Coron, Palawan, Philippines….
For a travel and food aficionado a celebration had to involve such … this is my birthday destination … so who cares if it is the rainy season. I’ve done so many things in life that defied the ordinary, indulged in guilty pleasures and lived life like it’s the last.
I was once told by a diver, the other side of the island could be rough and stormy but the other side could be calm and sunny. No two dives are the same … not every encounter is as good as the last one, it could be better. With that in mind … let the adventure begin.
Relationships can climb a notch higher. I live and breathe friendship … I have a lot because of the work that I do and a handful that I can entrust my life to … anytime, any day. It’s apt to celebrate it with friends and with travel… and of course, with food.
I was never a fan of diving, snorkelling, island hopping but I am surrounded by people who love it. Knowing how to deal with such differences … I have my way of enjoying the vacation on the boat.
The trip to Coron will start with the plane touching down the Busuanga Airport or the Francisco B. Reyes Airport.
This is the only town in the Philippines that you will have to fill up an arrival card because they want to keep track of the numbers of tourists visiting the place. No conveyor belt systems. No x-rays. Nothing complicated. Just plain ol’ get your bags and go .
Just outside the airport are the vans for hire (Php 150) to take you to Coron Town proper. It is a 30 minute ride … some roads are bumpier than the others. It is passing through rows of greens and mountains.
Our hotel is called Seadive Resort. This is home to Coron’s only PADI authorized dive center and Palawan’s only recompression chamber. It is situated in the city proper but with privacy because to get there you have to cross a small bridge. It was built on top of the waters of Coron.
The rates start from Php 800.00 – 1400.00, depending on your need and the facilities it offer. We took the top of the class – Php 1400.00 with the view of the islands and the pier on the terrace. There are no televisions inside the room but has a hot/cold shower facility (this is a must for me). Maybe because, it wants to separate you from the city life. Throwing your oars and let the waters bring you where it wants.
1. SEADIVE RESTAURANT is home to the most fabulous looking foreigner /divers. How would you like to have a beer with the look alike of Daniel Craig, Clive Owen, Justin Bieber, Alec Baldwin, Channing Tatum, and Jason Mraz passing by your table? This is akin to Hollywood’s red carpet event … in wet suits and board shorts and sometimes with bare naked tanned torsos. Delish! Need you order appetizers? I don’t think so. Ladies, this is one hot restaurant! And I don’t know who put a news blackout on this. Now the secret is officially out! This is the hot place to be. But this is only open until 9 pm.
Roasted Rice Coffee – FREE! Anytime, any day – this contains a natural compound with anti-tumour and anti-cancer properties with insoluble fiber that is good for digestion. This has no cholesterol, no caffeine, and low in sodium and does not increase your heart rate or blood pressure.
Beef Burritos – Seadive Style – Php 210 – ground beef, shredded Baguio Petchay and grated cheese in a soft tortilla with creamy garlic sauce. This is served without Mexican rice in it. I’ve tasted better Burritos.
Shrimp Salad – Php 280 – shrimp with ice berg lettuce or Baguio Petchay, Pineapple, Pomelo, with other vegetables and citrus dressing. Finishing it because it costs much in a place like this.
(*) Tapsilog (tapa/sinangag/itlog or “dried or cured beef/fried rice/fried egg”) – Php 160 – 2 fried eggs with beef tapa with steamed or fried rice. This is good.
Longsilog (longanisa/sinangag/itlog or “Filipino sausage/fried rice/fried egg”)– Php 160 – 2 fried eggs with longanisa with steamed or fried rice.
Pancit Bihon – Php 210 – rice noodles with chicken and mixed vegetables.
Buco (Coconut) Shake – Php 65 – coconut meat mixed with milk and ice then blended.
(*) Mocha Cake – Php 40 – topped with gooey caramel with coffee granules. I can taste coconut as well in this. Yum!
