Category Archives: Philippines


Three Weeks with Candice and Coco in Palawan

Palawan, Philippines

Puerto Princesa to El Nido

In what can only be considered a serious companion upgrade I shipped Ellen back to Olongapo, she can figure things out for herself from there and waited in Puerto Princesa (Palawan, Philippines) for my friend Candice coming from Sydney and her room mate Coco.

I received a text message at 6:30 in the morning telling me they had arrived.  It was a bit of a journey for them, they had left Sydney three days earlier, had an overnight layover in Hong Kong and another overnight layover in Manila.  I exited my hotel to see the two cuties standing across the street.  Candice and I hugged like it had been years but it was only the prior summer that she and I shared an excellent adventure with her friend Sajou from Morocco and my friend ??? from Thailand and New Mexico.  Three adventurous cute girls that jungle trekked and snorkeled with me.

Coco greeted me with a wink and a clicking sound which she frequently employed in an amusing fashion.  The three of us took all of our bags (I had three) and road a tricycle to the bus terminal.  The tricycle is a form of tuk tuk, a 100 cc motorbike with a side car.  We were deposited in short order, bought a ticket and waited.  The van ride to El Nido is five hours.  There nine of us and luggage in what could not be considered a large van.  Fortunately I was assigned the shotgun seat.  One stop for a bathroom break and some bad food and another for a mango checkpoint.  In the south of Palawan there is a disease that is killing the mangos and this was an effort to slow down the inevitable spread of the disease.

Five hours later we arrived and I returned to the hotel I had recently departed, situated right on the beach in the middle of the beach strip.  We returned to Seahorse Charlie’s and booked a special tour of what I considered the best of El Nido.  Girls, I will show you the best and then we move on.

Ok, girls, off to Playa Cabana.  We will have enough opportunity to visit empty beaches over the next few days, when do you get a chance to zipline from one island to another?

We dined on the beach on fresh caught seafood and the exhausted travelers quickly retired for the night.

The Best of El Nido
12 Apr, 2014


The following morning we returned to Seahorse Charley’s at 8:00.  There are four basic tours offered by scores of offices up and down the street, all selling the same thing, all just taking a commission and calling some boat operator. The go to the same places at the same and what could be an awesome experience is reduced to just a very good time.  By leaving an hour and half of the swarms we could enjoy each visited location to the greatest extent possible.  Two guys were were waiting for the same tour.  They seemed pleased by the arrival of the eye candy.

After a five minute walk we arrived at the pinoy, a classic philippine boat style and set off for a day of snorkeling, swimming under limestone walls to hidden lagoons and beaches, snorkeling under coral heads, climbing steps carved out of limestone near a shrine.  The tribe the shrine touts it as the holiest shrine on earth and the view as the best sea view on earth.  The

IMG_9850view is spectacular.  Beach after beach, lunch cooked from fresh vegetables and fresh fish.  A truly excellent day for 21,000 pisos.

After returning we agreed to meet with Steve, one of the two guys for dinner.  Coco wanted something different than seafood and Steve recommended a place.  I should have known that a guy who has had throat cancer and says he can’t taste anything is not a person from whom one should take suggestions on matters culinary.

My squid was like rubber, I sent it back, the next dish was no better.  Coco received overcooked spaghetti covered with a sickly sweet thin tomato based sauce.  I don’t remember what Candice had but I don’t think it was much better.  Steve had a large plate of tempura vegetables and shrimp that looked like it was actually worth eating.

During dinner all Steve could talk about was his whoring.  He lives in Angeles, a city of whores and sex slaves some reportedly chained to their beds by Americans and Russians and made to service up to twenty people a day.  It’s pretty horrific,

I decided I had no need to keep in contact with Steve and gave him a fake phone number when he asked for it.

El Nido to Koron by way of Linapacan
13 April to 16 April

Have you ever seen that picture of a canoe floating in what looks like air with a shadow in the sand?  Many people will post that on Facebook and talk about how lovely it is where they live.  That picture was taken in Linapacan according to the photographer. Linapacan was our halfway point to Koron, famous for the ???? large number of sunken Japanese ships sunk during world war two.

