This trip is supposed to be like a mini-honeymoon for my wife and me. Unfortunately due to some issues, my wife cannot make it but thankfully my friend CS decided to come along.
CS is curious how Philippines look like after he keep seeing me coming back to this country. As a “tour guide”, I hope to let him see the better side of the Philippines rather than what the news usually report about kidnapping and the insurgency in Mindanao.
We took the flight from Changi Airport flying with Cebu Pacific to Manila. The check-in took a long time but the flight is still on scheduled.
After we claim our luggage, we have to pass the luggage to the transfer desk even though we bought a single ticket from Singapore to Busuanga. The staff will re-check-in the luggage and we are good to go. We do not need to check-in again as we are already check-in in Singapore.
When we are in NAIA3, we still have about 4 hours before our next flight to Busuanga. We have a meal in Jolibee and after that we walk around the airport.
CS is wondering why the airport seems to be so underutilized and I briefly explain about the legal issue facing NAIA3 now.
Cebu Pacific actually offered passengers to re-schedule their flight to a later flight. Cebu Pacific compensate by guarantee departure on the next flight bound to Busuanga and a return domestic air ticket to anywhere where Cebu Pacific flies.
If Cebu Pacific will to fly to Batanes, I would have taken this offer immediately!
While waiting for the flight, we observed some window cleaners cleaning the glass panel of the terminal. There are 3 men doing the job and each person has a role. CS is impressed that how professional the cleaners are.
Some passengers accepted this offer and we are good to go.
This is the first time that CS has taken a propeller plane which in this case is an ATR-72. He is also amused by passengers taking photographs with the plane. I guess we are used to travelling to big cities where aero-bridge is commonly used. I told CS in Philippines, taking a bus to the plane is very common even for airports like Cebu and Clark.
Before you board the van, let the driver know where you are staying and he will drive you to the accommodation.
The road to Coron Town is pretty smooth. Most of the roads are paved but as usual, the paved road will suddenly end and you will be riding on some dirt road. Even the connecting bridge sometimes may seem like it is going to collapse anytime but we later found that each bridge load is about 5 tons.
When we reach Coron Village Lodge, the staff cannot find our booking. Luckily I printed out the correspondence between Coron Village Lodge and me and the finally let us stay in a higher class room using the standard rate.
Coron Village Lodge is split into two. They have rooms at the opposite of the main building and this is where we stayed.
The room is decent, clean and big enough. However, there is no water supply. The bed is comfortable enough but the blanket is too thin.
We then ask about the directions to the port for us to get a boat out. The staff quickly told us that we can actually use their services for island hopping. For a full day Coron Islands trip, it would cost us P1500. They also mentioned that the rates at the pier are higher. I am skeptical about this but I still take their offer anyway. I was thinking if the rate of their offer is the same or better than what I can find at the pier, then by using their services, they will be even happier.
I enquire since I have only half a day, can they charge me a half day rate instead. However they are not allowed to do so. So I make a deal with them, I listed out the sites that I wanted to visit for 1.5 days and the rate will still followed what is published on their menu. They agreed since it does not violate their policy.
We took a trike to the port which cost P10 per person. It is a 5 min ride and we are shown the boat. The boat number is 49 and it is man by 3 boat man. It was later that we found that Coron Vllage Lodge actually own 3 boats.
First stop, Kagayan Lake.
The trip from Coron Town to Kagayan Lake is like 20 mins. The entrance fee is P200.
We will have to climb a flight of stairs to reach the lake. The stairs are not those proper stairs you find in malls. It is made of rocks and stone paved and the steps are pretty high.
Once you reach the lake, it is very peaceful. When we were there, there are very few visitors there. We jump into the lake with our life vest on. There aren’t many fishes actually or I would say there is almost no fish at all. It is just a place for you to relax in the lake.
After a while, we leave the lake and climb to the higher point to take the famous picture. It is really pretty impressive sight. After some photo taking, we make our way down to the boat again.
You will need to walk a flight of stairs to reach the lake. It is just a makeshift stairs and just made of wooden planks. It is usually wet and the steps are small. So please take extra caution when climbing it.
When we first look at Barracuda Lake before we go into the water, we are very surprised by the clarity of the lake. We can actually almost see the bottom of the lake. However when we enter the lake, the water is cloudy. Visibility is limited and when we look down, we cannot see the base of the lake.
There are more fishes here but still not enough to awe us.
After enough of soaking into the water, we move on to Twin Lagoon where the entrance fee is P100. I think the highlight of this lagoon is to swim below the rock. It doesn’t have nothing much to fascinate me.
