“Wow.” It was the first word I ever said as I stepped onto the sandy beachfront of El Nido, the first time I went there in 2010. I looked out at the infamous limestone mountains beyond the sea fronting Poblacion. Everyone who’s been to El Nido has to have a picture with that mountain in its background. And I just had to make sure I had mine. 3 years later, as I walked through the narrow streets of El Nido towards the same view, on my 5th trip to El Nido, I still have the same reaction. “Wow.”
“Wow,” I say as I stepped off the plane. I looked around. It was all trees everywhere except for that small establishment where the aircraft faced. I breathed and it was fresh air, a surprising change from the usual Manila air. I walked down the ramp and smiled at the huge sign that said “Puerto Princesa Airport” I was in Puerto Princesa. Alone. For the first time. 3 years ago, I didn’t know this experience would mold me to who I am today.
“We’re here!” I say, in a rather exasperated, desperate form of words that only comes after 4 hours of rough-road riding in an old, open window beat-down jeep/bus from Puerto Princesa. I skipped a step off the stairs of the bus and landed uneven on the paved road. I patted my curly hair, and even if I had tied it into a bun, it was now a frizzy mess, my baby hair all over my forehead. I sighed, blowing strands off my eyes. We were officially in San Vicente, Palawan.
“Hey Brenna!” a friend called, a few sharp, limestone rocks below me. “Yeah?” I called back. “So…do you regret climbing up?” he says, a smirk in his voice. I turned around, clinging to the sharp rocks, letting its rugged corners sink into my skin as I leaned over to look at my friend. I grin, steadying my footing and wiped my long sleeve over my sweat, literally raining over my forehead. “Ugh,” I pause, in between heavy breaths, “get back to me in a few minutes, okay? When I reach the top.”
After having done both Tour A and C TWICE, I was finally ready to explore a bit more of El Nido – to Tour B, the less recommended, but still impressive tour to the caves, the elusive Snake Island and their beautiful Pinagbuyutan Beach. The tour ordinarily costs P800, but because I have great haggling skills (okay, the hostel did), I only paid P700. Unfortunately, this rate is still utterly expensive, because it did not include snorkels. I had to rent snorkels at the hostel which cost P50. And because I left my environmental fee receipt with Robbie who had left already, I had to pay for another. So much for budget traveling. We left the town at around 9.30am. Since none of my friends would be around to join me, I thought I’d be going alone. However, it turned out that 3 of my hostelmates would also be joining Tour B – apparently, because I convinced them to (I still don’t know when I did that, Lol). No matter. At least I knew someone on the boat. The tour started with Entalula Island.
Every tour in El Nido has some kind of resting place where every tired traveler ends up either asleep or so exhausted they’d rather go back than spend another minute on the beach. If there’s such a thing as beach overload, this is what the last beach of every tour always experiences. In Tour A, that beach happens to be one of the most beautiful beaches in El Nido with a gorgeous sunset – perfect for the final part of Tour A. Two years ago, this was where I found my heart.