The previous evening we had charted  a boat to Koron by way of Linapacan again from Seahorse Charley’s.

There are many tours that operate on large boats, but we wanted the liberty of going where we wanted to go, staying when we wanted to stay and we had to go Linapacan which the large boats don’t.  It turned out to be a brilliant decision I haven’t done so well in the last two months (yeah, I am little late posting this, but now I have a Mac Air and can write while traveling, I am as of this moment, June 3 in a private car going from Legian, Bali to as far west as I can go on this island… more on that some other time).

Our first stop was at our captain’s village (??? ) near Napnac beach.  I asked if the deck hand could stay and watch my stuff, I was assured that everything would be fine.  As I was told this somebody was standing next to the boat, peering in.  This was the only time in El Nido I had seen bars on the windows.  I really didn’t take the reassurance well.  “I don’t think if my stuff is stolen you will be paying me back.”  Coco returned to guard the boat.  Why is she being deprived of seeing this village because the mate won’t watch our stuff?

Candice and I walked around the village while our captain shopped for fish.  Wide white sand paths were bordered by bamboo picket fences enclosing small yards containing houses constructed of wood with woven bamboo walls and thatched roof.  This woven bamboo is a common material, it is inexpensive and there is no need to heat or air condition these houses.  The material purchased by the roll.

We met the captain’s son and the mate’s girlfriend.  Provisioned, we returned to the boat and the patient Coco and resumed our trip.

Our next stop was a lunch break.  The captain prepared salad and fish and fruit.  He told us that this whole beach was owned by the guy in that house over there and behind it was a village that had no electricity and no water, that they bring in water by motorbike. The village was too far to walk to but there was not much to see.   I looked at the house in the distance and laughed to myself.  As he was just starting a fire I walked down to the house and greeted the owner.  I had been there weeks ago on my second motorbike tour of the area.  “Hey Doug!” “Is that you, Jim? How did you get here?”  “By boat, we are down the beach. Where does your property end?” “At the fence there, it’s not big, but the beaches are public.”   “I thought so.”  “The village has a well, right?” “Yeah.”  Haha.  I walked to the village and looked around, was greeted by a slew of women who were sitting around cross legged and talking.  They offered e coffee.  We talked for fifteen minutes, but the coffee never materialized.

Back to the beach.  We ate and took off.  Not much point in dawdling here.  It was nice, but not awesome and awesome lay just ahead. Back on the boat Candice told me that my comment about the people was insulting.  Maybe it was, but didn’t Coco get her money stolen just yesterday out of the room by some very friendly people?

The boat had a problem and the captain located a piece of electrical wire and improvised a fix.   I inquired as to the nature of the problem and he told me it was the carburetor.  Sure it was, this is a diesel engine, they have fuel injection, probably a throttle linkage and language barrier.  I looked at the engine and a manifold had been wired to the block where a weld had given.

We snorkeled reefs on stunningly clear water, we snorkeled in caves.  The girls took a lot of pictures of their tight young bodies in bikinis.   All of the bikinis had been given to them by a friend in Bali who was starting a swimsuit business,  The only thing she asked in return was pictures.  Well, she got a lot of pictures.  I posted them on Facebook and my friends were appreciative.

Such was the routine, snorkel, return to boat, snorkel, return to boat.  Lunch on a deserted beach. Repeat the morning’s activities in the afternoon.  Pull up near sunset, set up a tent, start a fire cook dinner, sit around and look at the starts.

The second day we stopped a village in the Linapacan area, but not the island proper. The manifold was removed and taken to a shop where it was welded.  We bought some fish headed to a beach for our last night and then made our way to Koron.


The Bay of Koron was, to be kind, far less than clear.  The captain said, “Contract fulfilled”. We arrived at our destination, the dock was ten feet above our heads.  The boat pulled up to some bamboo scaffolding and we passed our gear up, scrambled up to the dock on the scaffolding, grabbed a tricycle and headed off to find a hotel. After checking in, Coco, after not having had a shower for three days desired a long hot shower went off without a plan and located something within fifteen minutes.  I must admit everything about the second hotel was superior to the hastily selected one.

