Chapter 1: Pre-Lumineers' Arrival in Coron | Palawan

This was my third visit to Coron, Palawan, and it was the most remarkable. If there are any, I should be writing this with my eyes closed and using only one hand, while the other makes a salami sandwich. Narrating the 'I did this, we did that, went there and ate here, stayed at Coron Eco Lodge' story. This trip, however, is out of the ordinary. It was, in fact, a journey in which "something wonderful happened and exploded like fabulous roman candles."

Lauren Denoga with Marky Ramone Go, Monette Fernandez and Ron Cruz

We agreed more than a year ago, after our Palaui tripthat it was better for us to stay friends. It was an easy decision, especially when Lauren and I realized how much better our lives would be as best friends and travel companions. But, as we shared earphones and listened to a Lumineers song while waiting for our flight back to Manila, something magical opened our eyes to a wonderful awakening. I suppose getting to that point of awareness began a few days earlier.

Our flight from Manila to Busuanga, Palawan, was highlighted by a rapid ascent that jolted Lauren awake. We were assigned to the back of a Turboprop jet with less than 20 passengers, while Ron and Monette sat in the middle. I noticed Lauren about to fall asleep as she slowly lean her head on my shoulder as the plane settled smoothly and ascended to its normal flying height.

Coron Palawan

But then there was a violent turbulence. Imagine the sensation of your first Ferris wheel ride. or perhaps a roller coaster? when you have the feeling that a part of your intestine is being pulled out of your butt? Nearly similar manner, I describe the sensory experience of flying through turbulence. Lauren became extremely worried as our plane gained altitude to avoid a wind gust. I just assured her that our flight would arrive safely. She gripped my hand tightly.

I thought I was just playing the role of a one-time air turbulence security fodder to her at the time, not realizing I'd be willingly stepping into her life so she could hold my hand whenever fear or worry gripped her.

Coron Palawan

"Can't you see we're still smoking, Mr.?" " Ron told us in hushed tones, maintaining his Victor Aliwalas impersonation. Of course, he never said this to the driver, who was rushing us into his van to take us into town. Laughter and more laughter ensued, as did witty exchanges between the three of them. I remember staring at the three of them and thinking to myself how lonely and impossible it would be to travel alone when you could easily travel with these wonderful people.

Coron Palawan

Since I've been to Coron twice before, going back wasn't part of my plan a month ago. It only came to fruition when the generous people of Coron Eco Lodge provided me an opportunity to come back. 

After Ron, Monette, and Lauren finished their cigarettes, we boarded a van bound for Coron. The airport is in Busuanga and is surrounded by the 7,000-hectare Yulo King Ranch, which has been a source of contention between the government and its owners, who the PCGG accuses of being Marcos' dummies for more than 20 years. The reserve was renamed Busuanga Pasture Reserve by then-President Arroyo in 2010. Whatever its current designation, the roads leading to Coron town are filled with breathtaking scenery of rolling hills, lush fields, and swarms of cows. It is, by far, my favorite roadside scenery in the country. Even the van's soundtrack of Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus couldn't put me to sleep, as I stayed awake the entire 45-minute ride just to look out the window.

We arrived in town just in time for a late lunch. We checked into the newly constructed Coron Eco Lodge, a postmodern-styled 22-room hotel located in the town center along Calle Real. The friendly staff greeted us and quickly ushered us into our room, as if they wanted us to rest as soon as possible in preparation for the packed island hopping itinerary they had planned for us the next day.

However, hunger and alcohol thirst intervened, and these became the first and second items on our scratch list. As the rain began to fall heavily, we hurried along a narrow street in search of a restaurant in town. Lauren and I shared an umbrella and held hands once more.

Coron Palawan

We wound up at Coron Bistro. Lauren and I split a ham and cheese sandwich, while Ron ordered wine—which, to my recollection, was the first time a travel companion of mine ordered wine on a trip. Monette ordered a Cordon Bleu, which I looked at with malice, waiting for her to quit on it so I could clean it up (kidding), but she never did because it was really good, according to her.

Lauren Denoga with Ron Cruz and Monette Fernandez

We finished our day by swimming in the hot springs of Maquinit Springs. We were happy, unconcerned about the craziness of the world we came from. There will be no reading of emails from bosses, no crime scenes to dust for fingernails, no homework, and no lining up for trains. It was the best feeling in the world to be in that moment with two great friends and Lauren.

Marky Ramone Go and Lauren Denoga

We had dinner at a restaurant where topless mermaids exist, as Lauren writes on her blog.  We learned deeply embedded and almost forgotten Tagalog words from Ron, while also developing a deeper connection among ourselves—none more profound than the one Lauren and I would develop in the coming days. Sometimes the best things do not go as planned. It just clicks—or should I say, happens. Three days later, while listening to the Lumineers' song "Hey Ho,",  it finally did coinciding with the conclusion of my third visit to Coron.

Chapter 2: Coron Island Hopping

Chapter 3: Meeting an Old Tagbanwa Couple