Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Coron Escapade - Part 4

To read previous entries, click the following links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Day 6: April 28, 2010 - Coron Village Lodge and CLUB PARADISE!!!

I woke up at 5am feeling really sick. Very bad congestion, headache and a bit of throat irritation. Not a good sign. Worse, I could hear a steady drizzle on the roof! By 5:45, I woke Ariel and we got ready to leave. Bags packed, room checked, we headed down to the front desk. Only, there was no front desk. The office is still closed. By 6:15, our scheduled departure, there was no sign of the CVL staff, nor was there any van waiting to take us to the airport where Club Paradise crew will pick us up. At 6:30, the van arrived and started loading our bags along with some other passengers'. Still no sign of the office personnel. At 6:40, the office lady finally came and with shocked face told me that we still have a balance of P200+. I told her that I wanted to settle that the night before but she said she will be in at 6am so it's her incompetence that placed us in this position where we need to rush to the airport (actually, we really didn't have to rush but other passengers needed to catch a flight to Manila) but we couldn't leave yet since we need to settle our P200+ balance. Of course I said it nicely. Good thing it was a quick transaction and soon, we were cruising along a scenic road back to Busuanga Airport. At this time, the rain already stopped but dark clouds still loomed above us. Our driver drove like a maniac which made up for the time we wasted waiting at the office. It didn't take long before we drove into the departure section of the airport.

Busuanga Airport

After a few minutes, the Club Paradise jeep arrived. There were a few other guests from Coron who, like us, will also transfer to Club Paradise. We boarded the jeep but had to wait for more guests arriving from Manila. At around 8am, the guests finally arrived and we started the land trip to the river dock. The ride was about 40minutes along a mostly dusty dirt road. Then we transferred in a boat docked by the river. Among the guests were a Japanese family with two young boys, a Filipino family with 3 kids and a grandmother, and a Korean couple wearing matching shirts (I initially thought they were Fil-Chinese but Ariel pointed out the matching outfits). We cruised through the mangrove-lined river until we reached the ocean. Sandwiches and juice drinks were served to the guests - an early taste of Club Paradise's excellent service.
Houses by the river

The waves were a bit rough since the weather wasn't so good and water started splashing onto our faces. The staff started handing out Club Paradise- embroidered towels to keep us from getting wet. After a few minutes, we set anchor in front of El Rio Y Mar Resort nestled into the side of a big island (which we found out is still connected to mainland Busuanga). We were later informed that El Rio Y Mar is a sister resort of Club Paradise.

After almost an hour, we finally stepped into the blinding white sand beach of Club Paradise.
Club Paradise Shore

We were ushered into the reception area where cold welcome drinks awaited us and a group of musicians serenaded us with a welcome song.
Welcome Song

We quickly filled out the paperworks and a quick orientation ensued. Since it was still early (not even 10am), we couldn't check in to our beachfront cottage. We were ushered into another cottage (a duplex) where we could freshen up and relax until the 2pm check in time. Our temporary cottage was just a few steps away from the sunrise beach. We were told that our beachfront cottage would be similar in size and interiors but single-detached. We just relaxed for a bit before deciding to explore the area.
Temporary Accommodation

Just before noon, we started walking towards the main hall. We stopped by the spa to schedule a massage that afternoon. Then we went into the front desk to check out the tours. We decided to sign up for a Calauit Tour morning of the next day. However, the tour requires a minimum of four guests so we had to wait for other guests to sign in, otherwise,we would need to pay for four.

Ahhh lunch! A mouthwatering spread welcomed us into the main dining hall. The appetizers alone were enough to satisfy my cravings. Olives. Two kinds of smoked fish. Yummy. There were 3 to 4 main dishes aside from the rice and steamed veggies. And the dessert! I had to stop myself from getting some.