2. Then the fun continues at the HELLDIVER’S BAR … in the same resort but is open until 2am. This is one economical night life with just Php 50 San Mig Light … the “pulutan” is FREE! Aside from the view, popcorn is also free but don’t expect the kind that Chicago Popcorn goodness – this is tough , maybe too much exposure to air.
3. BISTRO CORON – Don Pedro St., Coron. This is owned by a Swiss named Bruno who is married to a Filipina – Continental and European Cuisine
Salad with Tuna and Eggs – this is one good salad with fresh tuna and vegetables with bread on the side
(*) Fish Fillet – this is the best food ordered in this batch. This tastes really good. The rice is so limited though that you have to order for seconds. Top pick for this restaurant.
Radler – this is the German mixed beer. Order a beer and a sprite. Mix it depending on your ratio. Voila! A Radler!
Pineapple Flambé – usually rum is placed on the pineapple, it is then flamed and served. The pineapple is served with cinnamon and star anise. The flaming was done in the kitchen and we missed the fun of the seeing the flames engulf the alcohol. Party pooper.
Bistro Pizza – made up of beef, mushroom, cheese, tomato, green bell pepper. This was recommended by the server, I wish I didn’t listen.
Bolognese Pasta – red meat pasta sauce on spaghetti. Nothing spectacular.
4. JACKIE’S RESTAURANT – this is your typical carinderia in this laid-back town.
(*) Fresh Danggit (rabbit fish or spine foot) w/ Fried Rice and Fried Egg – Php 90.00 -I am biased when it comes to this particular fish which part of the siganus family. This is my all time favourite breakfast especially when eaten with fresh tomato and fish sauce.
5. MANG MENRY’S BARBEQUE STAND – this is the best pork barbeque in Coron because the meat is fresh. This is situated near Seadive’s entrance. This is a must for only Php 8.00 per stick.
Things to do in Coron:
1. ISLAND HOPPING
Book your Island Hopping Tours with Corongaleri. This is owned and managed by Mae and Al Linsangan. Their numbers are 0919-9926766 / 0915-2543246 / 0917-5526766/02- 984-7795. Address 11 San Agustin St., Bgy. Inclusive of entrance fees and lunch.
Coron Island Tour or B1– Php 650 per pax 8:30AM – 3:30pm – This is truly an ultimate tour for everyone, a whole day trip which provides a variety of experience. This tour comprises of
a) Hidden Lagoon – swimming activity in the 7-feet deep waters with sand and mangroves on the side. During summer this is the most serene place with the songs of the birds and the sounds of the monkeys that would complete your nature trip.
b) Coral Garden 1– snorkelling activities in the 7-feet deep waters with corals, fishes, sea urchins, etc. There is a sea wall near the island so be careful. This is in front of the Bulungan Beach.
c) Minor (?) hiking activity to Kayangan Lake (75 steps up and 75 steps down). This is swimming inside a cove. This was voted and won as the cleanest lake for 3 times. There is a cave in front of the best view of the lake. This is known as the home of the needle fishes. GMA’s Dyesebel was shot here.
d) Back to Bulungan Beach for lunch. It was called Bulungan Beach because this was used by the natives as a place for healing where they whisper to the gods to make the sick get well. This is also the home of the medicinal plants.
A native kubo (hut) is the venue for the lunch which the boatmen cooked while the guests are swimming. This is the typical lunch for the day: … mind you this is one good lunch. Two thumbs up!
(*) Grilled Tuna – so fresh that it is actually sweet
(*) Grilled Pork – this is good! Great marinade.
(*) Sea grape/green caviar salad (Ar arosep or Lato) with tomatoes, onions, soy sauce and vinegar
Banana/ Mineral Water/ Boiled Rice
(Everything is cooked and prepared on our boat.)
e) Twin Peaks Reef – a small island and a big island which is 10-feet deep with corals and fishes. There is a hole in the island where the natives used to bury their dead.
f) CYC or the Coron Youth Club Beach – with fine white sand akin to Puca Beach of Boracay. This is a good venue for swimming because this is only 3-feet deep.
