The part of my four week trip that I was most excited for, not only did it take a good portion of days, time and energy to get here; I could not help but day dream and anticipate what adventures I would seek, humans I would fall in love with and the pristine beauty and hidden gems that were so highly spoken about in conversations and greetings along my previous two weeks of travel around the Visaya’s of The Philippines.
It began in the city of Puerto Princesa, where the markets are spread all over a good portion of the main town, stalls filled with fresh vegetables and fruit, countless variates of rice on offer, sweet delicacies and deserts, (one of my favourites Taron – sweet banana fried), fresh buka’s (coconut), you name it these markets had it and it was a place where I wanted to get fully immersed in, finally fresh produce and don’t even get me started on the mangoes. I can officially say to this date the best mangoes I have had in the world are right here in the Philippines and Puerto filled me with many and I was so thankful to chill in my hammock back at our guesthouse day dreaming, giggling and munching on the sweet goodness of them.
We stayed here in the small, smiling city for a few days and re-grounded our souls, minds and now full stomachs and felt ready to hop on another bumpy, bum numbing bus ride up to a tiny, beach town called Port Barton. They say its a spot where the pace of life is so slow; you can truly forget about the meaning of time and days, where many people come to find peace and serenity within themselves, daze off into the sunsets that are so bright and full of saturation, to discover the infectious smiles of the Filipinos where every single person will fill you with a sense of hope, unity within the communities and not just what true happiness looks like, but an invitation into the lives of a society where life really can be as simple as you want it to be.
You can find whatever it is you may be in search for; because not just the locals, but the people that I was blessed to find here had a similar mentality; where we all just wanted to find a little hope, calmness and slower pace to restore, regroup and take a second to learn from the Filipino’s way of life; because they are simply some of the happiest people I have ever met. Its all just really simple and extremely momentary, living one step at a time. So with all that said, I jumped straight on that bus with the Bob Marley tunes playing through the bus speakers and was ready to hit the Go button.
I’m very much so a believer in the beautiful ways of which the universe works; that what you give out in life, you get back in time and the reasons of why you meet certain people and the gift of incredible meaningful conversation, connection and guidance. To listen to your intuitions and let it guide you through different realms of life and just simply learn to listen a little more; for it is the greatest healer and teacher. There is nothing better, than to sit down with someone a little older, who has seen a lot, experienced a lot of the world, and for that is the greatest story teller. I felt fortunate enough to meet a lovely older guy named Marc, we stumbled across him on our bus ride up to Port Barton, he had this incredible ora about him and certainly looked like he could tell a bloody funny story. And in fact he was full of endless amounts of tales, some of which I would never be able to describe. I ended up spending a lot of time with him, taking long walks to untouched beaches; which I have been in search for and sat for hours in awe of the beauty that I was amongst and in great company of conversation and deep thoughts. He re-inspired me for many reasons; he reminded me that the greatest lessons in life is to continue to travel this incredible earth that we live on, for it is the greatest teacher and some of the best education you will ever have, he taught me to listen harder, and continue to be curious and ask questions, he reminded me which is a feeling that is stronger than ever in my early years of 24, that you will only ever have one set of parents and you will miss them when they are gone, so create memories with them, love them and cherish them for everything that they are; because they are the very creators of your being and he told me I am a pretty special human, so congratulations to them I guess. 🙂 I fell into so many ‘Marc’s’ in Port Barton and I knew it was a place I was destined for and for that reason I stayed longer than intended, in a tent on the beach, waking up to the tides of the oceans and every morning, having a little pinch and a smile to reconnect that; yes, I really am here and I have every appreciation and more for it.
