IT was bonding time with family as we played tourist in the beautiful island of Palawan. So called the last frontier for its yet unspoiled and unexplored beaches, the number of islands in Palawan constitute around 700 or ten percent of the total 7,107 islands in the Philippines.
Miniloc is one of the islands in Palawan owned by Ayala Corporation. Rooms cost about 20,000 pesos a night. Quite pricey for locals. It takes around 20-30 minutes by banca from the El Nido port. But we did not stay there. We just saw it in passing on our way to our first stop of Tour A – the Seven Commandos Beach. Tour A includes a stop at the Secret Lagoon. A secret because you have to go through a hole in the rock formation to get in. Water was not so clear but it was clean. Our next stop was Shimizu island, named after a Japanese girl who died after being trapped. This is where our group stopped for lunch which consisted of broiled squid, fish and chicken and fresh fruits.
My favorite part of the tour is the Big Lagoon. So calm and quiet. You can see the sand below through the water in the shallow portion of the lagoon with the color changing as we reached the deep end. Final stop, the Small Lagoon which requires a kayak to reach. Not as adventurous as the others, I stayed in the banca.
There is no more low season for tourists in El Nido according to our tour guide. Most of the foreigners we saw were Europeans and a few locals. No Koreans. Our guide said they usually come closer to the rainy season when the sun is not so hot anymore. Also, they usually spend their Korean summers playing golf while the weather is nice then come here to the Philippines during the winter months.
The Europeans we talked to said they prefer the simplicity and quiet beauty of El Nido to commercialized Boracay. Wise choice. But El Nido is not yet ready for the influx of tourists, so says the owner of the Travelodge we stayed in. In fact, she says, it was only recently that they were provided with 24-hour electricity. It used to be from just 2pm-6pm. Only four hours a day, can you believe that?
Thanks to the Malampaya investigations, improvements are now ongoing to address water shortage and sewerage probably to show that income from Malampaya is going to the province of Palawan as mandated.
It takes six hours to get to El Nido from Puerto Prinsesa but the road is cemented except for a few rough spots leading to the town. If you plan to go there, make sure to bring enough cash or your credit card as there are no ATMs or banks. There are no hotel chains yet but I was told Discovery Suites will soon build one. So for now all the accommodations are mostly mom and pop operations.
Real estate prices have gone up exorbitantly. Again, our lodge owner said what used to be 10,000 pesos per square meter is now valued at 25,000 pesos per square meter.
I totally recommend a trip to Palawan. The fresh and natural scent of nature is invigorating to the soul. We pray that the sewerage problem be addressed soon lest it goes the way of Boracay.
God is Great!