The boatman actually took a life vest and open it. So we hold on to the life vest and he brought us through the hole. Actually we are wondering why is he doing that because we have no issue swimming through it.
They also have a wooden raft. So if you are afraid, you can actually lie down on the raft and the boatman will bring you through the hole.
After a while, we board the boat and make our trip back to Coron.
CS feels that these 3 sites does not really impress him. While in some point I do agree with him but what I enjoyed about these three sites is that I am surrounded by nature and it is very peaceful and serene. Actually, the boat ride itself to these 3 sites is also very enjoyable.
When we reach Coron, we decide to head to Tapyas Hill. We just take a leisurely stroll in the Coron Public Market and then make our way to the hill.
Along the way, we are pretty lost and found a police officer to ask for directions. The officer is very friendly and direct us the way. He has even offered us to hitch a ride on his vehicle to the foot of the hill. However, I politely decline as I am a bit wary.
We followed the police officer directions and soon found the road leading up the foot of the hill. Along the way, the same police officer saw us in his vehicle and again show us the directions. CS is actually very impressed as this contradicts to all the stories he heard about the corruption and crimes committed by the police in the Philippines.
When we reach the foot of the hill, we can see the big cross constructed at the top of the hill. I was told that there are 700+ steps to the top.
We then start to climb….. slowly. Along the way, we can even see people older than us making the climb. As we have been travelling for the whole time, it is tiring for us. We took frequent breaks and we make use of these small breaks to take photos as we ascend the hill.
The view is actually getting nicer as we climb up. We can see further away as we climb. Coupled by the cool breeze, it makes the climb a little bit easier.
We finally reach the top and the view of Coron Bay is really nice. We just sit there on the bench and believe it or not, both of us just doze off.
Fortunately we woke up in a short while. We took more pictures and enjoy the view for a few more moments. We can see little boys coming up to the hilltop carrying a full load of bottled water. These little boys are like 10 to 12-year-old. This really put me to shame and this remind me of one thing; if you need to survive, no hill is too high for you. All you need is to take the first step to climb.
When we reach the room, there is still no water supply. I was annoyed and have to go to the front desk to ask what happen. They quickly send someone to investigate and I guess they turn on something. After a while, there is still no water supply and I make the second trip to the front desk. This time they came into the room. They fiddled with the water heater and manage to get some water out but the water pressure is terrible. We can barely shower ourselves but have no choice.
In the middle of our shower, there is a power failure. I was thinking what a terrible accommodation I have chosen. Soon I start to hear generator sound and the power is on. However, the air-con and cable TV is not working.
After our “shower”, we decided to go for dinner. I went to the front desk to deposit my keys and told them that the cable TV and air-con is not working.
The staff told me that the power outage affect the whole town and they only have enough power to power the electrical outlets. So air-con and cable TV will have to wait. At that time I was thinking, “Power outage affect the whole town? You gotta be kidding me!”
While we walk down back to the pier, the town seems to be normal without any sign of power outage.
We got a bit lost looking for SeaDive resort. I heard the food here is pretty good so decided to give it a try.
The entrance of the restaurant is very small. If you did not look hard enough, you will not even notice it. You will walk a brightly lit long alley before you reach the restaurant.
When you hit the bridge, you will see a dive shop, a bar and the restaurant; all owned by the same owner.
When we enter the restaurant, the place is full and ask is there anyway we can get a seat. I was expecting to be told to wait but instead we were told to go over to the bar as they serve the same menu. The tone of the staff is those “couldn’t care less” attitude. I was quite annoyed by it but still wait for a while to look around.
Soon there is an empty table and we quickly took it. It is facing the Bay area but on that night, there isn’t much wind so we did not enjoy any sea breeze.
I actually can’t remember what we ordered but the food is quite nice. So the only annoying thing is the attitude of the staff.
We then slowly walk back to the Lodge. Along the way, we bought mango shakes but it is not as good as the one I had in Cebu.
When we returned to the Lodge, we are dead tired and wanted to turn in quickly. Again, the water pressure is pathetic.
So if you notice, we hardly take any trike. So if you are a tourist and your main area of activity is within the Coron Town area, you do not really need a trike. Just spend some time walking and you can save a few pesos.
0300hrs. Coron Town is under the attack of a heavy downpour. My heart sank when I hear the raindrops smashing on the roof.
It is a heavy rain. I prayed that the weather will be good in 4 hours. We told the boatmen that we will depart at 0800hrs and we will have to buy some food for them to cook. So we will need to leave the Lodge at 0700hrs.
By 0600hrs, the rain has lightened but I still feel uneasy about it. Once the day break, I often check the weather visually and by 0700hrs, the rain has reduced to drizzle.
