Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Couple of Days in Puerto Princesa

     I get to spend two days in Puerto Princesa after my El Nido vacation last September and my bosses were really bighearted to show my around the city.

       They brought me to the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, also known as the Crocodile Farm and Nature Park.  It is in Puerto Princesa where the first crocodile breeding farm started (1987). The Crocodile Farm was founded to prevent the further decline of the two species of Philippine crocodile (freshwater and saltwater crocodile).
   Today PWRCC, under the management of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the DENR, has bred over 12,000 crocodiles for commercial purposes. Crocodile meat is sold locally to tourist and to restaurants across the country, while crocodile leather is sold to luxury fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes.

     Displayed at the lobby of PWRCC are the skin and bones of a saltwater crocodile that is approximately 5 meters long. A sight to behold but it tells a sad story of a man it killed in 2011 and of the reptile itself. Rio, the male crocodile named after the place it was captured, was caught by the townsfolk in 2014 and died two years later due to internal bleeding and the stress of being in captivity. Rio was 67 years old.

                    Three month old crocodiles.

         The largest croc that I've seen alive here at PWRCC.

              It felt soft and cold!


      The Crocodile Farm and Nature Park has a vast open space and it was really nice walking under those big trees! If it weren't for the cages I'd feel like I was in a jungle. Palawan is one of the most biodiverse islands in the Philippines and many wild animals usually fall victim to poachers. Some animals here at PWRCC were rescued from their captors and after some time will be released back into the wild.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

El Bohemio in El Nido:
The Poblacion

             Rizal Street
      It was past 7 o'clock in the morning, September 14, 2016, a cloudy day. I thought of having a little walk around the town of El Nido before I head back to Puerto Princesa in a couple or hours. Though I should have taken these photos the day before in mid-afternoon, when the place looks more lively with open shops and tourists walking down the streets. But then again, these early morning  scenes gives us a different mood of this popular provincial town.

   September is actually a slow month in El Nido. I was told that from November to February, these streets are filled with foreign pedestrians, outnumbering the locals. One explanation is that American and European expats in China escape the winter then come back when the Chinese New Year celebration there is over. Filipino tourist, on the other hand, usually come in from March to June. So if you want to see an international crowd, you know when to go hehe.

             St. Francis Of Assisi Parish

       El Nido may sounds like it's a town that was founded by Spanish missionaries but the town's name was changed to El Nido only in 1954. Well it was still the Spaniards who gave it it's former name Bacuit when the place became a new municipality in 1916. But way way before history began, humans already inhabited this place. Fossils and burial sites dating back to the Late Neolithic Age can be found in many caves and excavation sites surrounding the municipality. Cool huh?

           Real Street and a part of  Mt. Taraw. 

   "Nido" is Spanish for "nest" and this town is named so because of the edible nests made from the hardened saliva of the swiftlets, a bird locally known as "balinsasayaw" that builds its nest in the crevices of  limestone cliffs in the area. These nests can be made into a gourmet soup and they say it's packed with nutrients. I think I've tried nido soup before in a Chinese restaurant in Manila years ago. I don't remember the taste anymore haha.

Friday, November 18, 2016

El Bohemio in El Nido: The Hermit of Entalula Island

  I certainly am not leaving El Nido without an artful photo of me in one of those beautiful islands hahaha!

  These photos are a product of kindness. The kindness of the people who brought me to Palawan, of the people who gave me a place to stay in El Nido, the people who showed me the islands, the boatman and his crew, the tour guide who took these pictures, and of the God who I pray will continue to bless them all.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

El Bohemio in El Nido:
The Island Hopping Adventure

     El Nido, with its towering marble cliffs, enchanting lagoons, charming white-sand beaches, hidden coves, lush forests, breath-taking waterfalls, prehistoric caves, and the clear blue waters that surround its islands, is a Protected Area and is often refereed to as the "Philippines' Last Frontier".

   And to be a Filipino living in the Philippines is really awesome because you don't need a passport or cross an ocean to be in a place that is considered one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the world. Truly a must-see. A must-be on a travelers bucket list.

     El Nido has been welcoming tourist from around the globe for many years  and they have established standard island-hopping destinations which is divided into 4 groups. Tour boat companies  follow these standards and some offer fuss-free package deals. You will not have to worry about bringing towels, snorkeling stuff, or even lunch!  If you have booked your stay at Sea Cocoon Hotel you can avail of those fuss-free tour packages from them. A tour package, depending on how far they are from Bacuit Bay, ranges from Php1,200 to Php 1,400 per person.

        One fine morning on September 11, 2016,  my island-hopping
 adventure began on the shores of Bacuit Bay.

     Next to me is Boss Vic, opposite us at front is Eric the famous 
frontman of Sea Cocoon Hotel LOL, and beside him is Boss Benjie, 
together with two personnel from the hotel.

