Palawan · Philippines · Travel Tales

The Majestic El Nido, Palawan

Big Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan
Big Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan

I never thought I’d be able to do this: go from one vacation to another with little breathing room in between — just enough time to go home, unpack and pack, upload pics, sleep for a few hours, and pet my dogs. Last weekend, I was in Palawan; just earlier, I was in Ilocos; now, I’m writing from home. And in a few hours, I’m going to Bangkok.

Ilocos is still fresh in my mind and I’m tempted to write about it right now, but I also want to write of El Nido before I forget anything. I’ve always been afraid of forgetting even such places as El Nido ย — maybe that’s why I take pictures and write.ย 

El Nido is our fourth leg of our trip to Palawan. We woke up at the ungodly hour of two AM to ride our private van to El Nido. I was barely able to sleep at the back of the van — I’ve always had trouble sleeping in trips that does not involve our family car. Most of the five-hour van ride was spent bouncing left and right and wondering when daylight would come as it was so damn dark outside.

I guess I was able to nap, after all, as we all woke up in Taytay for a short CR break at around sunrise. We were welcomed by two overly friendly labradors who gave me a lick on the face the moment I crouched down to them.

Two more hours on a bumpy road followed, and I was jolted fully awake by my companions who were exclaiming, “Wow!” The van had just made a turn and suddenly, we beheld the blue seas and the limestone cliffs of Bacuit Bay.

We had been booked to Nido’s Friendly Inn (P800 for a double fan room), a cozy eight-bedroom hotel just a five minute walk from the center of the town. El Nido advertised an inn or homestay or island hopping tour practically everywhere. Truth be told, though, I’d thought a booming tourist town would seem a little more progressive. I guess the state of the roads and the daily blackouts hinder progress somewhat.

We’d booked a combination of tours A and C for the price of P1000 for each person. I didn’t expect we could cover seven areas all in one day, but we did it.

At around nine, we went to the shore to wait for our boat. It’s a rather big one for a tour boat in El Nido; it easily fit 20 people, so at every stop, it had to dock far from the shore and we had to swim more than we’d ever thought we could. There were also a couple of Europeans, teachers like us, who went on board. If they were annoyed by our rambunctious laughter, I can’t really tell.

DSC_8369

Our first stop was Hidden Beach, a small beach by a narrow strip of shallow water flanked by the jagged gray rocks El Nido is full of.

Hidden Beach
Hidden Beach

As we were headed for our next stop, the sky darkened and drops of cold rain hit us in the middle of the bay. The sea was blessedly calm, though. It took us a while to get to the next stop, and by then the rain had stopped. It was a small miracle, because the next stop had magnificent views of the bay.

Matinloc Shrine
Matinloc Shrine

According to the very small museum in what looked like an unkempt basement of Matinloc Shrine, it was built out of a vision and a miracle.

After a steep climb, one could get the following view of Bacuit Bay.

View from Matinloc Shrine
View from Matinloc Shrine

I spent a few dizzying minutes here taking pictures of each of my friends overlooking the bay.

Soon, we were off again.ย We docked by Talisay Beach for a sumptuous lunch our boatmen had been preparing while the rest of us went sightseeing. (Every now and then the scent of grilled squid wafted toward us in the middle of the bay.) We had chicken, fish, shrimps and squid — all grilled — plus mangoes and pineapples, and rice. We ate on plastic plates while taking shelter underneath the rocks and sitting on the sand. From there, we had a view of the bluest sea under the heat of the noontime sun.

Talisay Beach
Talisay Beach

After our lunch, we headed to the Secret Beach. We had to swim far and go through an opening small enough to fit only one person at a time. You could swim underwater, though; I had a view of an abyss right underneath the opening. But the swim was worth it.

Secret Beach
Secret Beach

Secret Beach was like a huge roofless hall with dark limestone cliffs for walls. It was pretty amazing. And I was extremely thankful for my Aquamundo dry bag (bought at the airport) as I was able to bring my camera to the Hidden Beach.

Mark: "Gusto ko ang concept nito."
Mark: “Gusto ko ang concept nito.”

We went to the Secret Lagoon later on, a smaller version of Secret Beach with shallower, murkier water. After Hidden Beach, it seemed like a letdown — we probably should have seen it first.

We went snorkeling near Shimizu Island next. There were lots of fishes, so many that we suddenly smelled like fish ourselves.

Shimizu Island
Shimizu Island

Our final stops were the Big and Small Lagoons. I was excited because these were usually what’s advertised in the More Fun in the Philippines ads, and it was also the single beautiful Philippine scene shot for The Bourne Legacy.

Maybe we were tired, or maybe we were in awe — I think it was a mixture of both — but everybody fell silent on the boat when we entered the Big Lagoon, and the only sound was the purring motor of the boat.

Big Lagoon
Big Lagoon

Pictures cannot really capture what being in the Big Lagoon is like. It was like being in a river, but more dramatic; it could be the clear, shallow water, or the cliffs around us.

Leaving the Big Lagoon
Leaving the Big Lagoon

The Small Lagoon was likewise beautiful — a smaller version of the Big Lagoon — but there was no shore, so we just floated around and envied those with kayaks.

Boats docked by the Small Lagoon.
Boats docked by the Small Lagoon.

Too soon, it was time to go back. We were all napping moments after leaving the Small Lagoon. I even lay down on the raft-like contraption on the sides of the boat, so as I closed my eyes, I had a view of Bacuit Bay shining in the afternoon sun.

I was so tired that I fell asleep after washing up, waking up only to eat dinner. All in all, I had something like 14 hours of sleep while my friends played cards until midnight.

The next morning, we ate at a carinderia, and left for Puerto Princesa before lunch.

If I were to do the whole trip again (and if I weren’t pressed for budget), I’d probably take the island tours slowly, doing tours A, B and C one day at a time and savoring each island. As it is, though, I’m more than thoroughly satisfied. El Nido is off my 30 before 30 list, finally — but more than that, I got to see firsthand one thing that every Pinoy should be proud of. ๐Ÿ™‚

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6 thoughts on “The Majestic El Nido, Palawan

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