El Nido, Palawan is popularly known for its awesome limestone cliffs and island hopping. The province is dotted with so many islands that locals recommend visiting groups of islands in batches — Tour A, Tour B, Tour C, and Tour D. But there are times when you just want to wind down and relax, just lounge by the beach or walk around town without worrying about making a tour boat wait.
My husband Marc and I needed just that — a day of nothing but relaxation. The past few months have been so stressful at work, it felt so good to just take a break and not worry about any deadlines. Besides, we were already running quite low on cash — island-hopping, food, and accommodations have taken its toll on our wallets. This wouldn’t have been a problem had there been a bank or an ATM machine in sight, but the nearest one was in Roxas, which is hours away from El Nido. We didn’t really mind, and just made do with what we had. After all, its remoteness adds to El Nido’s charm — it was certainly an experience to remember.
Most people usually spend time island-hopping in the province. There was just so much to see! But I’m glad I took a bit of time off from all that swimming and explore the town — it’s so different from what I’m used to, and I meant that in a very good way. Besides, I was craving for some alone time. My travel buddies are wonderful, but it’s been part of my daily routine to jog for a minimum of 30 minutes in the afternoon to clear my head.
I finally got my chance when I was able to drag myself out of bed one early morning. Electricity goes out regularly by 6am and resumes at 2pm, so it wasn’t so hard to wake up :P I was standing up to open up windows to let the seaside breeze in anyway. We had an appointment with the boatman at 8am for a round of island hopping, but I was really itching to jog that I just made a mental note to be back before breakfast. My husband was still snoring soundly, and Nina was too busy surfing the net with her phone (addict! Hehe), so I went out and once more felt that adrenaline rush I usually get from running.
Ferdz and Melo’s cottage was located at the other side of the beach from our own — probably around 450 meters — and made it my target. I wasn’t really just going to bother their morning routine, you know. Marc left my one-liter bottle of mineral water at the their cottage when we visited them the night before, and I resolved to get it back as drinking water doesn’t really come cheap.
The scene that greeted me was charming at its best. Most accommodations in El Nido are located by the shoreline, and though houses are mostly scattered about, the easiest way to get from one place to another is through the beach. I was greeted by friendly locals doing their morning routines or on their way to work or to the town’s market for shopping. I can’t remember how many children on their way to school said good morning to me during my jog, nor the foreigners and Filipino transients who were likewise doing a morning walk or run.
As early as 6am, the seaside town of El Nido was already buzzing about with activities — kind of like in Manila, but minus the awful traffic, pollution, and hot heads anxious to get to their respective destinations. Busy as it may, El Nido in the morning is still so laid-back, a welcome change for somebody like me who just came from stressful months at work. By the time I got back at our hotel, I was left with the idea of wanting to relocate to El Nido when my retirement comes :P
When our wallets started to get lighter due to lack of financial reinforcements, Marc and I (together with Nina) decided to take time off the paid tours. While Marc used the opportunity to catch up with his work emails (the nerd!), Nina and I took the chance to explore the town’s center.
Like my morning run, it was a pleasant experience — a laid-back and friendly atmosphere of provincial life. Generally, people in town seemed relaxed even though the town center was busier than the seaside settlement. Out in the distance, you’ll see beautiful limestone cliffs swooping down majestically above the town. Save for the paved and dirt roads, you’ll see green everywhere you look — trees dot the streets, the cliffs and the people’s backyards. With only tricycles, a few jeeps and vans in the province, the sleepy, seaside town of El Nido had a virginal charm that you can’t even dream to find in the Metro.
I really hope this town, albeit eventual and unavoidable modernization, will retain its charming beauty. Currently, it’s not so easy to reach El Nido. You can get there by bus, rented private van, or by boat — and if you’re adventurous enough, by back-ride on a motorcycle — from Puerto Princesa. Travel time is about 5 hours, give or take. South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) offers the fastest travel time by plane; you fly straight from Manila for just about an hour and a half, but it’s only seasonal. The difficulty in getting to El Nido makes it a sought-after destination. It’s remote, and not many would take the effort to get there. I’ve been to El Nido thanks to SEAIR, and it’s one hell of an experience to remember.
SEAIR has just resumed its seasonal twice a week flights to El Nido (every Wednesdays and Sundays) until June 30, 2010. But starting April 14, SEAIR will be increasing its flights to this charming province to three times a week! For booking and more details, visit www.FlySeair.com or call (+632) 849-01-00.