April 25, 2011

Palawan - Day 3: Beaching around

It's day 3 of my reunion with Coron, Palawan and after the 9-destination-island-hopping the previous day my body's aching and also my foot that was cut by a coral and also I was still itching from the plankton attack. Nevertheless, I got up from my sweaty sleep (you know, the 6 hour electricity of Palawan in my previous blog).

We arrived at the port again at around 9AM and boarded, this day was "beach hopping" day for us since we went to 9 destinations, this way was laid back relaxation to three beaches.

It was getting late so the bankeros (boatmen) decided to go first at the farthest destination so by the time we get there, we would have our lunch there.

Two hours after we were stunned at what we saw...

Welcome to Malcapuya Island
Malcapuya island boasts its Boracay like beach. Although Boracay has the sand that is like powdered milk, Malcapuya is around a few decades of having the same sand texture. We settled at the beach front small cottages and so as the others went to the beach, I wandered around with my bare feet. The island is relatively small so you can go around it in less than 30 minutes.

As I was doing my mini "solo travel" around the island, I saw a sign saying "Peak Here" and so I thought that they misspelled "PEEK" as "PEAK". But then a couple with a camera started climbing down the rocky hill and then I realized that there was a viewing peak at the top, so I started climbing and the guy said to me in Filipino "Hey! why are you on your bare feet?! The rocks are sharp, be careful cause it's gonna hurt". I just smiled and continued my climb.

He was right, my feet was being scratched by the sharp rocks but once I got at the top, I forgot all the pain as the strong cold breeze and the astounding view of the ocean is right in front of my eyes. I didn't say this to them but I'll say it here, while I was on top, I shed a tear because I couldn't believe that I got back to Palawan with my own expenses! I shouted at the top of my lungs "I LOVE YOU PALAWAAAAAAANNNNNN!!!". The view is more like a painting that has its elements moving.

The other face of Malcapuya island at the top of the peak.
While on top and after shedding a tear getting so dramatic together with my shouting scene to Palawan, I sat down, hiding in the shade and wrote in my little notebook.

"Malcapuya the serene, only few sounds I hear.
Waves crashing to the shore, some blasting thru island walls.
This place is supreme, Malcapuya the serene."

When I got down and returned to my group, the food was already there and I was again in for a beach lunch treat! We feasted on Fish (Salagisi if I'm not mistaken) Crabs which the shells are so hard I was thinking if they were drinking milk for calcium and pork chops. To quench the thirst, we bought fresh coconuts for just PhP30.00 (less than $1.00). A so called "fresh" coconut drink in Manila would cost around $2-$4 each!

Every food becomes extraordinary when eaten at the Beach.
After pigging out at our lunch, we said our goodbye to this one of a kind beach and headed out for our second destination where they said we will be staying for more than an hour and they promised that there will be lots of fish encounters at the said beach.

Few minutes of "bumpy" rides as what friend Mikki told me, we reached the famous Banana Island. One thing puzzled me, if it's called Banana island, then where are the Banana trees? All I see are coconut tree lines, then our boatman explained to us that the island's shape was like a banana and that's where the name came from.

If Malcapuya boasts its close-to-Boracay-sands, Banana island is different, because it's part sand and part coral beach and that amazes me. At one side it's all sand but on the other side it's all coral rocks, just amazing and I have no words to describe its rarity.

The sandy side of Banana Island
The waves are a little rough than the usual calm beaches of Palawan, we got our snorkeling gear and after looking around the land for a while and seeing that there is actually a Bar that I'm guessing that's only open during night time.

I went out in the open with balls of bread in my hands and I wondered why there was no fish around, I looked at the landscape and I learned that there were no corals around and the beach was only a couple of meters long and then the beach drops to the abyss.

Then suddenly out of the dark blue waters from below I saw movement and little fishes started ascending and it might be the bread that was spreading around. Then like a sweet orchestra played thru my ears as schools of fishes gathered around us!

Here's a video:

I'm seen at the 12-14 second mark trying to unpack the bread from the plastic as the fishes swarm me.

I headed back to shore to grab more bread as it was the closest fish encounter I have been into in Palawan. The fish feeding program we did lasted more than 20 minutes and it was just astounding to be in the center of a school of fish that's trying to grab the bread right off my hand! Miko then took wonderful photos of me while feeding the fishes.

My left hand is closed so that the bread won't be wasted.
Because we enjoyed the encounter so much, we were running a bit late so we had to hurry to go to the last destination that we were set to go as the Sun is slowly losing its ground over the land.