I left Port Barton, after finding so much beauty that was untouched in my surroundings, and people. I found peace and a different feeling of faith in people and the desire to continue the search and remember to always stay grounded and connected within myself. It reminded me that as nomads we are in this head space where we yearn for the best of both worlds sometimes when we travel. We want to feel free forever, freedom as we know it, is one of the most powerful feelings in the world. That we have felt what being tied down and oppressed is like and we never want to feel like we are being controlled, but you hold power for discovering and moving on and off this path, where you have no real idea where its leading, but all your hope is, is that you’ll find another endearing human at the end of it, another hill top, ocean view filled with the purest air, another moment where you’re lost in time, and time does not mean anything, days roll into weeks, and days of the week have no meaning or existence anymore. And over time you find that the more you go, the less you have on the way, and the less you have the further you can go. And when you do finally come off that nomadic path (if you ever do) and the other humans back in the land where we call ‘society‘, ask you at the end of it all; so tell me where you went. You do not have a clear enough answer to not only be able to explain even half, but to be able to talk to someone who has not a single idea. Because you just went and you were moving with the guidance of the universe. And at times you were lost but the places you were lost in helped you to become more grounded than you ever have been. And i’ll always know that along the way we all have something truly in common and it is; “That we are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
As difficult as it was, leaving my simple, happy, hippy tent life; we moved on up to El Nido, where the epitome of contrast between people and environment from where we had been and where we were going was truer than ever; but that being said, as busy and packed as it was, we found a little slice of solitude just outside of the busy town. We took a tricycle and headed for Las Cabanas beach and we walked for a while to find a spot where the sand was empty and we could truly be in awe of how pristine the beach was and the incredible view of limestone islands that radiated out of the ocean; hundreds of them. As the day fell from the brightest of blue skies, we walked to find a peaceful spot to watch the sunset and we stared off into the abyss of how the colours slowly changed the further the sun set behind the rock formations. Gazing watching the many children laughing and screaming, playing on the sands of their very own back yard; it was quite a humbling, satisfying moment knowing that once again I have found a spot in the world that is surrounded by happiness, hope and unity; where there does not need to be a single care in the world, because the universe brought me to this very moment.
When we move in and out of different towns; winding our way through small populations and larger ones. We like to scrape away the surface of what a town may look like and really get beneath the realities of truly how the lives are lived in these places; connect with the families and the locals who grew up in the very villages that we step foot in. It is so easy to almost get sucked into the way a town has been established over the years for tourists and profit; so the more I travel the more I try to seek out the rawness in its people, culture and history, because theres always so much of it to discover; let your initiative lead the way sometimes and the rest just unravels.
So our last tick of El Nido; was to rent some kayaks and get lost amongst the limestone rock formations for a while and just paddle out and see where the winds and our strength takes us. So a group of three of us set off; and it was one of the most happiest, freeing days I have had, we found isolated, pristine beaches; with abandoned properties that had been left to rust and decay away over the years. The softest, whitest sands I have ever walked upon. We kayaked in and out of the cove’s of the limestone islands and the more time went on, the more we got lost in the beauty of El Nido’s horizons and in the company of each other. It was the perfect way to end our short stint in El Nido and see the beauty of the islands and the clear oceans at our own pace and time; before we knew it the backpacks were being thrown on again and we hiked our way back on a long, exerting walk to the bus stop to find once again an off the beaten track location in the hills of San Fernando.
Locals smile here and kids have all the energy in the world, playing for hours and chasing after you to ask; “Whats your name, maam?” shortly after the response; hysterically giggling and running away. There is one local warung; with minimal food to offer and if your lucky and the locals have not rolled through before you, you might be in for a chance of some ‘Tortang Talong’ (eggplant omelette) the one vegetarian dish that has been our absolute godsend here in The Philippines and most local towns have it to offer. Other than that our vegetarian needs our well out of luck; so its rice, rice and a whole lot more rice. Nothing were not fully used to by now though and I do have a new un-profound love for you guessed it rice; I’ll never be able to thank it enough for supporting my well-being for the duration of my stay here. The town is not established for tourism yet; its just locals who live here and you can take a bus from El Nido; it takes a little under 2 hours. We made a connection at the start of our trip that led us to making our last stop right here; and once again I find myself thanking the universe for bringing the owner of the guesthouse to my calling. We stayed up in the hills, on a beautiful cashew farm; filled with baby chickens roaming around freely, and a few guest-homes that have been newly built; we chose the most rustic, outdoor way to stay as we possibly could; in a hut. We were situated at the edge of the property; high up, over looking the town of San Fernando and the surreal views of the ocean. It was simply perfect. We spent our days by the 2km stretch of beach; filled with absolutely no one but us. Meditating in the serenity of the property, eating beautifully home cooked meals made by the owners Luke and Dana, playing hilarious card games, and drinking up plenty of San Miguels.