    I spent 3 whole days in El Nido and I've tried the Tours A and B, on separate days, with the main men of Sea Cocoon Hotel hehe. Actually we skipped some destinations in the tours to have more time on more interesting spots, like the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon which are really captivating. I should have brought my old digicam with the waterproof case. If I did I would have a lot of pictures inside these lagoons. But then again, not bringing that camera made me appreciate the place (and the moment) more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

El Bohemio in El Nido:
The Sea Cocoon Experience

    An invitation to see a new hotel in El Nido paved the way to a 7-day vacation in Palawan last September. The owners are actually my former employers. After working as designer in their exporting company from 2000 to 2005, I still sometimes do freelancing work for them and still address them as my "Boss Vic" and "Boss Benjie".

    And I feel real proud that in my first visit to El Nido I get to stay in what TripAdvisor.Com ranked as  number 1 of the 82 B&B hotels and inns in the area. That certainly is pretty impressive for a hotel that has just opened it's doors just over a year ago.

   So, really, what made Sea Cocoon #1? How is it different from other hotels in El Nido? Well honestly, I can only guess haha because it's my first time there so I've never tried  other accommodations. But maybe with this little virtual tour we can figure out the secret to their success ;-)

    Maybe it's the location? Sea Cocoon is built along a less crowded part of Real Street within the poblacion (town proper) yet it is still just two blocks away from Bacquit Bay where your island hopping tour begins. Any shop or restaurant you need is at walking distance from the hotel.

    Maybe it's the architecture? While others look rustic or stark, here's a brightly-colored modern-style building that is newly built. That naturally gives an impression that everything in it is new and that they are up-to-date when it comes to hotel services and management (and it feels that they are!)

   I personally like the architecture.  The look  is somewhat De Stijl that's made subtle by the use of teal blue.

    Maybe because they have a pool? Hihi!  I've heard that this so far the only hotel in the area that has a pool that is inviting enough for you to take a dip. If you just can't get enough of El Nido's crystal-clear waters during your island hoping tour, you can continue soaking yourself here while enjoying a bottle of beer or two... or three. Oh you should see how pretty the pool looks at night when it's lighted up.

A view from Sea Cocoon's roof top: 
Baquit Bay and Cadlao Island - El Nido's largest island 
with the highest rock mountain reaching 609 meters above sea level.

Taraw Cliff as seen from Sea Cocoon's viewing deck. 
Mt Taraw welcome mountaineers and there's a zip-line too.

   Maybe because they have a viewing deck?  ^_^ The hotel is 4 storeys high and I think there are just 3 or 4 buildings in town that reaches this height limit. But not all of them will let their guests access their roof deck, if they at all have one. Just ask one of Sea Cocoon's friendly staff and they will gladly show you the way to the viewing deck so you will get a nice vista of the town, the distant Baquit Bay and Mt.Taraw.

Monday, November 14, 2016

El Bohemio in El Nido:
The Transit


   You know the last time I took a plane was 14 years ago haha! Well I certainly am no jet-setter. Not the gypsy or hobo type of boho.  I'm at least a passive traveler - one who waits for the opportunity to travel, unlike some of my friends who has made travelling to far and different places an annual thing.

     I also have not traveled alone for a very long time - like almost 2 decades. So this lonesome 380 mile travel South of Manila, that took place on the 10th of September this year, feels very much like the first time. Well, there are actually a lot of first-time things for me about this trip. First time to book a flight online, to commute to the airport on an Uber car, to step inside the NAIA Terminal 3 departure area, and of course the first time to see Palawan.

    The flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa in Palawan is just about an hour. I took PAL's 1:10 PM flight over the 6:05 PM flight which I think is too late, and over the 5:20 AM flight which is too damn early haha! If one must to be in the airport 2 hours before departure time, that means I need to be there at 3:20 AM for the 5:20 AM flight!

    But maybe next time I will do the extra effort of catching the early morning flight. Because it's good to get to El Nido on the daytime (at least early afternoon) to maximize your stay there. You see, there's a 230 km road travel from Puerto Princesa to El Nido - that's a five to six hour drive. I actually enjoyed that long ride to El Nido. I love seeing Palawan's mountainscape and the road twisties made me miss my motorcycle. I feel lucky to be first passenger to get on the van because I get to sit at the front and enjoy a nice chit-chat with the driver about Palawan - how beautiful and peaceful it is there.

    I would have enjoyed that long road trip even more if it was entirely in the daytime. It was starting to get dark halfway to our destination. It even rained in some areas and it was getting a bit scary haha. Imagine driving on lampless roads along cliffs on a rainy night. But good 'ol manong driver knows the road like the back of his hand.