We had a week left and came here to dive. The girls wandered the town and I went my way, trying to find somebody who who grind the two kilos of coffee Candice had brought from Indonesia, without success.  What is the deal with instant coffee in the Philippines?

The next day while the girls were out they texted me that the learned of a “resort” in the middle of nowhere and would I be interested in moving?  Some guy named Luke had approached them and told them about the place. Hey, this town kind of blows, it just a place from which to stage diving wrecks.


The next morning I was anxious to get moving but as it was a holiday no buses were running so we would have to hire a private car.   Texts flew back and forth in all combinations between all parties the next morning.  I wanted to get out the city, Luke wanted us to wait until 2 as there were some other people coming in and it would be too expensive if just the two of them had to split a van.  Not my problem.  He texted Candice started to get upset with me for my impatience. Blah, blah, blah.  Well it turns out that there were six of ready to go at ten and Bryan, the owner wanted us all to wait for him.  Dude, just rent a motorbike.

Also in the van were two guys from Canada, one from Toronto and one from Windsor who were teaching English in Hong Kong and Korea respectively.  There was also a woman whose name I don’t know from I don’t care that I instantly disliked.  She was the center of her universe.   Let’s talk about me. She was one of those who didn’t converse, she talked and waited to talk, never engaging the other person.  I may said two words to her. They should have been “fuck off”.

It took most of an hour for the van to travel midway down the west shore of the island.  Upon arriving we were very pleased to have decided to come.  There were but two “tree houses”. Good marketing, I guess, but they are not tree houses.  The cabins were spacious.  The only power in the day came from 60 watt solar panels, frequently neglected, sitting in the shade in the morning.  This power could be used to charge phones, tablets and the like but was not enough to run a laptop.  At night a gas generator (really? gas?) was run and sufficient amperage could be delivered to run just about anything you could carry.

I would plug in my phone to charge it and go off to do something and a random neighbor would have arrived, plugged in his or her phone in place of mine and when done, fail to plug mine in.

The two girls and I took one of the two cabins and the two guys and little miss Howdoiloveme took the other cabin.  We had dinner and retired early.

The next day Bryan, the owner, showed up with his girlfriend.  We had heard of their drunken antics on a motorbike and after a week in the hospital her face was not nearly as bad I would have thought.  Brian’s girlfriend was a fillipino or as I guy I know who consults all over southeast asia  a flip.  More on that later, but I assure you 99% of them fit his description.

Whatever, that was an aside.  Everyone in the group was a certified diver but Coco though she had had been on an adventure dive.  We came here to dive, let’s dive. Luke said he had a dive shop.  I don’t know whether I believe him. He was also not Padi certified.

After sampling 10 types of coffee and drinking various teas and having coffee made in a contraption I have never seen before I walked down to see a waterfall and didn’t return for two hours, I was hot and sweaty, the driver told me I took a long time.  What?  I can’t believe people do that a lot faster than I did.  Then I told him that I had seen both waterfalls, I guess that was a first in his experience, kilometers through the jungle and thousands of steps I thought I had done pretty well.  (3 June, 2014, Bali) 

Coco dove a shallow wreck that was actually snorkelable (I guess I just made up a word) Candice and I dove ??? and a oil freighter. Inside, along the deck, it was so massive it was easy to forget it was a boat unless inside.  It was awesomely cool.