It was time for us to almost start our journey back-tracking on ourselves, heading down south to Puerto Princesa again; where we had another two day lay over awaiting the next point of call; Cambodia. We always like to make our trips a little interesting and somehow we never make it too easy for ourselves. We ended up having very little funds towards the last few days of our trip due to my bank declining the request for funds just minutes before leaving Puerto. And as a friendly warning. There are absolutely NO ATM’s or BANKS the entire way up the island of Palawan. Which is pretty hard to believe as it is one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines. So it left me moneyless prior to our last two stops, which made Paris my sugar mumma. I can safely safe we had drastically limited funds to support the both of us for the last 5 days of our trip and return journey back to Puerto. This led to a pretty hilarious, malnourished team of warriors that we are. We managed somehow to survive off rice and soy sauce for yes; you guessed it Breakfast, lunch and dinner, we got 2 bus rides and 3 connections back to Puerto (one we blagged our way out of for free as the limited budget dropped to 700P to spare and still 10 hours left of travel) jumped on a Jeepney for half the price and made it back to our Puerto guesthouse for the night with just 3 Pesos left in the pocket and a team of hungry, exhausted, dusty, moneyless gypsies.
So it leaves me to tell you; There was every reason to have an expectation on the island of Palawan. I felt its calling and could not wait to step foot on it and immerse myself deeply into everything that I had painted it to be. I took myself away from the crowds to find locations that were quiet; but full of beauty in the views and the people that lived there. I found myself unwinding in my mind and appreciating the connections with people again. Being in my elements of the ocean and moving at the pace of the Filipino’s. Which let me tell you, is pretty damn slow; and I secretly like it. Why do we all have to move so quickly for anyway, wheres everyone trying to get too? I could easily stay a lot longer here and keep hopping from island to island; 7,000 is an incredible amount; I thought Indonesia was overwhelming. I must say though I do miss my variety in vegetarian dishes and the spices of life from Indonesia; theres only so much rice one can eat with no spice or kick to it and my taste buds are yearning for something a little more. So The Philippines has been ticked off; but not fully. I’ll be back one day soon to plan my big dive trip here and find the gems in the beautiful oceans which surround this incredible country. Until next time though. Theres some more planes, bus’s and tricycle’s to catch. Its onwards and upwards to Cambodia.
Puerto Princesa – Dallas Inn – 11 Carandang Street, Puerto Princesa, 5300 – +63 946 392 8818
Owner is Rusty; pleasant, very helpful and loyal to his guests, he has a beautiful young daughter who shows her face from time to time and is always a joy to be around. This guesthouse is peaceful and small, there are a few hammocks to chill out in, its off the main road and a short walking distance to all the markets and local produce. I have stayed here a couple of times and have always had such an easy, enjoyable time.
Port Barton – El Dorado Sunset Resort
Owner’s are a small family – we directed ourselves for any questions or problems to a woman named Lucy, she’s friendly and chilled and knew we wanted a cheap and unique stay; so she offered a tent on the beach which was around 150Pesos/$4 per night for the both of us. Was comfortable and clean.
El Nido – The Alternative
A little run down and was slightly abandoned but it was a beach front location and we managed to bartor the local money collector guy down to a good price for the location (not sure if there even was an owner) we paid around 250Pesos PP/P night
San Fernando – Santeria – Dana and Luke are the couple who run and own the guesthouse, Dana’s contact to book is; firstname.lastname@example.org
Off the beaten track, up in the hills about 2 hours north of El Nido – the most peaceful place you will find. A little expensive in comparison to other places we visited, but it is rural and unique and everything they cook and provide has travelled very far and the prices are set to the transportation routes. They have two guesthouses and a hut which is a slightly cheaper option which is around 400P a night, so split between two is a reasonable price. The internet is nil at the guesthouse which is the most exciting, comforting part about venturing here. Surround yourself in serenity for a little while.