Sunday, September 12, 2010

then and now: a northern palawan travelogue

ten years ago, i had the opportunity to visit the calamian group of islands with my family. it was a glorious one week trip that left me with memories that still linger in my mind up to now: north cay, calauit, culion and malcapuya islands, kayangan and barracuda lakes, coron town (in busuanga island; not to be confused with coron island), maquinit hot springs, and the countless snorkeling sites we visited, from coral reefs to japanese ship wrecks.

having the chance to visit the place once again just recently left me really amazed at what ten years can do to places. although i've had a shorter trip this time, it was enough for me to make some observations at the changes that happened during the last ten years to the places i've visited again this time around: coron town, kayangan lake, and culion. aside from that, i'll be including some differences in my activities on both trips for the benefit of my memory. ;p

here is the list. take note that for the "before" part, i am referring to my experience 10 years ago. :)

modes of transportation to palawan and back to manila
before: my family and i rode the superferry 5 to coron town in busuanga island. it was a 12-hour trip, from 7pm-7am. when we went back to manila, we had a one hour dusty jeepney ride to busuanga airport before boarding a 16-seater plane which thrilled all of us to no end.

view from the superferry @ sunrise

now: my friends and i bought round trip plane tickets. the jeepney ride is now an airconditioned van ride. the highway leading to coron town is now cemented, which cut the trip by almost half, depending on the speed of the van. and yes, the plane is now bigger (sits about 70 people), and both flights were definitely smooth.

one the propellers from the 70-seater plane. as you can see in the background, it's a clear day. it was a really smooth flight.

before: the itinerary was prepared by my aunt and a distant uncle. it went like this:
superferry: anything goes. oldies slept early; cool people stayed up late in the ship's disco, just dancing.
north cay: 3 days 2 nights, including snorkelling around the island and a day trip to calauit island on our second day.
culion: officially 2 days, 2 nights, because we left early on the third day. sentimental journey on the first half of our second day (see account below), snorkelling around malcapuya island on the second half. we didn't go on the island.
kayangan and barracuda lakes: day trip, then go back to coron town. stayed at seadive resort. barracuda lake and surrounding coral reefs: second to the last day.

malcapuya island from the distance, year 2000

now: my friends and i got a tour package for 3 days, 2 nights. included in the package is a culion historic tour, and a buffet lunch at malcapuya island. click here for the website. anyhow, the whole itinerary went like this:
first day: banol beach, skeleton wrecks, twin lagoons, kayangan lake, siete pecados. snorkelling galore.
second day: culion historic tour-slash-sentimental journey (at least, for me), buffet lunch at malcapuya, siete pecados. come evening we had our own trip to maquinit hot springs which isn't included in our tour package. at any rate, soaking in the hot springs was a great help in eradicating my muscle pain altogether.
third day: early morning hike to mt. tapyas cross. it's a 719-step climb which took us 45 minutes. our descent however took us... tan-tananannnn... 13 minutes! ;p the rest of the morning we spent on breakfast and souvenir-hunting.

stepping on the powdery sands of malcapuya island, 2010. <3>

before: the town's population was quite small. the area where seadive resort is had only a few structures on stilts. it seemed easier to move around town then.

now: coron town is a more bustling place ten years after. new houses, resorts, restaurants and shops have sprouted in the course of the past ten years. there is even a reclaimed area on the left side of the coron public market where there is a tourism center, a hotel and a park. i couldn't help but notice that the guards at the tourism center weren't able to answer our questions about good places to eat in though.
the reclaimed area.

sentimental journey
before: it was a sentimental trip we made in culion because it's where my lola on my father's side spent her childhood years when my great-grandfather was one of the physicians in the culion leprosarium in the 1920's. anyway, my aunt (pa's sister) was able to locate the sister of former classmate of my lola and was able to talk to her. then we took a walk around town to see where lola went to elementary school, where she lived (the house is still standing). of course we also went to the former leprosarium which was transformed into a museum. there's a list of everyone who worked in the leprosarium, from priests, nuns, physicians, dentists, etc. saw and took a picture of my great-grandfather's name under the list of physicians. extra un-sentimental thing: was able to watch charmed with my cousins wherein the episode was when phoebe travelled back in time to 1924.

photo taken from the last standing bastion at fort culion, 30 may 2000

now: only i among my family made another sentimental journey to culion. this time i was with my friends. we only went to the church and the culion sanitarium museum and archives. took my own photo of my great-grandfather's name on the list. the sister of my lola's classmate is still alive, but i wasn't able to talk to her. and now you know where 1924 came from. ;p

photo taken from the same spot. 11 september 2010

kayangan lake
below are the now photos of kayangan lake.

ten years ago, the wooden and bamboo walkways that line up one side of the lake were not there. i remember there was a huge fallen tree trunk which we used to put our things as well as our point of plunging in the lake. it's not there now.

we simply left our stuff on the rocks and on the protruding branches from the trees, and if we just want to lounge around, we used the rocks on the shallow part to sit on. now visitors can simply just dip their feet into the water when they don't feel like swimming, and their stuff can be left on the walkways.

cell phone signal
before: there was no signal anywhere among the islands. period. the only way to contact manila was though phone in the calling centers in coron and culion.

now: at this day and age, even a paradise like northern palawan now has cell phone signal. depending on your subscription, of course. ;p there are still some spots wherein the signal is weak, but for the most part one can text or call even while on a boat. heck, even update your facebook status. ;p and of course if there's signal, there should also be wifi. seadive and other lodgings and restaurants are wifi hotspots.

before: the airport was then simply called busuanga airport. i really don't remember what the it exactly looked like ten years ago, but from what i can rake from memory, it was just a small one storey building with one check-in counter and a weighing scale for our bags and us. because the plane we rode was very small, it's important to get the weight of everything that boards the plane.

now: busuanga airport is now called the francisco b. reyes airport. it is now a more functional structure, still one storey, with definite areas for departure and arrival areas which are divided by glass walls. the check-in counters are more check-in-counter-looking, with the weighing scales beside each only for check-in luggages. the comfort rooms are clean and well-lit. there is also a cafe and a souvenir shop.

whether having stayed in palawan paradise for one week or 3 days, with family or with friends, the most important thing is that i have thoroughly enjoyed both trips. each has a unique experience which did not just make my journals, but in my heart as well.

i know i still have a pending post on taal but i'd like to put this one on palawan up first, especially since it's still fresh in my mind. (and yea, i know it's been a long time since my last post... i lost my mojo. snif, snif)