Nacpan Beach: the Last Starry-eyed, Lovestuck Journey of the Previous Chapter | Palawan

How do you recall a trip with a special someone who is no longer in your life? As someone who now belongs to the plethora of people who came and went, leaving only traces of their presence? As a travel writer, I never abandon narrative because I need to write about a place I've visited in the past. In this case, a location where we spent the happiest chapter of our brief relationship. For better or worse, it entails digging with bitter overtones at fond memories.

Sunset in Nacpan Beach
Approaching Sunset

I will always associate Nacpan Beach to the pinnacle of that wonderful epoch, however brief - a year and a half of countless dinners, lunches, church masses, and travels together. I'd say our El Nido trip highlighted the shared memories I had with her.

Drinking beer beachside
Chill and an ice cold beer.

Before Sunset in Nacpan Beach

Putting her reminiscences aside and returning to Nacpan. I vividly recall the sun's glistening rays dancing across the fine sands of the beach. I spotted the marvelous spinning vision of its golden powdery shingles in the distance, long and curving. Soft and pure, it instantly buried a few centimeters of my feet after I walked over it. Even though we were only a day removed from our nearly week-long island-hopping excursion in El Nido, the place still surprised me with its laid-back elegance.

Always a good time to take a walk by the beach

Hearing her giggling as we walked hand in hand, we came to a halt and stared at the setting sun. "Hurry, we have to climb that hill to watch the sunset," Chris, the friendly manager of Where-2-NextHostel - El Nido, summons us, pointing to a small hilltop that borders Nacpan and its twin beach, Calitang.

A gorgeous woman sunbathes in Nacpan
Sunshowering in Nacpan Beach

We picked up our pace when we came across two dogs lying on the sands; I whistled at them, and they stood up like obedient soldiers and followed us on our direction. We ran, and she giggled even louder. I exhaled heavily, and she gripped my hand even tighter. The scene unfolding at the time consisted of the sun slowly sinking into the horizon, surrounded by a trail of fiery golden sky. We took a hundred steps towards the top of the hill, led by Chris. We made our way through the tall grass to a small clearing where we could see El Nido Bay to our left and Base Bay to our right.

A short hike takes you here

During the next few minutes, we watched as the outline of Labutaya Island faded into darkness from our perspective. "This is really lovely," she says. When Chris overhears it, he proudly proclaims, "I told you so." How many sunsets do I have to see before I realize that each one is unique? I was thinking to myself. Little did I know that this seemingly ordinary sundown we just witnessed would become a lasting image of a revered chapter in my life, which would soon flicker and fade away.

Backgrounder of the Previous Chapter

We always promised each other that we would travel more frequently - far and wide - to discover and explore fascinating things together. We acted like love-stuck fools running out of time. We did a pocket of trips together covering Northern Luzon to Bicol, Puerto Princesa, and Cebu in a short period of time. This, however, became the yardstick for future trips together. Island hopping from El Nido's pristine islands and hidden beaches to a two-hour journey with 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 a more relaxed beach than its twin, Calitang, where the majority of the bustling fishing community docks their boats and sails off every morning. The path leading here is anything but smooth, as it is located in Sitio Calitang and is nearly two hours' tricycle ride from El Nido town. Rough and dirt highways almost completely dominate the 17-kilometer stretch of road required to get here. The tattered journey, on the other hand, pales in comparison to the visual feast that awaits you upon arrival.

Labutaya islets from afar

We started at Where-2-Next Hostel - El Nido, where we chose a tent and rested for an hour in the garden hammock. We began our exploration after eating lunch at one of the only two restaurants on Nacpan Beach. Under the scorching sun, we sought refuge under one of the many coconut trees that line the long shoreline. We observed a few locals as they passed us by, including fishermen docking their boats from a distance, wives carrying baskets full of coconut husks, and children frolicking in the water.

We also met a few travelers who arrived by motorbike from El Nido town with the intention of spending the entire afternoon gazing at the gorgeous blue waters of Nacpan beach. With an icy cold San Miguel beer in my hand, we rounded out the afternoon as true to the definition of 'chill.'

After watching the sunset, we spent the night talking with an Ethiopian traveler who had planned to stay in El Nido for a few days but ended up staying for a couple of weeks longer at Where-2-Next. "I've been moving from place to place for almost a year now; I deserve to be in one place for a longer period of time, and man, this place is just so relaxing, beautiful, almost isolated, and friendly." he says after a long conversation about travel that night. "Staying here longer is a no-brainer," 

Monnette Santillan with Marky Ramone Go

"I love the hostel vibe because it's so much fun meeting other travelers like him," she says.

"When we go to Cambodia, we'll stay in hostels," I tell her. We made a lot of travel plans that night. I fell asleep beginning to think about what was to come.

Nacpan Beach and Chill

"No wonder our new Ethiopian traveler friend stayed here for weeks more," I told her, forgetting the name of our new friend because it is an African name that I couldn't pronounce properly. "We could only if I didn't have a job back in Manila, but you can do that because you can work and write here," she says.

Monnette Santillan Agunoy

I intended to write about our entire El Nido trip as soon as I return home. A plan that never materialized until today, almost a year later. My recollections of our conversation that day seem to grind to a standstill. While the sun was scorching, the air emanating from Base Bay was both physically and metaphorically soothing. At the time, there was nothing serious or any indication of a schism unfolding. This was August of last year, three months to the day we went our separate ways.

Monnette Santillan strolling in Palawan

The only sign of detachment at the time was when I went swimming alone in the azure waters while she lay down on the sand over a beach blanket and took pictures of me wearing only my boxer shorts. I can always hear her with her trademark giggling as she commands me to return to the gym.

The doggos of Nacpan Beach

As far as I recall, it was a lovely day. The skies couldn't be bluer, the water couldn't be clearer, and our love for each other couldn't be more sugary. I swam a few laps while watching her wave at me. I looked everywhere, from the sky above to my feet, where I saw small fishes, to back at her. All I saw was a reminder of a beautiful and happy world. Nacpan and its sister beach, Calitang, in the meantime, are both are hidden from hordes of tourists and protected from unregulated commercialization. Similar to how we felt about each other at the time; safe from the vultures of a failed romance and heartbreak.

I've moved on since our breakup, but I can't deny what a fantastic set of memories we shared during our weeklong trip to El Nido, Palawan.

How to Get to Nacpan Beach: 

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.