After lunch, we were advised that our room was ready so we checked in by around 1pm. Our cottage is located at the sunset beach. The room was spacious, furnished with a king-sized bed, a coffee table with two chairs, and a dresser table. The bathroom had hot and cold shower and full amenities were provided - towels and toiletries. There is a walk-in closet with dresser table. In one corner of the room is the mini bar.
Cottage 5

Cottage interior

Cottage interior

Cottage interior

The porch

At 2:30pm, we went to the spa for our massage. Heavenly! We just relaxed the rest of the afternoon. By 6pm, we got outside to walk by the beach and take photos.
Shooting at dusk

Sunset walk

We heard a loud squeaking above us and was surprised and awed by what we saw. Thousands of huge fruit bats were flying above us, ready to fly out into the night in search for food. As part of our orientation that morning, the front desk staff mentioned that Dimakya Island is home to fruit bats. We had no idea there were so many of them. For about 30 minutes, we just marveled at the sight of the bats flying across the sky.


At dinner, we were treated to a beautiful full moon. I didn't bring my camera at first so we made plans to go back to the cottage after dinner to get my camera and tripod so we can take photos by the beach. We later found out that there would be a cultural show during dinner. So we decided to stay a bit longer to see the show. After that, we got our cameras and took photos by the beach. It was a huge blessing to be at a beautiful island and having a full moon made it even more beautiful.

Nighttime stroll

The beach at night

We had a wonderful time just relaxing throughout the day. I took cold meds round the clock and pumped my body with Vitamin C morning and evening. I was still not feeling 100% when we retired for the night but that didn't stop me from enjoying our first day at Club Paradise.

For the complete set of photos, click here.

To read part 5, click here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Coron Escapade - Part 3

Click these links if you missed Part 1 and Part 2.

Day 4 - Majika Resort and Coron Village Lodge

This resort grew on me. After the initial discomfort of not having air conditioning, I've come to love this place. I love the sound of tuko waking us up in the middle of the night, and the waves gently lapping on the shore, the trees dancing with the wind. While the hill behind our cottage is barely covered with trees, there are lots of greens around the resort itself. Kasuy trees are all over the place.


There are pineapples behind our cottage. Coconut trees line the shore. And there are hammocks in front of the cottages where one can retreat to should you want to relax and escape from the heat inside the cottages.

Inside the cottage
Our Cottage

So today was our last day in Majika. Our breakfast was unremarkable, as usual, but it felt more special since we were sharing the meal with our newfound friends for the last time. After breakfast, we posed for some group photos, and exchanged email addresses with a promise to share whatever photos we have of each other.

Farewell shot

By 10am, we boarded a boat that would take us back to Coron town. Because we left early enough and the tide is still a bit high, we were able to take a different route - we passed through a mangrove forest. It was breathtaking. Upon seeing this, I immediately regretted passing up the chance to explore this by kayak/canoe at night. The main attraction of this area are the sea fireflies - planktons that glow in the dark. However, because it was almost full moon, we were told that the sea fireflies will not be visible (best viewed when the sky is really dark) so we totally ditched the night canoeing idea. Bad decision! Anyway, it was great that we were able to take this route so we got to admire the view at daytime. We took turns having our photos taken. Sadly, all our photos taken along the mangrove forest have gone missing. Either they were inadvertently deleted or there was an error in uploading to our laptop. Fortunately, Cornie and Peng (Villafuerte) sent photos taken from their camera. And they are fabulous!


Before noon, we found ourselves walking along the public market near the pier. We made our way back to the Majika station in town. Then it was time to say goodbye to our friends. Ariel and I took a tricycle going to Coron Village Lodge. There, we were told that the room is not yet ready, so we had lunch at their restaurant first. The food was great!!! We ordered pork adobo and calamares. Very, very good! Ariel and I ate with gusto. After lunch, we were able to check into our room. Finally, aircon!

Our room was very small, at least compared to our cottage in Majika. It has a TV set with cable channels. There's a closet, a hanging rack and a desk. There was also a small table beside the double bed. The bathroom is even tinier. It locks from the outside with a hook, but doesn't properly close from inside the toilet. There is hot water in the shower but the water pressure was too weak we could barely get a trickle on the shower. Good thing there was a pail where we could collect enough water for a decent bath. Towels were provided as well as toilet papers and a bar of bath soap. A medicine cabinet hung above the sink but one side was unhooked from the wall so it was hanging precariously on one side, threatening to fall off the wall. Well, I guess I shouldn't expect much from a room that costs P1,000 per night.

