How do you recall a trip with a special someone who is now out of your life completely? As someone who now belongs as among the surfeit of individuals who came and left – leaving only traces of memories? As a travel writer I resort nothing to narrative abandonment, as I need to write something about the place I visited in the past. In this case, a place where we spent the happiest chapter of our brief time together. For good or for ill, even it means digging with overtones of bitterness, at fond remembrances.
I will always associate Nacpan beach as the towering peak to that wonderful epoch, however short-lived – a year and a half to be exact that consisted of countless dinners, lunches, church masses, and travels together. I would have to say, our El Nido trip highlighted the collective memories I had with her.
Setting her reminiscence aside and going back to Nacpan. I can recall clearly, the glistening sparkle of the sun dancing its rays over the fine sands of the beach. Long and curving in the distance, I spotted the marvelous spinning vision of its golden powdery shingles. Soft and pure I felt it burying a few centimeters of my feet instantly, after I walked over it. Even only a day removed from our almost weeklong island hopping incursion in El Nido, the place still surprised me with its laid-back exquisiteness.
Hearing her giggling while we walk holding hands, we stopped and stared at the almost consummating setting sun. Chris, the amiable manager of Where-2-NextHostel – El Nido, summons us “hurry, we have to climb that hill to watch the sunset” pointing to a small hilltop that borders Nacpan and its twin beach; Calitang.
Picking up our pace we met two dogs lying on the sands, I whistled at them and like obedient soldiers they stood up and followed us on our path. We ran; she giggled longer. I heaved a heavy breath; she held my hand tighter. The scene unfolding that moment consisted of the sun slowly sinking in the horizon while a trail of fiery golden sky surrounds it. With Chris leading the way, we hiked a hundred steps towards the top of the hill. We make our way through the tall grass and unto a small clearing that afforded us the view of El Nido Bay to our left and Base Bay to our right.
During the course of the next few minutes, we witnessed the unhurried fading of the sunlight as the outline of Labutaya Island descends into darkness from our view. “This is really beautiful” she tells me. Overhearing it, Chris proudly beams “I told you so”. How many sunsets do I have to witness to know that each one is different from the others? I thought to myself. Little do I know, how this seemingly normal sundown we just witnessed would represent a lasting image of a revered chapter in my life, which shall soon flicker and become never-more.
Backgrounder of the Previous Chapter
We always said to each other even from the get-go that we would travel more often – far and wide, to discover and explore fascinating things together. We did just that like love stuck fools running out of time. In a short span together, we did a pocket of trips covering Northern Luzon to Bicol, Puerto Princesa, Cebu. This however, became the barometer of future travels together. Island hopping at the pristine islands and hidden beaches of El Nido to a two-hour journey and a side trip to Nacpan presented what could be the ‘travel peg’ of the future, if not forever.
And Back to Nacpan Beach, the Supposed Narrative Star of this Article
Nacpan is the laid back beach as compared to its twin, Calitang beach; where most of the bustling fishing community dock their boats and sail off every morning. Situating in Sitio Calitang and almost a couple of hours’ tricycle ride from El Nido town, the path going here is anything but smooth. Rough and dirt highways almost dominate the mere 17 kilometers stretch of road needed to cover in getting here. The haggard journey though, pales in comparison to the kind of visual banquet that awaits you upon arrival.
We settled first at Where-2-Next Hostel – El Nido, where we chose the tent accommodation and rested for an hour at the garden hammock. After eating lunch at the one of the only two restaurants along Nacpan beach, we started our exploration. Under the bright and scorching beam of the sun we took refuge under one of the many coconut trees that dots the long shoreline. Sitting still and people watching, we observed a few locals as they pass us by; fishermen docking their boats from a distance, wives carrying a basket full of coconut husks and kids frolicking on the waters.
We also met a few travelers who arrived by motorbike – dropping by here from El Nido town with the intent of whiling away the whole afternoon staring at the gorgeous blue waters of Nacpan beach. An icy cold San Miguel beer on my hand, we capped the afternoon up as truthful to the very definition of ‘chill’.
After watching the sunset, we spent the night conversing with a traveler from Ethiopia who originally planned of staying in El Nido only for a few days but ended up extending for a couple of weeks more at Where-2-Next. “I have been moving from one place to another for almost a year now, I deserve to stay put in one place for a longer time and man, this place is just so relaxing, beautiful, almost isolated and a friendly community. Staying here longer is a no-brainer” he tells us over a lengthy conversation revolving about travel that night.
“I love this hostel vibe, because it is so fun we get to meet other travelers like him”, she tells me.
I tell her “When we go to Cambodia we will also stay at hostels”. That night we made a lot of travel plans. I fell asleep looking forward to the adjacent future.
Nacpan Beach and Chill
“No wonder, our new Ethiopian traveler friend stayed here for weeks more” I told her as I forgot the name of our new friend because his is an African name and I even had a hard time remembering how to pronounce it. “We could only if I don’t have a job back in Manila, good for you – you can work and write here” she tells me.
“I plan to write about this whole El Nido trip of ours the moment I get back home”. A plan that never came to fruition until today - almost a year later. My recollections seem to halt with regards to our conversation that day. While the sunlight was sweltering, the air emanating from Base Bay presented nothing but a calming feeling – literally and figuratively. Nothing serious or any hints of falling out exists at that time. This was August of last year, three months to the day we went our separate ways.
If any, the only hint of separation prevailing that time was I went alone to swim at the azure colored waters while she lay down on the sand over a beach blanket and took pictures of me wearing only my boxer shorts. I can ever hear her with that signature giggling of hers while she orders me “to go back to the gym”
It was a beautiful day as I remember it clearly. The skies couldn’t be bluer, the water couldn’t be clearer and our affection towards each other couldn’t be newlywed-level sugary. I swam a few laps while looking back to her wave at me. Everywhere I looked; from the sky above, and down at my feet where I saw small fishes, to back at her. All I saw was a reminder of a happy and a beautiful world. Of Nacpan and its twin beach; Calitang. Both are safe in the meantime, from the hordes of tourists and unregulated commercialization. Similar to how our fondness for each other that time was like; safe from the vultures of a failed romance and a heartbreak.
I have moved on since our break-up but still, I cannot deny what a spectacular set of memories we shared together during our weeklong trip to El Nido, Palawan.
How to Get here: CebuPacific Air flies multiple times to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Nacpan Island is 5-6 hours away from Puerto Princesa and 1 and a half hours from El Nido town.