We quickly pack our stuff and set off to the pier. Again, we walk. The walk is about 15 mins and soon we saw the boat just park at the landing area.
CS and me then quickly go over to the a bakery store near Kookie Lodge to buy some bread for breakfast. We also bought a 5 litre bottle of water.
We then went over to Coron Public Market to get some food for the boatman to cook for us. We went to the seafood section and start selecting our food. We bought squid, small and big prawn. One of the boatman come along and ask how is our purchase. We then ask him what he wanted to have for lunch. He seems a bit shy but I told him that it is our treat, so do not worry about cost.
He then chose a fish and let me tell you the fish is big. CS and me look at each other and start to calculate the cost of the fish in our mind. P500, P800 or P1000? Finally the fish monger told us the price and we almost fell off the chair. It is P100. Let me tell you that the fish is enough to feed us for at least 3 days.
So our total purchase for all the seafood is P870. This is catered for 5 people. To me, this is a steal.
We then hand over the food over to the boatman and he told us we need to buy charcoal too. We then gave him P70.
We then proceed to buy mangoes for the trip and we have also catered for the boatmen.
When we reach the boat, we were told that they need to buy paper plates. I then gave them some money to purchase it.
We now then discover that there are only two boatmen this time. Once the boatmen came back with paper plates, we immediately set off to our first destination; Malcapuya Island.
As we set off in the morning, the wave is calmer. The journey took about 1hr 45mins. During the journey, occasional strong wave hit the boat and made the boat bow slightly lift upwards. Still, it is nothing compared to the wave that I encounter on my trip from Taal Volcano to the Tagaytay
When we reach Malcapuya Island, I was bewildered by the look of it. It does not have any white sand beach, no cottages or anything. However, the water is clear.
The boatman told us the beach is at the other end of the island. I was thinking, “What? I need to trek to the other side? Is it a long trek?” I told the boatman that I will be back in 30mins.
I get down the boat and start to walk. To my surprise, it is only a 5min walk. Before you enter, there will be a girl to collect P100 for the entrance and from there, you can already see the white beach.
I guess we are one of the first to arrive. The beach is empty. There are cottages and tent for rent. Cottages will cost P300 and tent will be P100. There will be a gentleman selling Buko juice (coconut) at P40.
There is actually a cliff that we can climb to get a good view of the other side of the beach. If we will to walk further down the white beach, the view will be good also.
So we climb the cliff, stroll along the white beach, took some photos, dip ourselves in the beach and relax under the tent.
By the time we leave the beach, there are at least another 5 boats have arrived.
Looking back, we actually spent 90mins at the beach!
When we are back to the boat, lunch is ready. The boatman has prepared a wonderful meal for us despite I know they simply grill it without any seasoning.
The boatman took half the fish but took nothing from the prawns and squid. We then offer them part of it and we further reduce the portion of our fish to 10%. The rest of the fish is given to them.
After finishing off all the food except the fish, we are pretty full. CS and me then decided to give the 10% of the fish to the boatmen. So in the end we did not eat the fish at all.
We then start to “attack” the mangoes. We gave the boatman one mango each and CS and me finished off the rest of the 5 mangoes. In the end, we are so full that we can’t even walk.
I request the boatman to go to the next island; Banana Island.
The journey to Banana Island took about 10 mins only. There is nothing much to see in Banana Island. Just a beach with fine sand. It is mentioned that there is a sand bar but I guess it is pretty deep in.
We just stayed for 15mins and left. We then tried to pay the entrance fee and found that it cost P200 per person! We were shocked by the price as we do not feel that this island does not worth that much. If the entrance fee is P100, I am still ok with it but P200, I really do not feel it is worth it.
We left the island and make our way to the next stop. On the way back, the sea is rougher and there is one time the wind and wave tilted the banca about 30 degrees and we are caught off guard. So a gentle reminder, no matter how good a swimmer you are, it doesn’t hurt wearing a life vest.
We reached our next destination which is Skeleton Wreck. The entrance fee is P100.
Here we are so amazed by the number of fishes available. The boatmen try to attract the fish by feeding them with rice and bread. The fishes then gathered around the boat and we are really happy!
There is actually nothing much in Banol Island but what I like about this place is the water is shallow and the beach floor bed is almost free of seaweed. It actually reminds me of Boracay. It now start to rain and we run for cover. Fortunately the rain last only about 10mins.
We then move on to CYC island. This is the only free entrance. We did not go up the beach and again, the water is shallow but here are plenty of seaweeds on the beach floor bed. So compared to Banol Island, it is not as enticing.
This beach has the most people and I guess one of the reason is that there is no entrance fees.
