In 2009, I went to Palawan with a good friend. I had meant to write about my trip there, but somehow, I felt that I could never do justice to it.
I did have a short post about our travel to El Nido once, but it was just full of pictures and of things left unsaid.
Two years down the road, with the memories only a soft whisper of what had been, I feel that I can already talk about how that lovely place has remained with me always, despite countless other places visited and other people I’ve been in company with. To me, El Nido would forever be associated with a future that was not meant to be.
Where to Stay in El Nido
We arrived in Palawan to a rainy Puerto Princesa, and my friend and I stayed there for a day or two to see the sights, specifically the subterranean river and the Palawan mangrove. We had decided to go to El Nido, a small town north of Palawan which I first thought to be expensive.
When we arrived in El Nido, though, we learned that the accommodations were cheaper than we expected, cheaper even than the ones that could be had in Puerto Galera.
We could have had luxurious rooms for P2,000 a night, but being backpackers, we decided to forgo the luxury and looked for budget-friendly ones. The cheapest we found was Ralf’s; at P400 a room, it was certainly a steal, given that it was also a beachfront cottage and listed in Lonely Planet to boot!
I am an über-budget traveler, but even I balked at the place when I saw it. Shared bathroom, depressing atmosphere, a rickety ladder (not stairs!) going up to the rooms—all these spelled disaster to me, so we decided to go to a medium-priced one instead.
At P800/night, Rovic’s was perfect. It was beachfront, there were not too many guests, there was a private bath, and there was even a patio with a hammock to pass the time.
Things to Do in El Nido
We had a lot of choices of things to do in El Nido. There were the island hopping packages to the numerous islands and islets nearby, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, mountain climbing, hiking, and biking, among others. We booked the snorkeling tour to Miniloc Island (Big Lagoon) at El Nido Boutique & Artcafe for P700 each (inclusive of lunch).
Of the 10 or so passengers, I was the only Filipino, and when it was time for us to go to the Secret Lagoon, all the Europeans jumped into the water and swam confidently to the outcropping of rock that hid the lagoon.
I and an American guy who was an English teacher in Japan were the only ones who had to wear a life vest first. (Yup, it was embarrassing not to know how to swim, given that I grew up in a coastal town!)
There were not a lot of corals, but the view was magnificent. The beaches in Miniloc Island had fine white sand and the ocean was a calm blue green. We would have wanted to kayak too, but there was a storm the next day, confining us to the patio of the guesthouse.
Evenings were fun as well in El Nido. There was a live band at the El Nido Boutique playing 1980s song and we, together with two French girls we met, had a great time singing along. We had meals in Pukka Bar and Restaurant, too, a great place with tasty food and friendly staff.
Looking back on our trip there, I knew that from the outside looking in, El Nido is just like any other tropical beach paradise in the Philippines, with its requisite fine white sand beaches, blue green sea, and temperate weather.
I soon realized though that what made El Nido special was the seeming timelessness of the place. Nothing seemed to disturb its serenity; not the real-world concerns we had back in Manila, and not even the storm, which felt just right.
I thought then that we could be happy there forever, enveloped in the magical charm of El Nido.
If I could crystallize all my experiences of El Nido into one sharp image, it would be of a picture of him on a hammock that day, seen in silhouette amidst the white sand, blue-green ocean, and the distant views of the nearby islands.
He’s been gone a long time, but I will always have El Nido with me.
This is my entry to the “Most Romantic Place in the Philippines” Blog Carnival of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers which I am hosting.