My 7,107 | Apulit Island, Palawan

Welcome to Paradise
(Last in a series)

Previously in this series:

Keeping Paradise – Saving the country’s last frontier

It rained heavily in Lio during our tree-planting activity. Although it stopped when we started making our way to the town of Taytay, it seemed like the gloomy weather tried to catch up with us in Apulit. It was overcast when we arrived. Dark clouds loomed over the horizon.

We were greeted with refreshments and what seemed like some local song and dance by the staff. The feeling of isolation was palpable – away from all the hustle and bustle of city life. Noticeable too was the lush greenery.

The buffet table was all set and ready. And since we were behind schedule, we had our lunch late.

We headed to our assigned cottages afterwards. They are quite unique and interesting in their design, I must say. It fuses contemporary with the local, using thatched roofs, for example, and other native materials and design, as fixture and ornamentation.

Another interesting thing is that these cottages are literally standing above water. They are built on stilts and are connected to land by bridge way. It’s an ingenious way of adding character to the place, don’t you think? It would have been just another cottage if not so designed.

In some cottages, like the one we had the opportunity to stay at, called loft water cottage, the living room area opens to an amazing view of the sea with easy access to the water via the stairs linked to the veranda. These cottages are an attraction unto itself.

Loft water cottage

After we’ve rested a bit and freshened up, we gathered at the conference area to attend a briefing on the environment. It was held in this huge cabana-like structure or hut, in the photo below. This is along the beach near the clubhouse.

It can’t be stressed hard enough how important education and awareness are in dealing with the challenges of climate change. Of course, this has to be coupled with concrete actions. I give props to everyone involved in this endeavor. I would say overall, sustainability and environmental protection are front and center in this resort group’s business culture and is an integral part of its DNA. This is a step towards the right direction and something other businesses should emulate. It’s a plus in my book so, good job!

We had dinner afterwards. As a matter of fact, besides the activities and the picture-perfect surroundings, food in this article has its fair share of the spotlight, maybe even more ๐Ÿ˜‹

It was an exhausting day for me since I haven’t slept the night before and was only able to grab some snooze for about an hour during the flight. So, I never planned to do any other (social) activity after dinner and decided to just go back to the room, rest a bit, watch cable and sleep. The sleeping part however, didn’t work quite well as expected. I got preoccupied with curating photos and updating posts on social media. Urgh! (I know, right?) It’s antithesis of the very reason/s people go to (and in great lengths, I might add) such secluded places – to relax, to unwind, to get away from it all. Well, not this night, I didn’t. And I only had myself to blame, of course.

The morning after was breakfast. I always look forward to breakfasts in these occasions because I anticipate bacon to be served. And, bacon there was. Nice!

I would say that this day was the highlight of our trip, the second day. We went to an island called Isla Blanca which has one of the best views of active coral reef systems. In fact, they say El Nido and surrounding areas have the best dive spots, bar none.

We didn’t do professional diving but rather snorkeling. Unfortunately, the camera I’m using does not have the capability of taking underwater shots, so I borrowed some from a colleague of mine, Rose. Below are some of the clips of what she took. The first one was in the waters off the main island of Apulit while the second one, by the looks of it, was probably around Isla Blanca.

I couldn’t have passed this experience up since I haven’t done snorkeling over deep water before, with lively coral reef systems underneath. I thought to myself: “I need to make this work”. This despite my fear of deep water. Fastened tightly to a trusty lifesaver and with the help of a swim buddy, I was able to make it. This is definitely a feat considering the fact that I don’t know how to swim ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ’ฆ. Yeah (shocking). Textbook ‘swimming’, I mean.

Oh, well. Another check box ticked off my bucket list, woot!

It was a fun and memorable experience. We didn’t want to leave just yet but we had to go back to the resort for lunch.

The elevated maruya was a hit! It’s a Filipino dessert made of banana slices dipped in batter and then deep-fried. This one was made extra special with caramel sauce on top dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

There were lots of activities for everyone. In fact, there wasn’t enough time for any one person to experience everything in half a day so the group split and went wherever which way they wanted. For the sports enthusiasts, there’s rock climbing, rappelling, kayaking, paddle boarding; for nature lovers, there’s another snorkeling activity on a different island (or lagoon, I think it was); to those who just want to chill, there’s the infinity pool or the beach.

