Paradise, err, Wallet Lost

It makes me really, really sad when I plan a trip out of town with my dearest friends just to end up going all by myself. Planned it at least half a year before the actual date so that everyone can make the necessary preparations, and just a few weeks before the actual trip you'll learn that they can't make it. Aside from the fact that it would make the DIY itinerary more expensive as I have nobody to share the expenses with, it's sad that I can't share with them the breathtaking scenery. Beautiful views open up interesting conversations. It makes us talk about beautiful things too, from simple stuff like silly jokes, to more serious ones like future plans, or where you guys will find yourselves 5, or 10 years from now. A little bit of alcohol makes it even more interesting. My point is, sometimes we plan trips with our friends because, most importantly, we love that we'll be sharing the journey together. Reaching the destination is just secondary.

That is what happened to the recent Palawan trip that I have planned late last year. Pops, Megs, Leo and I have finally decided to visit El Nido before it gets too famous. It has been receiving rave reviews recently, both from local and foreign tourists so we thought we should visit it before it gets too commercialized. As I have mentioned on my previous blog posts, I am never really a fan of crowded beaches. Personally, I don't find the idea of El Nido being the next Boracay very appealing. So when I saw the Piso Fare ad on Cebu Pac's website, I booked a trip to Puerto Princesa right away for the 4th of July, and advised the gang to do the same. We were all excited. It's El Nido after all-- we've been admiring it only on photos and videos. It's time that we see it in person.

To my utter dismay, just when I was confirming everyone's attendance by sending them the itinerary-- I found out that everyone had backed out. Pops couldn't file a vacation leave because of some issues with her teammates; Megs and Leo were out of cash. I tried to understand how valid their reasons were, but I couldn't help but be a little upset. 

But I know myself better. I won't this let this mishap rain on my parade. I thought that if I couldn't visit El Nido now, when? I know that seat sales are very common nowadays, but perfect timing is altogether a different story. It's final: I decided to go alone.

Then I was struck with a better idea.

I offered the plane tickets to some other friends. Facebook has made it very convenient to communicate with people nowadays. Thank heavens JC, Jovee and Julius took them. I also found it as an opportunity to reconnect with these guys, as I haven't seen them in ages. Except for Julius. He joined us in our adventure to Jomalig just a month prior.

And it was finally time.

We met at the airport and I realized that I did really miss these guys so much. We did a lot of catching up and even recalled all the while when I first met them back in college. Seemed like nothing has changed, they were still hilarious as hell.

I woke up to the loud thud of the plane landing hard on the tarmac. As soon as we deplaned, we hailed a tricycle outside the airport to take us to the tourism office so we could secure a permit to visit the Underground River. Paid the necessary fees, booked a trip to El Nido and had a quick lunch at a bulaluhan near the Puerto Princesa coliseum.

The van finally picked us up, and I almost broke into laughter with Julius' reaction when he learned that it would be a 6-hour van ride. Apparently, he didn't read the itinerary. We told him that we could just sleep it through, but the rough and winding road didn't help at all. Thankfully, the van's air conditioning was working well enough to keep us comfortable throughout the entire butt-numbing trip.

We reached El Nido just in time for dinner. At the terminal, we were greeted by kuya Tolits, the person who convoys the guests to the pension house with his trusty tricycle (we booked with HADEFE Cottages, including our island-hopping tour packages). As we were already starving, we had to ask kuya Tolits to pull over at a recommended eatery in the town center.

He pointed us at a restaurant along the street (I forgot the name). We assumed that it specializes on grilled food, apparent on its large charcoal-fed grill gracing its facade. The place was filled with foreigners, so it could be a good sign. After a good scan on the menu, I was surprised to see the prices-- whoa. Grilled tuna/squid meal, good for one person, for 200+ pesos? And I thought the town's main livelihood is fishing? I took a second look at the foreigners enjoying their excessively-priced food. 

We opted to look for a cheaper place to eat. We found a little carinderia-like eatery (with some turo-turo style ulam displayed inside a glass showcase) with an isaw stand outside. Still a bit overpriced but we were already hungry as a bear and just decided to settle for it. After dinner, we fit ourselves on kuya Tolits' smaller tricycle. It's the type that has no roof, just metal railings all around-- typical of something that market vendors use to transport goods and small livestock. We used a smaller vehicle so it could fit into the really narrow alleys that lead to the resort. HADEFE after all is not in the town proper. We passed by few other resorts, a poorly-lit cemetery (creepy), a Gawad Kalinga community, vacant lots, some sari-sari stores and houses every once in a while. At first we were a bit concerned about the location. It was really far from where the restaurants, bars and convenience stores were, but we realized that staying in HADEFE gave us a more relaxed and quiet stay. We loved it.

I appreciate that they provided us with an unlimited supply of instant coffee and hot water. Nothing beats a cup of coffee after a long day. The staff were really nice and friendly too. The room that was given to us (called the Pamana Room) has air conditioning, a nice spacious bathroom, two double beds perfect for the four of us to share. They even provided an extra mattress. As soon as we settled in our room, we checked out the resort. Boy, do they have many cottages and all of them were occupied! HADEFE doesn't have a very nice beach though-- it was more like a mini-port where the tour boats dock. The beach is strewn with pebbles and not very swimmable.

We bought a liter of brandy and decided to drink on our first night. It was, after all, a celebration.

Welcome to paradise, my friends.

(to be continued...)

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