Looking across from our docked ferry boat into the blue waters of Lamon Bay we were getting a bit anxious. Dark rain clouds over the horizon and the constant trickle of rain against the boat’s protective canvas sheet seemed like an ominous sign for a 3-day vacation turned into a minor disaster. But it was too late to turn back now. Within minutes it seemed that our worse fears were about to be realized when the boat we were riding was soon bucking against the waves.
Coming from our lunch stopover and beach bumming stint at Dampalitan Island in Padre Burgos, our outrigger boat made its way around the southern end of Lipata Island towards the southeastern coast of Pagbilao Grande Island. As we sailed along this part of Pagbilao Grande, a long row of beautiful white sand beaches and coves separated from each other by towering rock formations came into view.
Whenever we want a quick getaway from the metropolitan jungle that is Metro Manila or when the rainy season brings a stop to our island-hopping and beach-bumming forays, we frequently turn our sights towards the towns at the foot of Mt. Banahaw. The towns of Rizal, Nagcarlan, Liliw, Majayjay and Lukban are destinations where we do not have to worry about riding a boat amidst turbulent waves.
El Nido has long been associated with the islands at Bacuit Bay including hidden lagoons, white sand beaches and magnificent karst landscape. The town itself, located on the main island of Palawan, used to serve only as a launching pad for tours to these islands as well as overnight accommodations for visitors. However, in recent years, previously hard-to-access beaches further inland or near El Nido proper have now been getting a share of the spotlight.
Hidden lagoons with crystal-clear turquoise waters ringed by imposing karst formations have been the defining picture of El Nido for years now. Despite the increasing popularity of other destinations here, most people visit El Nido for island-hopping, and more specifically for touring the lagoons of Miniloc Island. We normally prefer to visit less-known sites but the beauty of El Nido and the allure of these lagoons were simply too irresistible.
The Bacuit archipelago, with 45 islands and islets that contain steep and massive karst cliffs, white sand beaches, hidden lagoons and coral reefs, is easily the most toured part of El Nido in northern Palawan. Tour operators in El Nido Town offer four different whole-day packages for touring these islands, namely Tours A, B, C and D. The most popular are Tours A and C. We chose to start off our second day on El Nido with Tour C, promptly leaving the town at 9AM in the morning along with 17 other people aboard our motorized outrigger.
Our first encounter with this city was merely incidental. We were touring the island province of Siquijor and the nearest airport to the island happened to be Sibulan Airport near Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. Right after landing on Sibulan we headed straight for Dumaguete's port and boarded a ferry bound for Siquijor. On the way back to Manila we decided to have lunch and wait out our return flight for a few hours at the city. It was then that we realized we had been missing out on a tourist destination right then and there.
(Laguna) Nang ito ay marating ko
(Laguna) Para bang ako ay nagbago
(Laguna) Kakaibang damdamin
Sampaguita (written by Gary Perez)
It's not surprising that Pinoy rock queen Sampaguita would croon over this province. With its picturesque waterfalls, hot and cold springs, attractive churches and scenic lakes, Laguna is an indubitable plethora of natural, cultural and historical gems. And with its proximity to Metro Manila, the province is a no-brainer whenever we want a quick and easy getaway from the confines of our concrete jungle.
Eons ago, Hinulugang Taktak in Antipolo, Rizal was the one waterfall we knew that was closest to the Manila metropolis. As kids we would always look forward to our visit to the Antipolo cathedral, the cashew stores and to Hinulugang Taktak, spurned on to swim in its waters by the famous local song about those falls. In the years that followed unfortunately, Hinulugang Taktak has been transformed into something closer to a cesspool, its waters polluted and filled with thrash; not so surprising since the falls are fed by a stream that runs through a densely populated municipality. (Recently however, the local government has initiated a rehabilitation of the place.) Our fascination with waterfalls in Rizal province would have ended there until we discovered Palo Alto Falls in Baras and another one in Tanay that we've heard about long before but never got to visit until very recently: Daranak Falls.