There’s also a bar where one can get some booze while playing billiards. I was supposed to go rock climbing but there’s a long line waiting so we just went kayaking instead, me and my other colleague. We lounged at the pool afterwards.

The whole group was scheduled to go on a sunset cruise later in the day but it got cancelled due to weather. I just took a picture of the sunset from the veranda although the light was diffused by the clouds. Stylized by Google, the photo was made pretty using AI.

Dinner was special that night. We had it at the beach under moonlight.

…and with all the works

We were supposed to float lanterns on the water but the tide was low at the time which meant sharp rocks at the bottom were exposed to the surface. This did not make for a conducive environment for such activity, so we skipped that part and just proceeded with the videoke sessions. My goodness, there were some crazy talents out there.

In the morning it dawned on me – this is last day in paradise. I would have wished to stay longer. I thought to myself, “I will miss these awesome views”.

Some of my colleagues went cliff diving. Me?… Dang! I was here for breakfast ๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿ˜‚.

There’s only limited time between check-out and before the arrival of our boat, so we were surprised to have been served still a, what they say is “mini” but really a not-so-‘mini’, lunch ๐Ÿ˜….

Thank you El Nido Resorts for the excellent and wonderful service! I was never so full in these two-or-so days of my life ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ‘

The boats finally arrived so we scurried to the port.

A few moments out, I looked back again and was treated to this view.

Isn’t she a beauty?

One can only appreciate what nature has given us. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to take care of and be good stewards of this gift.

My 7,107 | Liwliwa Beach, Zambales

1st of 2 parts

Everybody knows how unpredictable the weather can be โ€“ one moment itโ€™s all bright and sunny, and then rainy and gloomy the next. All the weather forecasts I checked online painted a not-so-good weather condition for the weekend which did not bode well for our planned getaway to the beach.

Our friends from the Netherlands couldnโ€™t wait to experience the tropics โ€“ the sun, the beach and, well, everything in between. You can understand how relieved we were that this trip went on smoothly, let alone materialize at all, the bad weather forecast notwithstanding. The conditions were surprisingly cooperative. We did encounter some challenges but nothing we weren’t able to overcome nor anything that could have dampened our spirits.

We made sure it was a fun experience.

We arrived at the Riverside. One need not guess why it’s called that, yes? For obvious reason. A river runs through the property. It couldn’t be more straightforward. We even had to cross a bridge made of bamboo to reach the other side.

If there’s anything these inventive signposts below tell us, is that the owner(s) of this property are passionate about one thing, for sure – surfing.

It felt like entering some chill, peaceful village – the kind of atmosphere often associated with surfer/hippie culture. One would notice how indigenous and natural elements were incorporated in the design of the accommodations, giving it a traditional Filipino vibe. These huts you see with thatched roofs are called bahay kubo in the vernacular. Aren’t they nice to look at? These huts do a good job sheltering people from the tropical heat.

Noticeably too, are the people’s love for pets. All around you will see cats, dogs….

… and goats! ๐Ÿ˜€

You just find them everywhere here.

Another noticeable part of the landscape are the trees. Pine-like trees called agoho or agoo are abundant here. Not sure if these were planted here on purpose or have grown naturally after the place was covered by volcanic ash brought about by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo decades ago, some time in the early 90’s. This beach in fact did not exist back then. It was naturally created by the enormous volume of ash dumped by the volcano, as well as sediments washed by the river from upstream.

We arrived in time for lunch. We decided to eat at Tadhana, which means destiny. Food was good. The fruit shakes especially, were a hit. You can even play sungka while waiting for your food to be served. Sungka is a traditional Filipino tabletop game.

The Philippines’ unofficial national dish, adobo can be cooked in many different ways. As many as there are different dialects spoken in the entire archipelago, it seems.
Got myself a strawberry banana shake. Refreshingly good.

Off to the beach we headed afterwards. Thankfully, it did not disappoint. We went around late noon so that the sun’s heat wouldn’t be too harsh. We weren’t minding how time flies, so I guess we were having fun, yes? ๐Ÿ˜€

Nature though, has a way of ending the day quite nicely for us. We were treated to a spectacular view of the sunset, as if bidding us farewell till the next day.

What an awesome sight!

