Sunday, May 10, 2009

After Survivor French now its Bulgaria's invasion of Caramoan

Last holy week, I have visited Caramoan peninsula and experienced and witnessed its unique beauty. The site has been famous when foreign TV series Survivor starts to shoot its international series and from then on, succeeding Survivor versions was being filmed.

At present, Ms. Myra Roces, Adventure Coordinator had announced that after Koh-Lanta (French Survivor series) and recently Survivor Israel, Bulgaria is now filming on the island.

So this means to say that the public has again to wait till September to be able to visit Gota Village, the official residence and location of Survivor TV series. Israel had finished their location shoot last April 29 and that the time when the first batch of Survivor Bulgaria crew and staff arrive on the site.

The shoot is estimated to last till September 2009 and Caramoan for sure would be on the international scene again.

"Survivor" originated in the U.S. but other countries have created their own versions of the popular show. Contestants compete in a variety of tough physical challenges until there is a sole winner.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spending Summer at Palawan's Tourism Wonder

A glimpse of Coron from the hill going to Kayangan Lake

Summer is back. It won’t be complete if we won’t feel the intensity of the summer heat, the sweat on our skin, the group outings and most of all, the picturesque view of the beach or cool splash in the resorts. But this year, before you plunge, check out first the weather bulletin. This April, we might experience  a rainy summer with intermittent rain showers and gusty winds. Although we expect the southwest monsoon to intensify in the second half of May as it was seen early on this April.

So to all backpackers,be prepared. An erratic weather such as this will sometimes make you think twice if you will push thru or not to the place of your choice this summer.

Despite of the weather condition, I didn’t make up my mind. On the day of our flight to Palawan, the rain began to pour. Our flight to Busuanga Airport was almost closed to being cancelled had not the rain stopped. Some of my colleagues’ scheduled flight was also affected due to zero visibility. Others hadn’t come to the airport yet because of traffic and rain in Manila.

I arrived 30 minutes ahead of the departure and almost failed to secure my terminal fee because I ran out of cash. My card didn't work with the ATMs at the airport. Luckily, I saw one of my closed officemates and borrowed PhP200 to pay for the terminal fee. 

To make the story short, we arrived at Busuanga (Francisco B. Reyes) Airport around 3:45pm for our tour in the country's tourism wonder—Coron, Palawan. Unlike in Manila, the day is sunny and bright. Palawan welcomes us with a view of greens and browns all around accompanying with fresh winds and animals grazing. We had a bird's eye view of the island and fine coastlines as we tour the place.

We were picked up by the Calamian Tour van and travelled 45 minutes (22.5 km) before we reach the town proper of Coron. Along the way is a lush vegetation and a huge portion of Yulo King Ranch which has 40,000 hectares. According to our very accommodating guide, Desiree, Yulo King Ranch has been in existence since 1970 and until today, it remains to become the largest cattle ranch in South East Asia  with more than 10,000 cattle. Some portion of the road going to the town are still under construction so expect it to progress in the next two years.

Coron Bay view from the top of Mt. Tapias

                               FIRST STOP
After we dropped our luggages at Darayongan Lodge (where we are billeted), our convoy vehicles brought us to Mt. Tapias or Tapyas (873 ft above sea level). Rain drops start again to fall like snow but still, we managed to take the 725 steps challenge to see the majestic Coron Bay. Mount Tapias is a short distance away from Darayongan Lodge which is along the National Highway. The trail is cemented and is dotted with multiple sheds for resting so it is not such an arduous climb. I would recommend that you begin your ascend at 4pm onwards so the sun would not beat down on you too much.This way, you'll also get to catch the sunset on the view deck which is an awesome sight.

Coron bay is a must see if you are in Coron. While Mt. Tapias gives you that 180 degrees view. Unfortunately, it's raining when we visited the place. I managed to take some snap shots as you can see at the left. Mt.Tapyas' gigantic 20 ft. crucifix serves as a lighthouse for fishermen out in the sea at night.

Coron is a small fishing village located southeast of the island of Busuanga,Palawan. If you are on top and overlooking the place, you can see the opposite island of Coron – which is the ancestral homeland of the Tagbanuas. It is part of the Calamian Group of Islands and located southwest of Mindoro Island, Philippines.

