My Adventure Partner (a short essay)

This is an entry to Wanderlass Adventure Partner Contest.

I have two complimentary yet contrasting partners whenever I travel: my kickass research and organization skills and my ability to just go with things.

Even though I love to travel, my first no-parents-allowed trip as an adult happened just last April 2010. My friend and I ended up in Australia – our first time in Cairns but my second time in Sydney. As I’d been there before and my friend’s only stipulation was a budget cap, planning everything fell to me. I looked up all the places I went to and enjoyed, the best ways to get there, a good hostel located within walking distance from the attractions, and most important of all, possible ways to get discounted tickets. After all the research, I presented my friend with three possible itineraries complete with projected costs. Thanks to me (*pats myself on the back*), we made the most of our five days without breaking the bank. My only regret was being two weeks early for the John Mayer concert and not knowing “Wicked” was staging just blocks away from the hostel.

However, just letting go and going along with what other people want to do has its upsides too. During my latest trip to Antique, Guimaras, and Iloilo, my friends did all of the planning. All I did was buy my ticket and contribute towards group expenses. Thanks to them and friends-of-friends, we visited a hacienda, went diving, island hopped, celebrated someone’s birthday, and ate tons of seafood in just four days!

/end essay

Notes: yay I’m writing again! Yes the impetus was winning a kickass backpack but I really have been meaning to get writing again. I have lots of adventures to document, most especially the trip to Antique, Guimaras, and Iloilo. I want school to be over ASAP!


yay more writing :D

I entered the “I Love Philippines” Year 2 contest last August. They asked people to submit stories about best Philippine travel experiences in the form of websites, photos, songs, or videos created using Apple’s iLife ’09 software. The grand prize? A 13″ MacBook Pro. As someone who’s been dreaming of a Mac for some time now but never had the funds, how could I pass this up?

My project: a website featuring my almost 2-year stay in the paradise known as El Nido, Palawan created using iWeb ’09. I didn’t win the MacBook *sob* (but the winning video really was kick-ass and deserved to win) but my entry was among the top 4-10 entries (they never mentioned my exact standing) so I got the 3rd generation iPod shuffle. It’s so tiny!

Screenshots after the jump!

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Another publication

An article and a lot of photos of mine were featured in the Juan Philippines El Nido issue. My article starts on page 16, while my photos can been seen on the cover, pages 4, 6-8, 16-18, 23, 24, 28, and 34. Unfortunately, I didn’t get paid this time around and didn’t get credit as “Contributing Photographer” 😦 Haha. Juan Philippines is a travel magazine (same size and page number as the Sunday Inquirer magazine) that they give away at the airport. If anyone reading this is passing through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila anytime soon, grab a copy of this off the stands 🙂 (And if you have the time, please mail a copy to me [I’ll pay for shipping of course] for my portfolio. Hehe.)

Family vacations: how to survive them with your sanity intact

Whenever my parents said “We’re going on vacation!”, my first thought was always “Who else is coming?”. Growing up in a close-knit family with an equally close-knit extended family, the term “family vacation” almost always meant going with at least 20 other aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends of various ages, personalities, and preferences. With at least one outing every summer since I turned 12, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way that made the trip less of a hassle. As they say, you can choose your friends but not your family.


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The Boats of El Nido

El Nido is the land of outrigger boats. How else are you supposed to get around the different islands? Owning your own outrigger boat is a sign of prosperity, as they aren’t exactly cheap. Mr. Ellis Lim, the richest man in town, made his fortune in boat rentals. After all, as long as you take care of the engine and the boat doesn’t capsize, an outrigger boat can last for more than 20 years. I’ve also found boats to be the ultimate topic of conversation. At a loss of what to say? Ask a proud boat owner about their “baby” and they’ll happily spend 20 minutes talking about their baby’s recent paint job, oil change, engine overhaul, and the myriad other details that go into outrigger boat maintenance.


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Five El Nido Myths Dispelled

In recent years, the little town of El Nido, located on the northwest side of Palawan, has captured global attention due to its awe-inspiring limestone cliffs, pristine beaches, and clear blue water. That said, tourists wanting to get a taste of the sand, sea, and seafood of a “small fishing town” may need to have a few notions cleared up:

Myth #1: El Nido is hard to get to.