I've been asked why we decided to transfer to the town. Actually, even before our trip, I've carefully planned our itinerary to make sure we have ample time to explore the area. I have a couple of destinations in my list.
  • Coron Island Tour - We wouldn't want to miss the best Coron has to offer. Majika offers this tour so we were covered.
  • Sangat island Tour - Majika is located just across Sangat Island and they also offer this tour. However, because of my dysmenorrhea, we had to miss this. No worries though. We have time in our hands.
  • Culion - I've always wanted to see this historic place. Majika doesn't offer tours going to Cullion. That is why I arranged for a two-night stay in Coron Village Lodge. Many tour operators in town offer a trip to Cullion.
  • Calauit - Since we are already in the area, we wanted to take the opportunity to see this animal reserve. This is closer to Club Paradise so we opted to take the tour there.
With these in mind, I've arranged 3 nights stay in Majika, 2 nights in Coron Village Lodge and 3 nights in Club Paradise. The last leg of our vacation was really meant for rest and relaxation, save for a trip to Calauit.

So anyway, Ariel and I decided to just rest first and explore the city later. By 3pm, I made calls to a local tour operator (Corong Galeri) to arrange for our tour the next day. Ariel also called a local tricycle driver (referred by a friend) to arrange for a trip to Mt. Tapyas and Maquinit Hot Springs that afternoon.

At 4 pm, we boarded the tricycle that took us to the foot of Mt. Tapyas. There, we began the grueling climb. 762 steps to the peak. The sun was still up so it was scorching hot! We had to make frequent stops to catch our breath and hydrate. After a while, and with my legs aching and trembling, we finally reached the top. The view was spectacular! We stayed for a while and took photos. Then we decided to go to a shed on the side of the peak which was a downhill walk along a narrow path. We took more photos and tried to wait for sunset, but I got impatient since it was only a little after 5pm. After a while, we gave up and decided to head back to the base.

Souvenir PicThe Cross
Wanderer 2
Into the shed
Couple Pic - Mt. Tapyas
Mt Tapyas Panorama 1

Our tricycle then drove us 6 kilometers to Maquinit Hot Springs. Half the way was a dusty unpaved road in the middle of nowhere. By the time we got there, it was already getting dark. We paid the entrance fee of P100 each. The pool was a huge cemented enclosure. The water was very, very hot. On the other side of the pool is another entrance for guests coming by boat. Ariel and I just soaked our tired legs and we felt immediate relief. Even with just our legs in the water, we felt the warmth throughout our body - it was like being inside a huge sauna.

The Rules
Crossing the bridge
Wooden walkway

We didn't stay long as we made an arrangement to meet one of my very best friends and her hubby for dinner. Michelle, her husband Jay, sister and parents were also vacationing in Coron. They were billeted in a lodge just beside Coron Village Lodge. We initially planned to eat at Bistro Coron but it was full so we went to La Sirenetta instead. The restaurant was located near the pier so we had a great view of the sea. We ordered two types of pizza and pasta. The food was great, the company even better.

Good times
By the time we retired for the night, I was already feeling ill. I feel a bad cold coming.

Day 5 - Coron Village Lodge

Today's itinerary: Cullion Town and Sangat Island Tour - Coral Beach, Gunboat Wreck, Caldave Marine Park

We woke up early today. Breakfast at 7am. Ariel and I opted for Filipino breakfast which consisted of longganisa, sunny side up and fried rice for me, Tocino for Ariel. It was pretty good. This would be our only breakfast experience in Coron Village Lodge.