Bangkeros (boatmen) Pulling us ashore the islet of Bulog.
Bulog islet is so small that 20 persons would have a hard time finding space and move around. We were given like just 15-20 minutes to have our photos taken so that we'll be at the city before moon rise!

This is an awesome photo of me, it's like saying that "I overcame all the currents against me and here I am, back in Coron!"
This is the cast from my "Return to Palawan" journey, from right to left:
Faith, Tommy, JP, Nadine, Mikki, Celine, Miko, ME, Mark, Camille.

When we reached the city, I looked at the horizon for it was the last night of my trip to the place I loved the most, the dream to come back in this place was four years in the making. But still, I told the waters of Palawan that I shall return to once again be one with them.

April 16, 2011

Palawan - Day 2: The bloody island hopping!

The second day has come! In a sweaty fashion way! We woke up at 7AM with sweaty shirts and not in the best possible smiling way. The reason was that the electricity in Coron only runs from 6PM to 12AM because of fuel shortage, the city is powered by big generators run by Diesel fuel which is the supply around the country is in crisis.

As I get myself ready for the day's activity, I put on my earphones and play the tunes of my favorite local artists, Champ Lui Pio and Rico Blanco. I waited for my turn to have my morning glory and the morning in Palawan is quiet and people are not in a rush which makes me feel relaxed.

My "Spanish omelette" Breakfast. The serving's too small though it only reached my esophagus.  
After my small breakfast at the hotel we hailed a tricycle and went to the office of the tour guides where we signed waivers that with whatever fatal happens to us, they are not responsible except of course if the injury is caused by their negligence. The waiver also included that whatever things we borrowed are damaged, we will pay for it.

Most of us didn't care about the "accident" issues in the waiver but rather on the equipment that we will borrow because if for example I break the goggles I borrowed, my wallet's gotta give PhP1000 ($50) for it! We all took a good look at our borrowed equipment before we went out to make sure that all was in good condition. After further discussions, off we go to the port!

I placed "UNO" (the name of my first  DSLR, a Nikon D40 bought in 2008) inside a waterproof plastic DSLR case specifically made for snorkeling. I bought it online and picked it up in the seller's house for PhP500($10).

As we were walking towards the port I was approached by a Japanese tourist and asked if where we were going, it looked like to me that he was trying to hitch a ride with our boat so that he can share with a smaller amount rather than rent a boat by himself. I couldn't give a specific answer because we were going to 9 different islands! So I just said "We're going to 9 different islands today" - and to my surprise he walked away and I think he was irritated with my answer, but what other answer could I give? I don't know the names of the islands!

Moving on to our first destination: SIETE PECADOS, Siete Picados means "Seven Islands" but it was more beautiful from below, the islands are surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and all sorts of fishes are around to play with.

JP under the sea
There were lots of corals and the current that morning was strong and my goggles kept moisturizing so I had to repeat the step of spitting on the lens while I was being taken away by the waves closer to the corals.

I kept a distance between me and the tall corals because if I hit the coral it might be broken or let's say it might be instantly turned into sand because of my large butt.

As I try to fight the current I saw a hell lot of sea urchins and if it hit my legs I would be in pain but I would still be alive, it's not that deadly but it's very very irritating to the skin. As I tried to swim away my foot hit something sharp and the next thing that was on my mind was "SEA URCHIN, SEA URCHIN, SEA URCHIN!!!" I looked at my foot and it was bleeding, fishes were swimming around my bloodied foot, it wasn't a sea urchin that hit me but I hit a coral, poor coral I'm sorry! (It wasn't damaged by the way).

I went up the boat and asked for the first aid kit and I paid attention to my foot. I found out that the index finger of my right foot (2nd from the left) had small gash wounds, it was deep and the bleeding was quite bad. It was also painful every time salt water touches the wound, but that didn't stop me. As soon as I closed the wound I was ready for the next destination!

Kayangan Lake
The next destination was the reason why I fell in Love with Palawan four years ago and until now, Kayangan Lake is the most beautiful lake that I've seen in my life and I saw quite a lot of lakes so far. The lake is only accessible via hiking 75 meters up and 75 meters down but no worries because of the man made steps. The vast open space and chilling waters of the lake is relaxing, the calm waters could even make you take a nap if you just float around. The water is a mix of salt and fresh water, it's called "Brackish Water".