That depends on how much you’re willing to pay. The quickest and most direct way is by plane. Island Transvoyager Inc. flies direct to El Nido Airport from Manila everyday, with departures scheduled at 7:30 am and 3:00 pm. The flight takes 1 hour 15 minutes. However, this convenience comes with a steep price, as tickets are P13,500 roundtrip and can only be booked 5 days in advance. The next best route is via SEAIR, which flies to El Nido via Busuanga every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Taking SEAIR is less expensive, though total travel time is 2 hours due to the stopover in Busuanga. The cheapest way takes the longest – fly to Puerto Princesa via any of the major airlines (PAL, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines) then get to El Nido via hired van or public bus. If you’re traveling by hired van, add 8-9 hours. If you’re going via public bus, add 10-12. A hired van fits a maximum of 10 people (depending on the amount of luggage), is airconditioned, and costs P8,000. The public bus is open air and costs P300/person.

Myth #2: El Nido is a tiny little backwater in the middle of nowhere. How will I survive without my cellular phone?

For the record, El Nido has electricity, running water, cable TV, and yes, cellular phone service. There are even Internet cafes where you can upload your vacation photos to elicit envy from everyone else freezing back home.

Myth #3: El Nido is a class-A baranggay because of all the cash tourism is bringing in.

Er… no. El Nido has 18 hours of electricity per day, no centralized water supply, and no telephone lines. There are no banks or ATM machines, and only a select few establishments (usually the larger lodging houses) accept credit cards. There is one doctor and no actual fire brigade for the whole town.

Myth #4: Staying in El Nido is cheap because it’s a small town.

Unfortunately, no. Goods in El Nido are more expensive than in Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. The increased demand for fish by the tourists and tourist establishments who can afford to pay more are driving up the prices. The cheapest (yet clean) place to eat in town is Skyline, where meals are about P100 to P150, not including drinks.

Myth #5: Malaria and dengue cases abound because this is Palawan.

There have been cases of malaria and dengue in town. However, it’s not as bad as it’s usually publicized. Getting a prescription for malaria vaccine should ease your worries.

I sincerely hope that I haven’t discouraged anyone from visiting El Nido when in fact, it’s currently my favorite place in the world. What I’ve said here is just some friendly commentary to make sure that you know what to expect from my beloved adopted home.

See you soon!

Main Street, El Nido

What’s in a name?

Ever wonder how each tiny bit of land gets its name? With 45 islands and islets within Bacuit Bay, the early settlers of El Nido must have had a great time naming them all. As the stories behind these names get passed down from generation to generation, the original version gets altered somewhat, leaving behind something no less interesting than the original.

Most names come from the physical features of the places themselves. Lapus-lapus Beach on the mainland gained its name from the word “lapus” meaning “tagusan” or “pathway”, as the beach has a natural pathway leading to El Nido Town. Lagen Island started out as“Langen” – the island’s four peaks makes it look like an old wood burning stove. The “minilog” or “small river” on this island’s left side is responsible for Miniloc’s name.

On the other hand, some of the islands are named after the plants and animals found there. For instance, Pacanayas evolved from “Pakanayos”, which comes from “kanayos”, the local name for the great frigatebird (Fregata minor). Bamboo thickets gave Dibuluan its name – “bulo” is the local name for bamboo. El Nido’s settlers apparently couldn’t forget the “tungaw” (little insects living in the sand that inflict a nasty bite) they encountered on one particular island that they named the place after it. Guintungauan basically means “attacked by “tungaw”“. Believe me when I say that the “tungaw” are still there to this day and that their bites itch like hell.

A few names have more fanciful sources. Seven Commandos Beach is said to be named for the seven World War II commandos whose ship sank. Cadlao comes from “kadlaw” or “laugh” – the townspeople laugh if the island is visible because that means that the weather will be good. Pinasil originates from “pinasil-pisil”, or “broken into pieces”. According to legend, two giants used the islands as tops. When the two islands collided, they broke into pieces, resulting in Pinasil Island and the small string of islets near it.

Names evolve over time, as seen by the evolution of . After all, the Tagbanua people gave El Nido its original name: Bacuit. It was only when the Spanish came that they changed the name to its present “El Nido”, coming from “nido” or “nest”. I wonder what El Nido will be called in the future.

Map of El Nido