Celebrating my 25th year in EL NIDO

Big Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan

Time runs so fast. Yesterday, I was just a teen wanting to graduate right away to get a decent job. It’s true that as we get older, we won’t even notice the time. We will be busy working, trying to be successful, getting that dream job, and building our own family. I’ve now reached the time where I question the path I will take and dreams I truly want to achieve.

My 25th year is approaching – I thought. I want to make it memorable, I want to go somewhere far where nature is my lover and beach is my sanctuary. Palawan holds that standard. Known as “The Last Ecological Frontier of the Philippines” and rated as “Best Southeast Asia region in 2007” by the National Geographic Travel Magazine. Tales from nomads and all exquisite pictures I see in social media adds up to my determination and itching feet to go.

El Nido, Palawan, Travel Philippines

Cebu Pacific Piso fare promo finally released and we all crammed in booking flights. The air fare to Puerto Princesa only cost P1, 300.00/person with a return ticket. Plus, I got plenty of time to save for my birthday travel. We’ve searched for budget accommodations but decided to try out Airbnb. It is budget friendly and has reviews from previous guests that gives you an idea of what to expect. After booking the room in Just Inn, my birthday getaway is all set and I’m ready to take off.

El Nido is our destination. The impression that this island is quite expensive is absolutely false. You only need a proper planning and conduct more research to get the best out of your vacation in a very minimal spending. The internet is a massive database of information and everything you need to know is one click away. As what I usually do – maximize google or ask a fellow backpacker/traveler.

On the 13th of July 2016, Cebu Pacific Air smoothly landed in Puerto Princesa at 12:00 noon. The chartered van picked us up at the airport, henceforth our long journey has begun. After seven hours of travel, we finally arrived at our destination around 6:00 PM in the evening.

Our accommodation was hosted by Just Inn. It is a two storey house located near at the van/bus terminal just 5-10 minutes’ walk to town. The house was quiet, clean, and cute. I like wooden houses so I find it cute. The rooms are at the second floor, there’s a mini sala and overlooking veranda too! When we set our foot in the house, I felt the excitement to see how our room would look like. Kuya Samuel, the host was not around when we arrived but his helper opened the door and genuinely welcomed us and led us to our room.

Just Inn, El Nido, Palawan Philippines
Just Inn Veranda

The room is big and clean, it looks like my own room in the province. We checked the bathroom and Air-conditioned right away, thankful that it looks the same in the pictures. It’s our best choice. Aside from a very amiable host, we got a quiet place where we can contemplate and sleep well.

Just Inn, El Nido, Palawan Philippines
Our cute room

After unpacking our stuff, we cleaned ourselves and head out to see the town and look for ATM. While walking, I noticed that there are many restaurants near our house host. I saw a lot of foreign visitors too. They were all over the town and some were riding motorcycle. It is so refreshing to see other travelers from all over the globe visiting our own tropical paradise. The night was still young and my birthday is not over yet so we decided to party a little bit thinking that we might be fabulously tired after the tours in the next 2-3 days.

First Day in EL NIDO

Good Morning and hello twenty five!  Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It will be a long day ahead and I hope the weather would cooperate. Kuya Samuel helped us organize our tours and even gave us discount! The package tour A & C which costs about P2,400 – P2,600, we only got it for P2,000.00 including the environmental fee. There’s a lot of tour agencies in El Nido that you can choose from but it would be great if some local would help you out to get a discount.

Day 1 Tour C : Hidden Beach, Mantinloc Shrine, Talisay Island, Secret Beach and Helicopter Island.

Our boat set sail loaded with diverse set of tourists from Cambodia, Spain, and Manila full of anticipation and excitement. It was a sunny morning and seeing the towering stones covering the town in bright daylight is spectacular.

El Nido

Warm wind kissed my skin as the boat passes from one tiny island to another. I dipped my hand into the crystal blue water while enjoying the sea breeze and breathtaking view of the islands. It’s a wonderstruck feeling at the same time amazed by the rock formation. I wonder how did that thing grow that BIG!

We docked first at the helicopter island for pictures and snorkeling. This is my first time to snorkel (Don’t judge – I’m just afraid I would break the corals). Knowing that El Nido offers pristine waters and beautiful coral reefs, I decided to give it a try. The outcome? I got addicted. Being not a good swimmer, it was an advantage because I didn’t have to go farther to see stunning corals and colorful fishes.

El Nido
Helicopter Island
El Nido
Lunch Time at Talisay Island
El Nido
Sweet kitten at Mantinloc Shrine

This sweet kitten welcomed us at Mantinloc shrine. She was blabbering about something, I guess she hasn’t seen human in a while.

Afternoon came, we sang through the rain as we set sail going back to the town. It has been a long yet wonderful day for all of us. We’ve seen the beaches, enjoyed the corals, and I struggled swimming. Access to secret and hidden beach was a bit strenuous (for me). I had to swim farther than I expected and the sea current was a bit strong due to rain. Anyhow, I survived and I will definitely go back to take more pictures.

Second Day in EL NIDO

Day 2 Tour A: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Simizu Island, 7 Commandos

Most traveler would say that Tour A is the best and I agree. You’ll be more than amazed and probably fall in love in this majestic paradise. We met a different set of tourists on our second day; more from Spain, Germany, and the pretty ladies from Switzerland.

El Nido
Outside secret lagoon with Zarina and Naomi.

One good thing about traveling is meeting new people from different walks of life, race, and culture. Travelers would always want to have a conversation. No hidden agenda or whatsoever. It’s a great way to learn about their travel, culture, and their country.

El Nido, Small Lagoon
Small Lagoon
El Nido, Simizu Island
Lunch at Simizu Island
El Nido
Tired from swimming all day. I tried to sleep in the bare sand of 7 Commando beach

I don’t want to leave this place yet. This is one of the most memorable birthday, I ever had. All the preparation, anticipation, and long travel – it’s all worth it.

“I don’t collect things now, I collect moments and experience. There is so much to see and to know. I want to fill my life with stories to tell and make memories all over the world. “

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Breakdown of expenses:

Airfare: P 1, 300.00

Room for 3 days (Air-conditioned & free breakfast): P1, 573.50

Van:  P1, 000.00

Tour A & C:  P2, 000.00

Food and Allowance: P1, 500.00

Total: P7, 373.50

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