When I was still with Kraft Philippines, I saw the pictures of an officemate of mine from her Coron trip and those images stuck with me ever since. It’s been three years since I saw those pics and it’s been three years when I became a work-from-home mom where I only went out for groceries and errands. Unwinding from a stressful work day was going to a neighbor’s store for a couple of rounds of ice cold beer or going to the mall for window shopping and then having lunch by myself while waiting for my four-year-old’s dismissal so I could pick him up.
I wanted to take a break from my routine. On a whim I asked an in-law, who works for a travel agency, what the rates were for a Coron trip. A roundtrip plane fare was P3,500 (this could have been lower had we booked in December or probably availed of a promo) plus P5,200 for accommodation at a B&B for 4 days/3 nights that already includes breakfast and two whole days of island hopping together with lunch. Realizing that I could save up for it from my sideline, I asked a girl friend of mine if she wanted to join me since my husband will never allow me to go on my own. We chose the first flight out and last flight back to Manila so we could maximize our four-day stay. A week before departure, the flight schedule got messed up as the carriers cancelled some flights and we ended up getting an afternoon flight out and first flight back to Manila. That will definitely shorten our stay with our day 1 and day 4 to be spent at the airport As a consolation to the inconvenience they’ve caused, the carrier offered a free roundtrip to Puerto Princesa after Coron =)
Day 1: The flight was two hours delayed then another hour waiting for the traffic on the runway to clear up for take off. It was already 4pm when our plane was cleared. The flight was only 35 minutes and then another 20 mins on the road to reach town. We just dropped off our bags at the B&B and hired a tricycle for P300 to Maquinit Hot Spring. Entrance is P150. It’s the only known hot spring with salt water. The first dip was really hot, but after a few minutes your body starts to get accustomed to the 40-degree temperature and you start feeling relaxed. Going for a dip at night I guess is more ideal than during the day when the water is definitely hotter.
Day 2: Pick up was at 8:30am for our first day of island hopping. Woke up at 4am so we could squeeze a side trip to Mt. Tapyas to catch the sunrise. It’s 724 steps up. There were landing spots for resting but it still was a heart-pumping climb all the way up. Good thing we always brought bottled water with us. The view was definitely worth it.
Went back to our B&B for breakfast and then off to the pier. After an hour and a half boat ride, we reached our first destination–Bulog Island. Though a very small island, it had crystal clear water and a sandbar that connects to Two Seasons Resort. Tourists who are not guests of the Two Seasons are not allowed to go to their island.
Had lunch at Banana Island eating fresh crabs, grilled squid, grilled chicken, and fish. After a filling lunch, we rested on the hammocks tied to coconut trees by the beach.
The last was Malcapuya where we did our first snorkeling. All the three beaches were just simply picturesque, but Malcapuya stands out for me because of its powdery sand, beautiful corals and colorful fishes. At the end of the day, my color was that of a cooked lobster but I hardly noticed the heat on my skin compared to swimming in Batangas where you could feel your skin and feet burning because of the heat of the sun and sand. It was around 4pm when we left Malcapuya. The boat ride going back was a bit more rough and could scare the tourists a bit. The captain assured us that there was no danger since that was the “normal” ride for clear weather.
Day 3: Second day of island hopping. The boat ride only took 20 minutes to reach our first stop–Kayangan Lake. From the shore you need to go up then down a steep and uneven rock stairway. After the first flight of stairs up, you get to rest at a landing with a great view and a tiny cave which of course was a perfect spot for picture taking. The next flight of stairs was going down and one still needs to be careful not to slip or miss a step. The lake was well worth our panting. The water was deep blue in color which then means that it was very, very deep. In the shallow part, it was really clear; you could see the rocks and corals beneath.
There was also a small cave in the lake with a very narrow entrance which was really cool.
Our guide then told us to take off our life vests so we could submerge underwater and look through a whole within the rock so he could take our picture. It sounded scary but we tried it anyway since we were already there. It was actually fun and I thought, “So this is how it feels to be like a mermaid” except that I felt more like a blowfish (keeping all the air in my mouth, not wanting to let go) with the hair of a lion king floating around!
We went to CYC Beach, then two other sites for snorkeling which I forgot the names.
Last was Barracuda Lake. You also have to go through a flight of narrow wooden stairs surrounded by great rock formations. After all the snorkeling the whole day, Barracuda Lake is the ideal place to rinse off all the salt water since its a fresh water lake. The only trouble is the dock was so narrow and short. There were a lot of tourists and divers with all their equipment passing through. It was really crowded so I went back to the boat instead and sat this one out. My friend who went snorkeling in the lake said the water was so clear and the rock formations were just simply awesome underwater.
Day 4: Leaving beautiful Coron and back to Manila.
Aside from enjoying the sightseeing, another good thing with having trips like this is meeting new people and experiencing the adventures together:
Coron is a place for nature lovers and beach bums. But you have to be flexible because all islands don’t have the normal comfort rooms with a flushing toilet, doors and a roof. There was even one where there were only three sides covering the toilet bowl (the two sides and the back–no front cover–no door) for both male/female. If you’re not careful, then it’s going to be a free show. The boats also had their own toilet, if you don’t mind your head sticking out while doing your thing. I never heard anyone complain about it though, probably because the beauty of the islands compensated for their lack of standard amenities. You also have to be ready to climb lots of stairs and boats. I only removed my rubber Velcro sandals when I was about to sleep. The bottled water was my best friend.
Food in the restaurants was expensive I’d say, ranging from 180 (chicken inasal+rice) while one viand would start at 250 and up. The restaurants offered mainly seafood and chicken. Pork and vegetables were a bit rare and were imported from Mindoro or Manila. Items for pasalubong were kasoy at P100 for a small pack (standard price was P150), still pricey considering this is where the kasoy from Antipolo comes from; dried danggit at P90, best crispy danggit I’ve tried, which I regret not having bought more; personalized keychains at P10; and T-shirts P130 and up.
The tricycle was the basic mode of transport for getting around at P15, but if you need to hire one for a trip to Maquinit Hot Spring or need to be picked up to and from places during odd hours, contracting a roundtrip will cost you P200-P300.
Being in a joiner’s tour package with both Filipinos and foreigners on both days, one of the tour guides would always tail us around wherever we went which actually irritated me a bit, and I thought that these guides just probably want a big, fat tip since we were both girls who probably looked dumb to them. I even told them to go check on the other tourists just to get them off our backs but that didn’t stop them from tailing us. They came in very handy though as photographers, helping bring our stuff, and most importantly our life guard for snorkeling. Every time we went snorkeling, we’d hold on to the guide’s floater tied to a rope hooped around his body while he paddled away with my camera in hand, pulling us like choo choo train. I didn’t want to hang on to his floater at first since I knew how to swim but it was quite challenging snorkeling and taking pictures at the same time. I was no expert in the deep waters so I gave up and grabbed the floater. I finally found out that it was their standard procedure to really watch after tourists like us, without male companions or not with a big group, since we were the type who would typically get into trouble being only two girls. With all the care and service they’ve done for us, they never asked for tips which really surprised me compared to the other places I’ve been to where boatmen/guides would even ask for extra on top of the initial tip given. I am not the tip-giver type of tourist but this was definitely an exception.
Admiring the beauty of Coron made me reflect and thank its Maker, realizing again how great He really is to create such a beautiful place for us. Most times while admiring the sights, I would think of my family wishing they were there with me to enjoy the beauty of nature that I see. I would be a hypocrite to say that I didn’t have fun. I really had a splendid time…it was after all a mom’s days off 🙂