As a destination in the Philippines-even the world’s-most beautiful island group, Coron is a paradise on earth. This town north of Palawan is bursting with awesome sceneries and magnificent seascapes.
Coron town in the south side of Busuanga Island is just one of the four towns in the Calamian Group of Islands. The other three are Busuanga-Salvacion on the northern part of Coron, and Culion and Linapacan, both of which are separate groups of islands. Calamianes are now part of the 1,780-island province of Palawan, but was previously a separate province during the Spanish time.
Coron is now the commercial capital of the Calamianes.
Coron Island fronting Coron town is home to the Tagbanua tribe. In 1998, the Philippine government awarded a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title covering more than 22,000 hectares of land and sea surrounding Coron Island. Thus the less than 2,000 Tagbanuas living in the island have rights to preserve its rich marine and land resources.
This town of about 40,000 people of mostly immigrants from Luzon and the Visayas used to live on fishing and farming but are now dependent mostly on tourism for their livelihood.
Coron Island Natural Biodic Area is listed in the natural category of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2006. But the recent announcement that a Nickelodeon Theme Park will soon rise on the island effectively endangers its inclusion.
How to get there
Getting to Coron is also now easier than before when the only mode of transportation was the old batel (wooden-hulled motorized boat) that ran from Manila to Coron once a month. The Yulo airport (now called Francisco B. Reyes airport) located 23 kilometers northeast of Coron towns is now even busier with regular flights from Manila and Cebu. Flying time from either Manila or Cebu is less than an hour. At the airport, tourist vans pick up passengers and take them to their destinations around Coron.
There are also regular boats from Manila (taking 14 hours), Puerto Princesa (taking eight hours), San, Jose Mindoro (taking four hours) and El Nido (taking four hours) to Coron.
Motorcycles and bicycles can be rented to go around the island.
What to see, what to do
The easiest way to explore Coron is to avail of an island-hopping tour package that includes a boat tour to most of its attractions. It comes with free lunch.
The tour starts with the Siete Pecados Marine Sanctuary. This is a good place to snorkel, with its live corals and schools of colorful aquarium fishes. You can actually spend hours just exploring this sanctuary.
The next is the Kayangan lagoon in Coron Island. The entrance is manned by a member of a Tagbanua tribe who conducts a short briefing about their tribe and the many hidden attractions on the island. From the entrance, visitors climb the 175 steps leading to the viewdeck before going down to the breathtaking Kayangan Lake with its crystal-clear body of fresh water tucked beneath the limestone rocks.
The boat usually makes a stopover for lunch in some hidden beaches like Banol. Banol Beach is a perfect spot for a short break: white-sand beach, with shallow waters and shaded trees to cool down after meals.
Next on the itinerary is the Skeleton Wreck. There are actually around ten well-preserved shipwrecks around Coron. They were the result of the daring raid made by the US Navy in September 1944 to destroy the fleet of Japanese ships hiding in the area. The Skeleton Wreck is marked by a floater near Beach 69.
The final stop is Barracuda Lake. It has an easier climb but gives another magnificent view of a lake named after its resident fish and breath-taking rock formations.
Around Coron town, there are also plenty of things to do. There’s the 724 steps leading to the view deck of Mount Tapyas where a cross was erected on its summit. It’s a nice place to relax after a long day and watch the sunset. And there’s the 30-minute tricycle ride from the market to the Maquinit Hot Spring, where one can enjoy the hot spring water in its several giant pools.
It is also worth walking around the town center to visit the new public market and the nearby Lualhati Park where the local tourism office are located. At the old section of the town, it is also nice to visit the old municipal hall, the sprawling sports center and the Saint Agustine Church and Rectory, which all speak about the island’s migration history.
Where to stay, what to eat
There are plenty of options on where to stay in Coron. Located near the public market are many hostels and inns catering to back-packers. Lining up the main streets of Coron are many guesthouses catering to travellers with families. Among them are Coron Ecolodge Hotel, Kokos Nuss Resort, Krystal Lodge, Princess of Coron Resort, among others.
But for those who wish to splurge, there’s the Two Seasons Coron Island Resort where the daily rates can go as high as P30,000.
For dining, food can be purchased at the public market. Fish and other seafood are always fresh and can be cooked free-of-charge (give tips of course) by hotel staff. There are also several carienderias (small local restaurants) near the market selling inexpensive meals. Coron also has several bakeries selling freshly-baked pandesal in the morning.
But my favorite place to eat in Coron is Lolo Nonnoy’s. It is owned and operated by a group of women who came from Bulacan, and they serve mostly Bulakenyo and Kapampangan dishes. They are known to serve the best-tasting leche flan in the island; my comfort food on this paradise on earth.