I first visited Coron in August of 2009 in what served as the peak moments of my last relationship - soon a few weeks after that the whole thing crumbled but the memories of the place remained stoically unhinged by life's untimely jab. The place became one of my favorites among the places I set foot on. It was a popular 'touristy' place but it does not matter as there's something about the green waters, the blue skies, the laid back seaside town that endeared to me.
When my friend Anne pitched the idea of going to Coron I immediately said "oi oi oi" and in no time we were on a plane to Busuanga and along with Anne's former Pfizer colleagues Anne, Grace and Jen we set out aboard a boat captained by the friendly boatmen Fredo and Sonny. Like their "Godfather" namesakes we rolled along the sea like gangsters not looking for a drive by but anticipating a hit - a feeling of getting high visually and that we were not disappointed.
It was almost the same as my first time there. The places we went to during our first day consist everything around the so called "Coron loop" a part in the Calamian group of islands that includes Banol Beach, Kayangan Lake, Siete Picados, Twin lagoon and a few other Coral and Shipwrecks sites.
For three days we rode shotgun aboard the boat to the point that one could get seasick but never a dull moment and definitely one will never get sick of the surrounding sceneries. From limestone cliffs, rocky islet, mountain formation, the blue skies and the sometimes blue sometimes green reflection of the water all conspires like a bunch of masterminds of the JFK assassination. It's a mother freaking awesome conspiracy if you ask me. It was like God or some other higher being followed a blueprint in shaping up the landscape of this place.
The only thing that annoys us was the presence of "entrance fees" on each of the places. We don't mind paying but it's inconvenient when you're all wet and have to reach out for your pocket to get your money. Our boatman says it is because the islands and the coral reefs around the group of islands are owned by local residents belonging in the Tagbanua tribe - the earliest settlers in Coron, Palawan and since the "ancestral domain" law was passed they have vouched for the right to be financially compensated as part of the tourism rewards of the province.
Which is understandable and just for their part to be rewarded by the tourism industry, but our boatman also said that the local government is working on a process that will ease the burden to the tourists by setting up a one stop payment center at the town hall where visitors would just pay 500-600 pesos for the entrance fee to every islands and Coral gardens around Coron, Palawan. This, will not only lessen the cost on visitors especially those budget travelers but it will also ease the process a lot and the money will be easily traced to where it should go - like free hospitalization for the elderly and scholarships for the Tagbanua kids.
We had lunch on our first day at Banol Beach (first picture), 2nd day at Malcapuya Island and the third day at the Coral Garden near Culion Island. We feasted on crabs, fish, talong, okra, mangoes, squid and liempo. It was the kind of days wherein you could forget that you have a day job waiting for you back in the big city.
Coron is best explored when you're traveling with friends since the boat ride can get expensive and better to split the cost between four or more people. For a budget traveler like me going to Coron has always been one of my more expensive trips. However, don't let the thought of splurging additional than the usual dim your desire to visit Coron because it is very much worth it. I wouldn't have come back if it wasn't.
Of course, in a Paradise-like place, vultures of the worst kind will always find ways to abuse the environment just like what we saw at CYC beach wherein it now strikes differently from what it looks like back in 2009. Our boatman Fredo said - the story going around was one night in the dead of things a shipload of armed men arrived and hauled off loads of white sands off that beach - the result was a desecrated beach with uprooted trees and white sands turned to light gray.
It serves as a grim reminder that we should always be vigilant against every crimes against our environment. The recent news about the ship load of rare black corals and 80-100 year old sea turtles reduced to stuff turtle are disheartening - these crimes against our natural resources should always be on the forefront of our minds for us and our future children to enjoy the stunning world around them that has made us at one time inspired us to write telling narratives about it.
As bad as a pissed off Mafia hit man unable to shoot properly at what I found out about what remained of CYC beach, I still believe that the rest of Coron will stay beautiful as ever but we should not rest on our laurels as the price to pay dozing off with unguarded attention on these rich natural resources can become quite costly. This gives me the resolve to find ways on how I could help in safeguarding these places I now considered as home away from home.
As the girls talks about their favorite movie, the pharmaceutical world inspired "Love and Other Drugs", their past relationship I was silly sitting thinking about my own. I last went here the same man in a different situation and now I'm back - a little improved or a bit screwed up depends on how one weigh things and considering in two years a lot has changed I'm still dumbfounded at the things I saw while on that boat for three days.
Traveling gives you a different perspective to the point that it's not about what you see and experience its also gathering awareness of what ills the world. That even in paradise - problems arises and because of this, confusion sets in and with the wrong kind of resolve or lack of awareness each can forever remain at threat with outside interference, especially those at the hands of merciless greedy pirates who continuously wreck havoc at our natural resources.
As tourists or visitors or travelers or backpackers whatever you may want to call yourself. It starts with us from the simple little things of resisting the urge to etched your name on that rock or that tree branch to following the simple code of what to do and not to do when in the great outdoors. Coron, Palawan again has reminded me of what a beautiful place looks like at the same time it showed me its vulnerable side and the fact that it is under attack at any moment from those with irresponsible desires and greedy goals.
It shouldn't be that way as the sun starts to set over the horizon from where I was standing at the port I sincerely hope that we could maintain and safeguard places such as Coron and guarantee our children and their own children that they too will enjoy riding shotgun like a mother freaking gangster over the seas aboard a pimping boat over the Calamian group of islands and swearing to themselves "This is gangsters' paradise"
Related posts about Coron and Culion:
- Culion Museum and Archives
- Mad Attempt at a Decent Underwater Photography
- Imagining the Bloody Battles Fought at Fort Culion
- Malcapuya Island
- Kayangan Lake
- Chasing Beaches
- Maquinit Hot Springs
- Coron: Town and Country
- Bullets Over Busuanga