They say the best adventures in life are those that aren’t planned. This is one of them.
A trip to El Nido was marked in our calendars as early as March of this year, when Cebu Pacific offered another one of their seat sales. From then on, Elaine, Andi and I were slowly and surely planning every single detail to make the trip one of the best ones. This was only our second trip as a group following our 2009 Manila-Tagaytay vacation. Four years in the making, we definitely wanted everything to go as smoothly as planned. Weeks earlier, we had already set all necessary schedules, booked travel arrangements and hotel accommodations. Everything was smooth-sailing until an email from Cebu Pacific said that our direct flight from Davao-Puerto Princesa had been re-routed. And then the adventure began.
Day 1 was solely travel day as we had to pass by Cebu from Davao to get to Puerto Princesa. A four-hour waiting time allowed us to check out restaurants at Marina Mall in Cebu. Here we found a quaint little place called ‘Cafe de France’ which served really yummy breakfast meals that I enjoyed.
After the quick stopover, we headed off to Puerto Princesa. It was about 2:00 pm when we arrived so we still had time to go to Robinsons Palawan for last minute essentials and even a pedicure for Andi. Aside from doing last minute shopping, we also asked around for good restaurants we could try for dinner. The staff at the parlor suggested Kinabuchs which was sort of like Harana and MTS (Davao places) rolled into one.
The restaurant had a lot of Palawan specialties, but we opted to stick with the grilled delights. We had one bottle of beer each just for a night cap, since a long road trip was scheduled for the following day.
We headed to El Nido at around 8:30 am, and it was a good thing that the almost seven-hour trip was not as bumpy as I had imagined it to be. On the way there, we had the chance to camwhore at Microtel Palawan as well, as we waited for a couple who booked the same van service as we did.
After a few hours of sleep-eat-sleep-take Instavids routine, we FINALLY arrived in El Nido. Our van dropped us off at the terminal, and we had to take a tricycle to get to our hotel, Periking. We had heard good reviews about this particular hotel’s view and service, so once we got there we couldn’t wait to see the place. We specifically requested for Room 8 at the topmost floor, which has a terrace with an ocean view.
They were right, the room was lovely, and the view…magnificent.
After settling down, we decided to immediately experience the ocean that was literally right outside our window. Andi ran a few rounds by the shore, while Elaine and I dipped our feet and took lots of pictures. There was an abundance of tour boats “parked” in front of us, and I was particularly enamored by the anchors keeping them from floating into the open sea.
It rained when we got back to our room. By this time, they were already reports a storm was to hit the MiMaRoPa area. That first night, when the rain finally stopped, we went out and explored the restaurants and bars along the shore. We were initially eyeing this place called Sea Slugs, but since they were already full, we ate at neighboring Og’s Bar instead. It was just really perfect to be eating dinner while listening to the sea ebb and flow, coupled with a light breeze.
Just like the night before, we turned in early since our tours were scheduled at 8:00 am the next day. The morning of day 3, aka Tour Day, was nothing short of a surprise. The storm indeed hit Palawan, and all tours were cancelled. The rains were very hard since dawn, and the coast guard deemed it unsafe for tourists to be hopping in and out of the islands. It was as we say in Tagalog, ‘bagyo sa El Nido’.
Of course, we were very disappointed, but somehow I guess this was what the three of us needed — some quality R and R time. During times when the rain would stop, we’d walk around the side of town near the shore to discover new places to eat in. We tried the Aplaya Bar, and also the famous (always fully occupied) Squidos.
After dinner at Squidos, Andi and I grabbed some Rhum Cokes at Pukka Bar, which was so much fun! A reggae band was playing, and the crowd was a good mix of Pinoy tourists, foreigners and locals alike. The highlight of the night though, were some R-rated moments courtesy of a group of wasted foreigners, photos of which (if any), would need to be censored. All-in-all, that was one epic night.
Day four was our last one in El Nido and we were hell-bent on taking even at least one tour for this trip. Otherwise, we would go on a self-imposed social media blackout for lack of interesting Instagram and Facebook photos to post (hihi).
We were very excited to wake up to very little rain. The winds were blowing really hard though, which as we discovered later was more dangerous in terms of tours. Being the optimists-slash-stubborn girls that we were, we decided to dress up for the tours and just walk along the shore to see if we could swing at least one tour before we left for Puerto Princesa.
By some stoke of pure luck, we overheard a lady conversing with another group of Pinoy tourists regarding the possibility of an afternoon tour only to the nearest islands since these were the only ones cleared by the Coast Guard. A few pa-cute moments later, we were on our way to a quick lunch at Squidos before officially starting our mini-tour. Our tour group was comprised of Elaine, Andi, me and a group of four funny and friendly gay guys from Cebu, Rain, Rian, Doms and Rob.
What followed next would have to be one of the most memorable, scary, intense and amazing moments of my life.
Our first (and supposedly only) stop was Cadlao Island where camwhoring was a requirement. Thank God for our boatman who doubled as our photographer. He was an expert at jump shots, surprisingly.
Our group was so good at convincing (aka more pa-cute moments), we were able to swing a trip to the Twin Lagoons which was really awesome! However, I couldn’t say the same about the trip heading there. Since the winds were blowing really hard, the waves were hitting our little boat hard as well. On the way there, we were riding against the tide, so all I could do was close my eyes and hope for the best. I was really so scared! It was right at that moment that my fear of open water was validated. Holding on to dear life didn’t stop me from admiring the nice rock formations though. At least that part kept me sane. HAHA
And if the journey was a pain in the a**, then the destination was super worth it. The small lagoon was perfection which could only be seen by swimming through a hole in between two rocks. It was very deep, so of course I held on to dear life via my orange savior. Inside the small lagoon was also a cave (similar to the PPUR) which we also swam in. I swear I was doing okay until our boatman/guide said there were sea snakes there too!
By the time we got out of the Small Lagoon cave, the rains started to pour again. Our boatman said that we were only taking a spin around the Big Lagoon and then head back to the island. The trip back made us shiver since we were only in bikini tops and life vests travelling under the rain. When our boatman asked us if we had fun, we could only nod and say “Sobrang saya po, Kuya (shivers)”. Needless to say, it was the highlight of our trip! If that was the experience on a windy/rainy day, imagine how a normal tour day would have been like? Now that’s something I am looking forward to.
El Nido is definitely a place that I will come back for. It is nature, beauty, recreation and relaxation rolled into a quaint little island north of Palawan.
This entry has been a long one, so if you read every single word, THANK YOU! Leaving you with some photos of our last day in Puerto Princesa.