By 8am, we were back at Corong Galeri, the meeting point for today's tour. For a group of 5 people, the usual fee is P650 per person for a day's tour. In our case, because we are going beyond Coron Island, and there's only two of us, we had to pay P1,750 each - inlcusive of all fees plus lunch and drinks on board. I thought it was a pretty good deal since boat rentals alone would have cost us P3000. We bumped into Michelle's family at the Galeri. Turned out they also booked their tour with the same operator. They were taking the Coron island Tour which we already did while we were at Majika.

At around 9:30, we docked into Culion Island and started to walk uphill to the Culion Sanitarium. The heat of the sun was beating down on us and the uphill walk was exhausting. Finally, we were able to enter the museum located behind the Sanitarium. We watched a video on the history of Culion. I was almost in tears while watching. I couldn't imagine the sad plight of the lepers during the early 1900's. I was also amazed to learn that Culion was the best leprosarium in the world during the 1920s-1930s. With modern medicine's ability to effectively treat leprosy, Culion became a regular community and broke down the barriers that enclosed the leper colony. During the presidency of Mrs. Aquino, it was finally declared an independent municipality.

The sign
For the tourists
Hospital Entrance
Culion Museum

After viewing the video, we went around the museum. Photography is prohibited so i wasn't able to take photos. The museum showcased the tools and amenities of the leprosarium. There are also photos of people who helped make Culion the best leprosarium during the early 1900's. I was amazed by the dedication of some of the American doctors who chose to spend their lives in Culion to help the Filipinos.

By the way, the Culion Sanitarium is currently the only General Hospital in the Calamian group of islands.

After touring the museum, we proceeded to the Culion Church to snap some photos. It is currently undergoing a renovation. The inside has been completed but there is still some work being done on the exterior, including the bell tower.

Culion Church
Seat of the faithful

We had lunch at a lodge near the docking area. It was a simple but tasty meal of fish sinigang and pork adobo. After lunch, we already proceeded to Sangat Island for our snorkling tour. Our first stop was the Coral Garden. The water was teeming with colorful fishes and corals. Again, there were sea urchins and I was terrified. the water was a bit shallow so I was afraid of getting into contact with those creepy spiny creatures. The Coral Garden is just a few meters from the shores of Majika.

Where's Nemo?
Sea Forest

Our next stop was the gunboat wreck, just a few meters from the Coral Garden. The water was deep, dark and still but the hull of the wreck was clearly visible from the surface. Ariel and I dove in and saw hundreds of colorful fishes. There was an eerie feel in the area, specially in the deeper, darker parts of the wreck. Since we are not divers, we can only see the wreck from above. Corals have begun to attach to the sunken ship which probably account for the number of fishes in the area.

Sangat Gunboat
Exploring the wreck

Finally, we stopped by Caldave Marine Park, another snorkling area teeming with fishes and corals. The whole area - Caldave Marine Park, Coral Garden and the wreck are part of the Bintuan Marine Sanctuary.

Forest under the sea
Ocean flowers

We were back to town by 3pm. Ariel and I just took a shower before going to the restaurant for merienda. We had pancit bihon and sandwich. It was ok - I have high standards for pancit because it's one of my specialties. :) We just relaxed the rest of the afternoon.

For our last meal in Coron, we ordered chili crabs and chili prawns. Both were out of stock. It was so frustrating trying to order seafoods!!! I also didn't see a single lobster in the market. I wonder where they are taking all those fresh catches?! So we settled with Chili Squid (they have an abundance of squid) and Pork Sisig. Both are very good! I also ordered a serving of frozen margarita which I found to be too bland. So I ordered Mango Daiquiri next. It tasted like mango shake with only a drop of alcohol. It was refreshing enough but still not quite to my liking. Oh well.

After dinner, I went to the front desk to settle our bill.  We were leaving at 6:15 for Club Paradise so we wanted to pay that night. We paid our balance save for the cost of our merienda earlier today. The cashier said that the restaurant has not yet forwarded our bill and will have to be settled the following day. From the look on her face, it was clear that this is something they don't want to fix that very hour. I asked what time they open, and the girl said they do at 6am. So we just went back to our room to finish packing.

Early day tomorrow.

Day 4 photos here.
Day 5 photos here.

To read part 4, click here.