The squad

We capped the night off with booze, card games (any kind of game we could think of, actually), some silliness and then more … at one point beside a bonfire by the river.

All in all, it was fun. The long drive was worth it. We all retired to bed feeling beat ready to be recharged for the next day ๐Ÿ˜Š

My 7,107 | Camotes and Cebu City

It’s my second time visiting Camotes Island in Cebu. The last time was just about a year ago. I never really had the time to explore Cebu city itself back then, so I made sure to stay in the city and have myself familiarized with it before heading to Camotes, this time around. There are still lots of places to go to but in the limited time I had, at least I was able to go to the more popular destinations such as the malls (SM and Ayala Center) and the area near and around Fuente Osmeรฑa Circle, where I had my room booked in one of its pension houses.

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At the Fuente Osmeรฑa Circle

I had a taste of what it feels like backpacking. I even went to the Tabo-an market on my own where I thought I could find the type of galletas that my boss wanted. Alas, I didn’t find it there. Tabo-an, according to one reference I read, is one of the best places, if not the best, to buy danggit and other seafood as, I believe it is the first drop-off point of the catch from all over the province to the city. It is quite off-the-beaten-track though. One thing I was not able to do was to ride the jeepney because I don’t really know how the routes work, plus the language barrier. I was afraid I might get lost and not be understood where to go or find my way back ๐Ÿ˜›

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View to the east from The Terraces, Ayala Center, Cebu

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View to the west from The Terraces, Ayala Center, Cebu

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Water fountain at the Ayala Center, Cebu

Cebu is like Manila in so many ways, minus the pollution and rude cab drivers. Despite being a major economic hub in the Visayas, with the proliferation of malls and other modern amenities you will find in any developed city, you still get a small-town vibe, which makes easy for anyone to warm up to. The people are friendly and the food is great.

Now to my main destination – Camotes.

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My RORO (Roll-On, Roll-Off) ride to Camotes

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Camotes beachfront during low tide (as seen from the San Isidro side)

Saint Joseph Parish fronting the San Francisco (SanFran) municipal hall
Saint Joseph Parish fronting the San Francisco (SanFran) municipal hall

I was here primarily to attend the fiesta in the town of San Isidro where my relatives are. To be honest though, I didn’t have any itinerary planned out, so it’s a “go-with-the-flow” kind of stuff. I leave it all to my “ig-agaw’s” or “agaw’s” (cousins) to decide where to go in the island. They decide that we should go to the Busay Falls in the municipality of Tudela on Poro Island, and some of the sights in Poro itself such as the beachfront.

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Busay Falls in Tudela, Poro Island, Camotes

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The Port of Poro

It was my first time attending a true, blue barrio fiesta. The things I hear about guests being welcomed inside different homes and offered lots of food still hold true. And since this is Cebu, the star of every buffet is the lechon (roasted pig on spits). I never had a lechon this good for a long time actually. I conclude, nothing beats a lechon that’s been traditionally cooked and prepared – not even CnT or Ayer’s (some of the famous lechon sold commercially in the city that I have tried) come close. In the barrio during fiesta, it’s lechon all day long, fulfilling every person’s porcine fantasy with its savory, melt-in-your-mouth meat (and fat), and crispy, golden brown skin. I’ve been living my dream well until dinner and on into the following day, where leftovers become “lechon paksiw”. Hmm, just thinking of it makes me drool.

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The famous Cebu lechon

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It’s been part of the tradition to hold dance parties, or what is still commonly called here as “diskuhan” (disco/discotheque) every night, programs, games, bazaar, etc. In the town plaza before dusk, my cousin and I visited the church to pay respects to San Isidro Labrador – the town’s patron saint, the patron saint of farmers, and to check out the bazaar. In the town plaza we found a hundred-year old tree still standing. It is quite amazing if you think of it actually.

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San Isidro’s hundred-year-old tree

Moonlight over the San Isidro beachfront

It was a fun-filled week, indeed. An ideal R&R. I certainly would be coming back next year. In fact, this might be habit forming, a yearly affair. I thank my family and friends for their hospitality. This wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, I just want to share how in this journey I was treated with the sight of these lovely creatures both going and coming back from the island. Dolphins! It’s a childhood dream. I hope I could see them up close and maybe even touch them.

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This, plus a spectacular sunset over Danao port gives this vacation a nice ending.

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