After that tiring steps, finally, our group was able to relax at the hot spring called Maquinit. This hot spring is famous in the area. It has a kiddie and two wadding pools for adults. It is believed to be discovered by foreigners who visited Coron during the early 70s. According to some folks who frequented the place, the spring has a healing power when you take a dip and it cures some body ailments and diseases. Some say that Japanese soldiers during World War II used the place as hideout and the water to heal their wounds.
Aside from the relaxing experience, the heat temperature of the spring can also boil eggs :) We had our dinner there. After some fun moments at the pool with my office mates, by 9pm, we were back on our lodge where various drinks to lull you abound.

Serene Banul Beach

This is the most exciting part of our tour.Thank God the weather is fine on that day. After we had our breakfast at 7 we were on the van to Coron port. The port is only 5 minutes ride. To walk is another option for it is one form of exercise. But the group chose the van anyway. What we wanted to see next is the hidden secrets of Coron, Palawan.

While we were traversing the Coron bay, I got plenty of information from our guide. Some of it are legendary stories that could create another post in this blog. But for the essential info, these are some. Coron is a local word which means "bowl" or tapayan in tagalog. It protects the main island from tropical depression and according to them, even if PAGASA raised the storm to signal no.3 in the island, they never will experience the devastating effect very much different from  Metro Manila.(you know what I mean, the flood, traffic) The island became their natural fortress that protects them from any natural calamities that may occur.

The entrance to infamous Twin Lagoon

We reached first the Twin Lagoon. It is an enclosed lagoon surrounded by the jagged limestone cliffs. Again, foreign marine adventurers discovered this hidden place. To be able to get inside, we have to swim or dive in the small opening to get inside the lagoon. Inside the lake is a deep body of water from side to side of the cliff. If you are snorkeling, go to the wall of the lagoon to see coral formations on the wall. Its sometimes eerie to snorkel as you go inside the deepest portion of the lagoon.

After a few snorkeling and diving, we proceeded to Skeleton Wreck. It is one of the shallowest (8-15ft) ship wreck sites found in Coron. You can visibly see the wreck from the surface of the water. The place is also rich in coral gardens with lots of fishes swimming by. Maluwayway, a white sand beach as it is called can be found here, with crude resting facilities where you can rest or take a break. 

The Blue Banul Beach

After an hour, we went to Banul Beach where our native-made lunch was ready. Banul has almost 100 meter stretched of white sands and rock formation that gently glides along the shoreline plus the hovering calachuchi plants can be a perfect foreground effect for a good photographic composition.

At 3pm, we decided to take another island visit....this time in
Kayangan Lake (P200 entrance). It is an ancestral holy ground where Tagbanuas live. A few boats can be seen dock at the entrance and a steady stream of visitors were trekking up and down the rocky steps to the other side. This is a 233 steps trek to reach the hidden lake at the other side of the hill.

There is a small cave at the top of the hill, it is just on the way to Kayangan Lake. You might miss this if you take the path directly to the lake. This cave is used by the Tagbanuas as shelter during storms. It is not advisable to enter the cave specially if you have no guide. Just turn around and you will see the breathtaking 
ala postcard view of the mountain slopes in going to the entrance harbor of the lake. Probably the most photographed spot in Coron.
A must-activity in Kayangan Lake

It's a WOW feeling when you finally reach the lake. It is truly marvelous and amazing to see such kind of place. The water is so clear and so perfect for snorkeling. It was past noon and the sun was nearly setting soon to cover the  towering limestone cliffs. One should see the unique limestone and coral formation in the lake. I won't disagree on why Kayangan lake was honored in the Hall of Fame as the cleanest lake in the Philippines from 1997-1999.
And for our last dive, we went to Siete Pecados or Seven Peaks, it is the area near the entrance of the Coron bay where ships dock and pass to Coron. It was called Siete Pecados because of small rocks or islets which are scattered around the place, seven in all. It is being protected and promoted for diving and snorkeling for its astonishing coral formations and school of fishes.

Enjoy the white sand beach of Banul

Well, well, that ends our day. Rains started to pour again. At around 5pm, we decided to pack our things and proceeded back to our hotel.
Coron has plenty to offer to many local and foreign tourists who wanted to visit it. We have conquered a few but there are lot more to discover.
If you plan to go to Palawan,include Coron in your list.

The pictures speak louder than words....but it's better if you find out yourself what I'm talking about. The beauty of nature that I'm searching for in the southern part of the archipelago... is finally found in Coron, unspoiled, serene and uncongested. Now, I am already dreaming of going back :)

Special thanks to Darayongan Lodge and Calamian Travel and Tours (Ms. Donna and Ms. Desiree)

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