When the boat reach Site Pedacos, the boatman did not use the anchor. Instead,he tied the boat to a buoy.
When we put our heads down into the water, we are awed by the sight. There are many fishes and corals!
So remember when you are at Site Pedacos, do take note of your location and not to step onto the corals. They took years to grow but just a second to destroy them.
We stayed there for 30mins and we have to go back to Coron Town as it is already 1700hrs.
I really enjoyed this island hopping though I do not know does CS enjoyed it. He told me that yesterday he was struggling on how to use the snorkel gear but now he is used to it.
By the time we reach Coron Town, it is already 1730hrs. We bid farewell to the boatmen and went to the Public Market to buy some mangoes.
When we are handling the keys to the front desk, we ask is there a power outage again? They replied yes and I ask when is it going to recover? They said they do not know.
By now it is about 1830hrs. The place is already dark. When we walk along the streets, many houses is still in the dark due to the power outage.
We wanted to buy some souvenirs and went to a few shops to find some t-shirts. Now I really believe that the whole town is suffering from power outage. So one advice is to bring a torch-light with you when visiting Coron. Only those with generator will have lights now.
After getting some souvenirs, we went for dinner at Kawayanan Grill.
We ordered an octopus dish but I believed they delivered some other food. I challenge the staff to take a bite to try it. After which they found that they delivered the wrong food, the staff apologize profusely and offered to get the order right.
The ambience is nice too and they offer free wi-fi. The Chicken BBQ is so nice that we another an individual set for each of us.
I felt sad after leaving the restaurant because I forgot to tip them!
Soon after we leave the restaurant, it started to pour heavily. Fortunately CS has brought poncho with him and while everyone is taking shelter or running for cover, we are the only two idiots that is walking in the rain.
Everyone is looking at us weirdly while we walk in the rain. We then reach the Lodge and get back to our room.
We have a little chat in the room and I ask him so far what are his thoughts about Filipino in Philippines.
He mentioned that he is surprised that Filipinos are more disciplined than he has thought compared to some other nationalities. For example, when gettng off from the plane, everybody is calm and in order. Unlike some flights he took where the passengers seem to fight their way to be the first to be out of the plane. He also find that the Filipinos are generally friendly and helpful. The help that offered by the police office has leave an impression on him.
We are also surprised that the people in Coron is quite environmental friendly. When we purchased t-shirts and mangoes from the stall, they actually used old newspaper to wrap up the goods. They will try to avoid using plastic bags where possible.
We then make our final packing and turn in.
We woke up early and have our breakfast at the Lodge breakfast area. The food is pretty nice and I like their Spanish omelette. CS ordered American breakfast that comes with some toast bread. He found that the type of bread used is very nice.
The shuttle van arrived at around 0830hrs. We are first in the line and the driver then pick up another few more people to fully filled up the van. We then make our way to the airport.
On the way to the airport, we overtook another shuttle van also heading to the airport. Guess the other driver is unhappy and challenge us. They overtook each other a few times but they did it in a very safe way without endangering the passengers.
We won finally and the passengers in our van giggled.
We quickly check-in and there is another ZestAir flight that is also leaving almost the same time. However, their flight got delayed by almost another 2 hours where our flight is on schedule.
We reach Manila in an hour and we waited for the yellow airport taxi. The queue is long but the yellow taxi arrival is quite good though not continuous. After almost 45mins, we took the taxi to Riviera Mansion in Malate.
Check-in is fast and we are assigned to a room in 6th floor. Room is clean and everything is working. The only thing that I got annoyed is there is no cellular signal! I thought they got the problem fix but I guess they only got it fix on those lower floors.
The 7D 200g dried mango is about P9 cheaper than what is available in SM Supermarket. A half-gallon of 7D mango juice cost P180 but a gallon mango juice cost P450! I look at the stall holder at disbelieve and I ask him the rationale of how come buying two half-gallon of juice is cheaper than one gallon of juice. He can’t answer me on that.
The mango here also cost more at P75/kg but I can see that their mango is much nicer to those in Angeles.
It is a pity that I forgot to take photos of San Andres Market.
After buying all the staff we need, we took a pedi-trike back to the hotel. Due to all the heavy stuff we have ought, I feel bad about the driver. In the end we tip him little more when we reach our hotel.
Once we put our stuff in the hotel and re-organise ourselves, I decided to bring CS to Makati. During this time, heavy rain started so we hide inside Robinson Manila. Here we try some Red Ribbon pastry and also look at Goldilocks cakes to see what we can buy back.
Though the rain only last about 30mins, it is enough to flood the area. Some very entrepreneur Filipinos took some wooden planks and put it on the flooded area to let pedestrian cross so they will not get their feet wet. However, you will need to give them P1 to use it.