Islands that used to belong in this tour but us now closed to the public: Twin Lagoons and Atwayan Beach.
Las Islas Tribal Eco-tour or B2– Php 750 per pax – 8:30AM – 3:30pm
1. Mangrove – Ancestral Domain of the Indigenous Cultural Communities of 23 hectares of mangroves (bakawan). This is home to the lobsters, crabs and shrimps. This is on the North side of Coron. Barangay Lajala is located here. This is a community of the natives of Coron, the Tagbanuas.
Balinsasaw Resort – this is a private resort facility. This is found between the mangrove and the coral garden 2
2. Coral Garden 2 – another coral reef great for snorkelling which is 10-feet deep
3. Dimanglit Island – this is in front of the Coral Garden where lunch is usually served. This was bought already ( we met the new owners) and by the time that we will be back; this might not be as rustic as it is. This is has a beach and lookout. This has also mangroves and a bamboo bridge which is ideal for pictorials.
Typical Lunch for this Tour: Grilled Fish and Grilled ChickenSea grape/green caviar salad (Ar arosep or Lato) with tomatoes, onions, soy sauce and vinegar/Banana/Mineral Water/Boiled Rice
4. Barracuda Lake – home of beautiful rock formations above and below. This is majestic in its highest form . This is a must see among the islands of Coron. This is 30 to 100-feet deep. This is nature’s skyscraper at the bottom of the sea. To get there you have to again climb up and down the lake. This used to be home of the Barracuda but according to the natives they can’t see it anymore.
5. Siete Pecados (Seven Sins) – there are 7 islands surrounding this Marine Sanctuary.Bring with you a loaf bread so that the fishes will come to you.
Islands that used to belong in this tour but us now closed to the public: Banol Beach, Calachuchi reef, Skeleton Wreck and the Sunset Lagoon.
2. MOUNTAIN CLIMBING
Climb the top of Mount Tapyas – this is one of the mountains of Busuanga with 718 steps and stands at 210 meters above sea level. This is overlooking the whole of Coron and the islands of Calamianes. It has a summit cross which is lit at night. It gives you a preview of what the island can offer.
Dubbed as Forbes’ top 10 scuba wreck diving sites in the world. In September 24, 1944, 12 Japanese ships were sunk by the American warplanes in the Coron waters.
4. MAQUINIT HOT SPRING
Water starts at 40 degrees. This offers large pools warmed by the geothermal water spring in the area. The hottest pools cascade into a large pool that empties into the ocean. This is a beautiful place to hang out in the evening after a long day of activities. This is accessible by boat or by tricycle from town (Php 300 per tricycle for 4 pax) roundtrip. Best time to go : 8pm.
5. CALAUIT WILDLIFE
An island inhabited by imported African wildlife living in harmony with Palawan wildlife. (Local accommodation is required as it is about a 4 hour boat trip from Coron)
Typical 4-day Itinerary in coron
day 1 – Arrival / Mount Tapyas
day 2 – Coron Island Tour / Coron Town Tour
day 3 – Las Islas Island Eco-Tour
day 4 – Coron Market / Departure
This trip is full of “adventures” that I didn’t dare write about … but mind you, this is our 2nd lease on life. This is how I have lived my 4 decades. This is how I blended in the things that sometimes I didn’t even want to do. This is how I manage to find beauty in even the most unlikely things. This is keeping the friendships and nurturing it … it takes a whole lot of effort knowing how work and other collaterals can take you away from the things that matter. This made me say: “I will do what I want more regardless of the odds or the consequences”. Maybe I even emerged braver. This is a realization that the spirit might be willing but the body just isn’t keeping up with time. This is having fun and loving life more. Maybe it is not Coron … maybe it is the company that made it all worthwhile … no it is not a maybe … IT IS the company that made it all worthwhile.
“We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop. There is at last one drop that makes it run over. So in a series of kindness there is at last one drop that makes the heart run over.”
“I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.” ― Jon Katz