Submerged Limestones
Just below the waters of Kayangan lake lies giant Limestones and to my assumption, it's still growing because it is untouched and undisturbed.

After Kayangan lake we went to the third destination which was the "Coral Garden". Our boat man said that if garden is not disturbed during the day,  Pawikans (Giant Sea Turtles) come in to feed and hang around.

I got so excited and I kept telling the guys to keep quiet. We went in and saw why it was called the Coral Garden, there were so many types of corals and although my foot was in pain while submerged in salt water, I kept in mind that I can deal with the pain just to see the Pawikan. But after almost an hour of quiet snorkeling not a single shell of a turtle is around. I would have been the happiest man that hour if I ever did see one.

Here's a video footage taken by Mikki at the Coral Garden:
At the 23rd second, Mark was hit by planktons which are irritating to the skin that causes rashes.
Rock formations that makes Coron extraordinary

After my disappointment of not seeing the Pawikan, we headed to "Twin Peaks", our fourth destination. It was another snorkeling area that has twin rocks, well not really that they are twins but a lot of similarities between the two.

Not all went snorkeled at twin peaks because the corals were the same as Siete Pecados and therefore the fishes were the same and yes, we were right and our tummies were growling like sea lions already so we headed to the island where we would have our packed lunch for the day.

We arrived at "Atwayan Beach" at high noon and the Sun at its fiercest! We quickly went into a Kubo and the boat men or "Bangkeros" brought us our packed lunch, the good thing is that the lunch comes with fresh fishes and a few kilos of extra rice, it's included to the tour we availed!

The packed lunch we had was rice, tomato and pork chop Liempo wrapped in banana leaves. The fish was cooked in the boat while we were touring the islands.

The food was so delicious especially when you're at the beach. There's one thing we all agreed upon, eating fish is best at lunch on the beach.

The food was so mouth-watering that I dropped using my spoon and fork and starting eating with my hands! After I started eating with my hands, the boys followed afterwards and ate with their own set of hands! We were enjoying our food when we saw the Japanese tourist arrived at the island and he was walking alone, I hate seeing people on their own (although I always would want to travel alone, weird huh?) I hope he wasn't agitated by seeing me.

I eat with my hands baby 'cause I'm Pinoy this way!
After that super whammed packed lunch made us ten pounds heavier, we proceeded to the sixth destination for the day, the "Skeleton Wreck".

According to www.coronwrecks.com:

"This wreck is the keel, ribs and stringers of a steel-hulled boat about 25 meters long. Location: Northwest corner of Coron Island. This wreck was beached with the bow a dozen meters from Coron Island. The stern points directly away from the island. The wreck slopes along the reef from 5 meters deep at the bow to 22 meters at the stern. A pass through on the starboard side of the hull at 14 meters allows you to swim from the inside of the boat out over the coral reef."

Here's a video of Miko reaching the wreck. Video by Mikki.
I didn't get to see the wreck for the second time (First was in 2007) because like Mark, I was also hit with the skin-irritating planktons on my right arm and I had itchy rashes all over me plus the painful wound on my foot. But still, it didn't stop me because it's all part of the travel!

The CYC Beach boasts of its Mangroves. I didn't go down because my hand was still itchy from the plankton attack. CYC is the 7th destination.
The Twin Lagoon!
The Twin Lagoon's entrance is like of the kingdoms of the movie "The Lord of the Rings". It was high tide so we used the stairs to go into the lagoon, if it's low tide one can just swim under the small opening through the Lagoon. The water here is brackish and cool.

What made this lagoon more interesting was this:

This is the military way of fixing a dislocated shoulder.
Mikki was the one who helped me put back my dislocated shoulder, read about it HERE. This time he was the one who had his shoulder dislocated as he tried to swim through the submerged entrance to the lagoon (just below the stairs is the entrance to the lagoon, it is visible and easy to access when it is low tide.) My brother helped him put back his shoulder. Mikki is like me who dislocated his shoulder a few years back, mine was in 2008.

As we were chasing sunlight we hurried to Barracuda Lake, for me it's the scarier lake. Scary because of its name, we all know that Barracudas can slice a human arm with one bite, and this deep brackish watered lake is named after it. The name of the lake can scare a person by just thinking about it.

While the sun was setting and we head back to the city, I wrote this little note:

"With the wind against us, I looked at the horizon and
the fire red dying Sun stirs with the enveloping sky.
What a sight to see, I can't help but appreciate
the wonder of my country".

Coron engulfed in darkness and illuminated by its habitants.