A week or so just before I left for India in 2012, I visited this paradise called El Nido in the northeastern tip of Palawan. There, I met Stepanka (in picture), a Czech woman, and Pedro, her Portuguese boyfriend (they now have a baby!). I did a one-day tour of the islands off the El Nido coast and got my seat in a boat where I am the only Filipino. I still remember the Russian guy (who claimed to be an astronaut but chose to be a trucker as it’s a more financially-rewarding job), and this guy who joined the tour but stayed on the boat (as he already saw most “visible” creatures under the sea in past travels), and this Canadian couple (who didn’t really say much but seemed happy and content). The tour was really worth it, to experience what a day in El Nido can offer. I vowed to return to El Nido one day and finally, tickets are booked! Though it’s not for a few more months, I am already looking forward to once again marvel in the natural beauty and diversity of El Nido and Palawan, above or under the sea.
I was thinking of a different way to describe it but there’s no other way around it — we actually were stranded in Odiongan, Tablas Island, Romblon. So, instead of beach bumming and bar-hopping in Boracay and dancing and drinking our way in Kalibo, Aklan’s Ati-Atihan, we counted the hours in rainy and windy Odiongan while 2Go’s vessel was hidden safely away in a cove/bay in Tablas Island. We all believed that if only 2Go left Batangas Port by 9pm as scheduled, we would’ve reached Caticlan before the Coast Guard warning was up and had an awesome weekend. But then, we all also agreed that had we not been stranded, we then would’ve not thought of stepping into Romblon and experiencing its quiet, laid back and rugged charm — not to mention sampling the delicious Kesh’s Special Bibingka!
Roughly 4-5 hours from Manila lies Fortune Island, a semi-isolated-used-to-be-super-private island off Nasugbu, Batangas. They say this is as close to Greek’s ancient ruins as could be possible, with the clear blue waters as your backdrop! Who would have thought that the typhoon destruction to an uber exclusive island paradise would result to a steadily becoming popular destination for beach bums and island campers? Known for its picturesque rows of Athens-like pillars and half-destroyed half-gorgeous statues, Fortune Island gives each traveler a nice reward for climbing atop the stairway-lined hill that leads to it’s “viewpoint ruins” and, as my friends saw and experienced, cliffs and caves. To reach Fortune Island, take the San Agustin Bus line at Coastal Mall in Pasay, going to Nasugbu (3-4 hours, PhP 200-220 AC (about $5), PhP 130-150 (about $3.5) non-AC). From there, take a 15-minute tricycle ride to Fortune Resort Dive Center (pre-booking necessary with caretakers Mang Dante 09394895292 or Chris 09087225628 is necessary) which is the jump-off point to Fortune Island. The 45-minute 10 pax-max boat ride costs around PhP 6000/$135, plus PhP 400/$9 island entry fee (overnight price, negotiable; day trip is cheaper). With upper limit calculations, that’s about PhP 1250/$28. Add in food, booze and other expenses, a beach camping (yep, no rooms) weekend at Fortune Island would be about PhP 1700/$38 which, I must say, is quite cheap to “experience” Greece and of course, enjoy the Philippines’ endless summer with the company of family and friends under the sun and stars. [Special thanks to Hazelle for organizing this CouchSurfing trip back in May and providing all these info I’ve already forgotten.]
Who would’ve thought that a mere 2, ok, 2.5 hours public transport commute from Manila, you can already enjoy an awesome waterfalls retreat, more so that of Daranak Falls?! It was a fine Saturday morning when we trooped to Daranak Falls for a fun day trip. Armed with nothing but knowledge from other blogger’s post and personally, some worries from colleague-resident’s caution that Daranak Falls is no longer as clean and beautiful as it was before, we braved the zigzaggy road with nice mountain landscape (Sierra Madre?) scenes of Rizal and were not disappointed with what waited for us. The Daranak Falls was super impressive that day — full of water and full of life, from the people swimming and from the nature that’s inviting. For a moment, I stood in awe at the wonder before our eyes then, took a deep breath as I jumped from the small cliff into it’s cold waters. The swimming pool of Daranak Falls was not super clear that day but still, it kept us treading and playing in its waters for a while — even challenging ourselves to climb further up where the water falls and to take a plunge once more!
The sun slowly setting, the wind mildly blowing, and the ukulele songs that keep on playing — if only we can freeze time at Scout Island, we probably would. ‘Twas a really charming Saturday afternoon at the Hundred Islands National Park as we set camp on the “undeveloped” Scout Island (read: no structures or facilities) where we spent the night. After a full day of bus travel (about 5-6 hours from Manila to Alaminos, Pangasinan), snorkeling, swimming and island hopping, the quiet, rustic and peaceful vibe of Scout Island gave us the solace that we were looking for. Though devoid of material comforts, choosing Scout Island turned out to be an awesome choice — white sand beach for our bed, magic planktons (green phosporescent aka Life of Pi aka The Avatar) for our entertainment, and an entire island to ourselves!