CS and me just wade through the murky water to the other side of the road to take the train. However, I only realised that we are on the wrong side and we again wade through the water and back to the side where we come from.
When the train arrived, everyone is rushing to go into the carriage. My bag with the camera got stuck at the train door and they just push my bag into it. I was dead worried that the camera might have broken.
We alight at EDSA station and walk over to Tafe Station. Since this is the terminal station, we can board the train easily. However, once we reach the next station, passengers rush into the train and push us all the way further into the train.
Fortunately Ayala Station is just 2 stop away from Taft. So we alight and walk around Makati just to show CS around.
At Mall of Asia, we missed the fireworks display by 5 mins. We then walk around the Mall and CS is really surprised by the size of it. I told CS that thought Robinson Manila is huge but MOA is even bigger.
After getting all our stuff, we decided to return to the hotel. It was again raining and the taxi queue is very long.
We have no choice but to flag down a taxi. I know the rate is going to be fixed but never expect he wanted to charge us P300! I know we are all tired and I reluctantly agreed.
During the journey, the driver ask us are we going back to the hotel and we said yes. We are stuck in a jam and he actually go into the lane of the opposite direction and drive all the way up to the front of the queue. We look at him shocked and he said “If you want to go back early, this is the way to beat the jam.” I am so glad that we manage to go back to the hotel in one piece. Once credit to the taxi driver is that he knows the shortest route to the hotel.
After packing our stuff, we turned in for the night.
Last day in the Philippines.
Woke up early and quickly set off for the MRT station. Took the train to Doroteo Jose station and walk to Recto Station. We then took a jeepney to Divisoria.
As we are pretty early, not all shops are open and the crowd is thin.
We have a quick breakfast at Mcdonald’s and by then, most shops are open.
Yes, they do not have a nice layout like SM Malls or the quality of it but this is where I really feel more comfortable. I also wanted CS to experience a more real Manila rather than just walking inside swanky shopping malls.
We just stayed here for about 2 hours and left as we have a flight to catch.
We took a jeep back to Recto Station and then a train back to Pedro Gil Station. On our way back to the hotel, we go to Robinson Manila to purchase all out pastry from Red Ribbon and Goldilocks to bring back home.
We then pack our things and it is time for lunch.
From the internet, I found out that there is a Hup Chan Chinese restaurant in the vicinity. I have the map and start looking for it.
Along the way, a kind-hearted Filipino ask us where are we going and he pointed us the direction. We thank him and walk towards it. However, we found that he has given us the wrong directions.
We then decided to go back to the hotel instead but a blessing in disguise is we took a turn and we saw the restaurant.
We ordered some Chinese food and the Buttered Fried Chicken really taste nice. Even the Chinese Dim Sum is good.
Along the way back to the hotel, we saw a poor kid and gave the food to him. This is our intention any way. When we were looking for the restaurant, CS is holding a bottle of Coca-Cola in his hands. A boy saw it and start to follow us. The boy then touch the bottle and CS guess that he actually wanted it. So CS gave him the bottle. I feel that this is better than giving them money.
We do our final packing in the hotel and set off to the airport. At the hotel, the staff got us a taxi but the driver asked for P50 more but I rejected it. I then flag down another taxi and he agreed using the meter.
The fare to the airport is about P165 but I gave him P200.
The flight is delayed and the flight eventually took off an hour later.
My thoughts for this trip are that I am not overly impressed by Coron. However, it is still a nice place to go. The town is laid back and the people are friendly.
Also, some of the place may not be a good snorkel spot like Banol Island. However as mentioned, I like Banol Island is that they have a shallow beach.
The better snorkel sites are Skeleton Wreck and Site Pedacos and we really enjoyed these two sites very much.
Kagayan, Twin Lagoon and Barracuda Lake are good places to relax and I do not think that it is meant to be a snorkel site. It is more of a scenery thing. CS admitted that these 3 sites let him have a chance to famliarise himself with snorkeling and he has adapted to snorkeling well by the second day.
Is Malcapuya Island worth a visit? Definitely yes. One thing that I regret not doing is snorkeling at the island. I guess you need to be brought out to the snorkeling site by the guide. You do not snorkel by the beach as that is not the best site to snorkel.
Will I visit Coron again? Yes. However, I will be more selective about the sites I will visit. Site Pedacos, Skeleton Wreck and Malcapuya Island will definitely be on my list.
As for my friend CS, I do not know what he think of Philippines as I did not ask him about his opinion. I hope it will be good and will give him a better understanding of this often misunderstood country.