I am always grateful of Angel’s company during these exclusive trips.

Perhaps I will never get a chance to experience El Nido staying in Miniloc Island Resort, Lagen Island Resort or the latest addition and most luxurious, Pangulasian Island Resort but many would miss or often neglect the ordinary and simple things as opulent because it is not expensive and ostentatious. For me, the greatness of God always reveals itself in simple things, not rearranged by human hands.

I may not be back to this quaint town again but I’m taking all these beautiful memories to heart.  Yes, it’s another affair to remember.

Travel Notes:

1. There are lot of dive shops now in El Nido but I prefer Palawan Divers, we paid P 3,600.00 per head for three boat dives, including DM, BCD & reg, lunch and marine conservation fee. Enriched air would cost P 300.00/tank, certification is necessary.
2. Aside from vans, El Nido can be reached also by Roro aircon bus at P 425.00/pax; reservation is needed to get a sure seat especially if you have a flight to catch in Puerto Princesa.
3. Skin care essentials – sunscreen, tapis or hat. If you head for Nacpan, don’t forget insect repellent to protect from sand flies. I’m still suffering from bites allergies after four weeks!


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