Saturday, April 27, 2013

Coron Again... Naturally

My Summer Escapade started with a climb to Mt. Pulag for the Palm Sunday Weekend, followed by the Holy Week in Puerto Galera, and a trip back to Coron, Palawan the weekend after.

Coron, Palawan
Mt. Pulag
Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
My last visit to Coron was October 2012, and the trip was still relatively fresh to me.  This time, I'm going with my architect friends for our annual summer getaway.  Last year, our destination was Nagsasa Cove in Zambales.

Late last year, we already announced the trip at April 6-8, with the option to extend until April 9, for the Araw ng Kagitingan Holiday.  I have been on the lookout for promo fares and was able to book a round trip flight with Cebu Pacific last January for 3200 php.

Since I'm on a budget, I took the afternoon flight on April 5.  Originally it was scheduled to leave at 3PM but due to traffic in the runway, it was moved an hour later.  From the airport, the heat is very evident, not even the air conditioning was enough as huge fans were installed on the crowded pre-departure area.

I still have to report to work that morning and was not able to book myself a room beforehand.  It was only at the airport that I starting panicking to get in touch with a cheap accommodation.

I arrived at Busuanga Airport at 5:30PM.  Since I don't have any baggage with me, I just boarded the van that would take me to downtown Coron.

I got off near the market to have a really late lunch and continue my search for a room for the night.

On my previous visit 10 years ago, I remember a place that charges 100php a night.  I figured, that in ten years time, their prices would still be reasonable.  I asked for directions to LM & Pe Lodging house and was surprised that it’s just across the place where I ate.

I was showed two different rooms when I inquired.  The Aircon rooms prized at 1000 php comes with 2 double beds and a sliding door that opens up to the bay.  The smaller Fan room priced at 700 php has a double bed and a small toilet and bath.  I opted to get the latter since I will be moving to a bigger resort the next day.

LM & Pe Lodge

I was reunited with the rest of my companions who arrived early and had dinner at the floating restaurant where the zip line is located before retiring for the night.

The next day, I was invited to have lunch by our host, our chapter president to have dinner at their house.  After lunch we went to Darayonan, our resort to check-in.  While waiting for the rest of the team, we decided to take a dip in the pool to cool down. 

Darayonan Lodge

Here's our original itinerary:
Day 1 Take PAL or Cebu Pacific from Manila
ETA Busuanga Airport Mid-afternoon.
ETA Darayonan Lodge approx 4:00-4:30PM
ETA of others at Lunch time

Coron Town Tour:
Souvenir Shops, etc. (Walking and Tricycle)
Maquinit Hot Spring (via tricycle)
Dinner at Darayonan
Free time

Day 2 Breakfast at Darayonan
Coron Island Tour:
Kayangan Lake - Swimming in a lake
Twin Lagoon - Swimming under a cliff, kayaking
Siete Pecados Marine Park - Snorkeling
Banol Beach - Swimming, sub bathing, beach volleyball

Although its best to visit Maquinit Hot Spring at night, it would be better to arrive late noon to catch the sunset and to get better photos at the mangrove walkways which gets dark at night.

Maquinit Hot Spring

After the hot spring we went back to the resort for dinner, freshen up, rest a bit, and explored the towns nightlife.  The town is still very laid back amidst the popularity among tourist.  Only few establishments extend their operating hours beyond midnight, even the bars.  On this night we went to have a few beers at Seadive to get a view of the bay.

The next day, we woke up early for breakfast and prepare for the Island Hopping.  After loading all the things we would need on the tricycle, we were off to the port.  We waited longer compared to the other groups at the pier because our original boat need repairs and was replaced.  We were off to the islands mid morning.

The first stop on the tour is snorkeling at Siete Pecados, named after the 7-limestone islet in the cluster.  Although not encouraged, I brought along chunks of bread to feed the fishes that would swarm you at its sight. Snorkels are not included in the tour package so be prepared to pay extra.

Siete Pecados

Next is the twin lagoon.  We navigated our way around limestone islets to reach the first lagoon and docked on a boardwalk made by locals.  When the tide is low, you can opt to swim through a small opening with a clearance just enough for your head to be on top of the water.  Makeshift steps are available in case the tide is high.  Even if you’re a good swimmer, you need to wear your life jacket since its deep, and there’s no place to rest your feet.  Be cautious of the shallow rock protrusions to avoid scrapes and bruises.

The entrance to the 2nd Lagoon of the famous Twin Lagoon, Coron
Twin Lagoon

Our next destination was CYC.  CYC means Coron Youth Club and is the public beach for the locals.  It’s very much different from my visit 10 years ago.  I remember the sand extending farther from the shore.  Now it’s a bit smaller.  We did not visit the beach, but tried our luck to catch something with the local fishing method.  Some swim, but looking down on the clear water, we saw a lot of sea urchin and I decided to just stay on board.

On board the boat at CYC

We did not catch anything so we just went to our next destination, Banol Beach.  Unlike the first two stops wherein the limestone islets protrudes directly from the sea, this one has a beach to re-acquaint yourself with the stable ground after being on board the boat and at the mercy of your life jacket for the last 3 hours.  Huts are available, and the perfect place to have lunch.  There’s a store on the beach in case you are doing the trip yourself and don’t have meals included.

Banol Beach

This is where we stayed the longest.  It’s the best place to swim even at noon, since the limestone offers shade on some parts.  We took a lot of photos, made sand castles and just enjoyed the beach until was time to move to our next destination.
Seeking Shade at Banol Beach

Kayangan Lake was our last stop.  Before the climbing steps, we were oriented about the Island.  A map beside the entrance shows how big Coron is compared to sites tourist was visiting.  Our guide showed us the location of the Tagbanua settlement, the cultural minority group taking care of the island, and we were surprised on how big their population is.

Kayangan Lake

On our climb up, we reached the cliff where all the famous shot of Coron was taken.  We will not miss this opportunity.  Fortunately, we were the only group in the area giving us ample time for the much-needed individual and group shots.  After the photos, we started our descent to the lake.  It is said that this has been voted consistently as the cleanest lake in the Philippines.  Armed with our reliable life jacket, we started swimming and explored what the lake has to offer. 

It was past 5 when we reached loading dock back at Coron Town.  We decided to continue our adventure by conquering the 700 plus steps to the top of Mt. Tapyas to catch the sunset.  Our tricycle can only take us to the main road since were full to the capacity adding 50 more steps than the usual.

Catching the Sunset at Mt. Tapyas

Surprisingly, I together with two other friends reached the top in just 15 minutes.  One by one, the others follow.  The view from the top is just breathtaking.  You can see the town, and Coron Island in the distant. 

After the sunset, we went back to the resort to rest and prepare for dinner.

It was a long day, but since we’re complete, we decided to give the local hotspot a try.  We went to Kawayanan Grill for Videoke after dinner.  We went home a few minutes past midnight since some of us, including me would have to be at the airport by 10 the next morning for the flight back home.

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