“I’m sorry, there’s no water coming out of the faucet. We can just pump water for you,” said the kindly looking lady who met us at the entrance of the lodge, which was a rustic looking place made up of a row of huts on stilts by the river.
“Is it always like this?” I asked, biting my lip while looking at the sorry-looking gasoline container half-filled with water sitting outside our bathroom.
“No. Yesterday was the first time in several years that a water pipe broke, leaving the entire island of Coron waterless. You were unlucky.”
And thus begun my weekend in Coron, after five months of planning and fifteen years of dreaming. I had wanted to go to Palawan ever since I was a kid. My aunt worked for the Parks and Wildlife Bureau and was assigned to Palawan for a time. She regaled us with stories of this last tropical paradise of the Philippines, how the lakes were the sharpest shade of blue and how the fish came to you and kissed your nose. In College, my friend JT and I were talking about going to the beach together. He had broken up with his boyfriend and was understandably forlorn. Coron came up as an option, but as we both decided that Coron was too magical a place for banal heartbreaks, we instead went to Puerto Galera and got drunk on Mindoro Slings.
Finally, in February 2009, my friend and I found ourselves in this part of the planet, backpack in tow and 0-fare flights to be thankful for. When that water issue greeted us upon checking in at our lodge, we didn’t see much reason to be perturbed and decided to enjoy the day ahead of us.
We had signed up with Owen of Do It Yourself Coron, and it’s something I recommend for those who cannot afford the package tours offered by island resorts (around P10k average) but would not like to go solo and figure everything out from scratch. I normally have no problems figuring things out from scratch (see my Caramoan blog) but that trip was as much a time for enjoying each other’s company stress-free as it was for high adventures and intrepid explorations.
We went to Kayangan Lake first, known as the cleanest lake in the world and it was easy to see why. The lake was crystal clear and you could see the bottom of it easily. However, to go there you will need to climb up a hill to get to the lagoon on the other side. It was quite tiring but the view from the top is absolutely worth it. We spent some time taking a dip at the lake and I loved the refreshing coolness of the water and how still it was.
Afterwards, we went to Twin Lagoons where you get to the other side by diving through a narrow passageway between two boulders. Because I am the kind of girl with 12 different sets of swimsuits but who cannot swim, I stayed in our banca, threw my friend a pair of googles and waited patiently for him to come back and tell me if I could do it or not.
You can’t do it, he informed me.
And that was that.
Next we went to Barracuda Lake, which involved an even steeper climb through jagged rocks and boulders. Because my klutz tendencies are famous worldwide, I was praying under my breath that I wouldn’t fall or slip or do something stupid like let my slipper be carried off by the strong current. Supposedly, that lake was where there was a combination hot and cold water right in the middle, but I wasn’t able to find out on my own because I opted to be a wimp and just wade on the side and sit by the boulders.
We then had dinner at Bistro Coron where we had a nice dinner of steak and fish. The only bad thing about that experience was seeing an aging Caucasian guy with a group of kids, obviously minors. We were shocked when we saw him kiss one of the girls right on the lips. Pedophiles in paradise.
Since we really wanted to take a shower after a sticky day out, we decided to look for a resort that bought its own supply of water outside town. We transferred to Darayonan lodge which had, not only a decent shower, but had airconditioning and a big spacious bed.
The next day we went to another boat trip and our guide took us to Siete Pecados, which was a dive site in the middle of the sea. Supposedly, this was where they shot Diyesebel. The marine life was amazing, the guide said. My friend immediately dove down and when he came up again, he was gushing about the schools of fish in all colors of the rainbow and the pretty corals underneath. After some prodding, I decided to have a look as well, but not before extracting a solemn commitment from my friend to hold on to me as tightly as he could so I would not drown and die a nasty, unglamorous death with my corpse being feasted on by fish.
“Promise, di mo ako bibitawan?”
“Hindi ako mamamatay?”
“Hindi. Para kang tanga.”
Holding on for dear life, I dared to submerge my head down the sea and it was the single most breathtaking sight I have ever seen in my entire life. There were fish in electrifying colors and entire cities made up of corals and underwater plants. It was crazy, crazy, crazy beautiful. Our guides taught us to throw small chunks of bread to the water so the fish would all swarm to you and you could see them up close. That would be my best experience in Coron. We then transferred to another divesite where there was a shipwreck underneath. Again holding on as tightly as possible, I managed to get an underwater glimpse of the steel wreckage underneath. It was dark and ominous, and one could only wonder at the circumstances that led to that tragedy.
Then we went to Banol beach for lunch and our guides cooked for us a really yummy spread of different kinds of fish. We even had coke and mangoes for dessert. After eating, we spent some time swimming and looking around. There was a small banca by the side and my friend and I borrowed it for a while and went rowing on our own. My friend rowed and I rode.
When we got back to shore, Adrian, one of our tour companions, asked how come if I was so afraid of water, I had no problems hopping onto a puny banca and going off on the deep end. That was when I realized I had not one ounce of fear at all during those several minutes on deep water. Maybe it was the fact that not a part of me was wet and I was on dry surface, even if that dry surface was made of rickety wood that could break down anytime. Or maybe I just knew instinctively that nothing was going to be the matter, and that I was in the best of hands at the most beautiful of places.
We capped the evening with a firefly boat ride. Unfortunately, the fireflies were too far away to be seen and we could only see their flickering from a distance. We went up a bridge to catch a better sight but they were still not as close as we had expected them to be. I was sad, I had always had a fascination for fireflies ever since I was a child. They to me were the most perfect of insects. And I wanted to get close, to touch them.
But then again, maybe that’s how fireflies should be appreciated: from afar, not near enough to grasp. Maybe their allure is that they will always be beyond reach.
Lovely, mysterious and vulnerable – like the island in which they thrive.