The next day we kayaked around randomly and encountered a long stretch of beach with a devasted resort.  It was in ruins.  The prior November hurricane Yolanda had hit the Phiilipines with the highest wind speeds ever recorded on earth.  The resort would have been ugly even before the disaster, Poorly constructed buildings jammed together along a kilometer of beach. While the girls sauntered along the beach and frolicked in the water I went around the bend and saw a couple of guys in a boat of a style I had never seen before. I went ashore and a Brit welcomed me while his dogs, 2 big mastiffs and a shar pei approached me.  “Don’t worry.”  They were enormous and muscular but their demeanor was such that it was obvious they sought little more than a scratch between the ears. He then invited me in, but I returned to fetch the girls.  Now I was more than welcome.   A guy living alone on an island loves the company of a pretty girl, especially if he is sure she is not going to stay long.  He offered drinks, lamb roast, ribs, pork, a full dinner.  He definitely wanted us to stay.

I turns out that he is the guy who was developing the resort next door.  He stated that he was an emissary of the British Embassy and based on his tales I had a tendency to believe him.  He was completely enamored of Coca and requested us to come back for dinner soon.

Another day passed and it was time for us to go.  We headed to the airport and flew to Manila where Coco took a room for the night and flew back to Sydney.


While deciding where to spend our last week upon our arrival, should we fly to Bangkok, maybe Malaysia, Candice spent a few minutes on my computer and decided she wanted to go to Kalinga.  Whatever girl.  I don’t know what’s there, but I have all the time in the world and if that’s what you want to do.

So it was time to make our way to Sagada.  When we arrived at the bus station we were advised that all buses to Tabuk were sold out for the day and the next day.  We elected to go the nearest city, figuring we could catch a bus from there.  We bought tickets for the 11 p.m. bus.  Now we had about five hours to kill.  We sat in the terminal, I pulled out a multiple outlet extension cord, unplugged a fan and we charged up our phones and sitting on bags of rice surfed, chatted, read Facebook, whatever.

Finally it was time to go.  The bus ride from Manila to Tuguegarao was twelvehours and that wasn’t even our destination. We arrived just before nooon and sought lodgings.  It was mid day, but really, it was time to get some sleep.  The next bus to Tabuk left at six in the morning.  I set my phone for five and woke Candice up and we walked in the dark, arriving at a driveway that held a solitary bus.  I hoped this was the correct place.

Other people started to show up and the conductor opened the door.  We boarded and Candice decided she was hungry and went off in pursuit of food.  It neared six, where the hell is Candice?   At six the bus started to back out. I called for it to halt and  as I was taking her and my bags off the boss she strode up nonchalantly with her food and explained that the service was slow. Really girl?  We almost missed the bus.  She looked at me as though I was the king of drama and wondered why I wasn’t thanking her profusely for bringing me a cup of coffee.

At Tabuk we caught a bus to Bontoc a 10 hour ride and from there we took a forty five minute bus to Sagada.

Quite the journey and quite a roundabout path.  We had spent twenty three hours on buses and an overnight stay to get to our destination.


We finally reached our intended destination. Being unable to sleep on a bus, I immediately took a nap.  Candice went out exploring.

I woke and walked the town. There is one primary road and it is narrow.  Two cars abreast and pedestrians could not be accommodated. Visitors to the town are encouraged to park their cars at the hotel and walk.  The town is eminently walkable.  Stores sell purses, satchels, backpacks, camera bags sewn right in the shop or nearby.

The first morning I went for a walk while the girl with the golden tresses slumbered.  Down the hill, around the corner, I looked down on the flat top of a cloud enveloping a valley.  We strolled the streets looking at the wares.  I took many walks down the road, through pine forests and exchanged a lot of texts with little miss crazy in Cebu (not Candice).  Candice pursued her own interests.

There are caves to be explored with an entry filled, rice terraces to see, trekking, and hanging coffins.

On the ???? day we agreed to meet in the hotel lobby at 7:00 in the morning.  I showed up, waited until 7:30, sent Candice a text and went for  a walk.  At a little after nine she texted me back and wanted to know where I was.  I was several kilometers down the hill.  She told me that she had met up with Jenny and was now at the church and I should meet her there.  Back up the hill I asked where the church was, “which church”.  Oh man, I went to the church and she was not there. I sent another text, she replied that she was in the cemetery.  Where is the cemetery?  Ok, I went to the cemetery and got another text, she was no longer there.  Hell I showed up in ten minutes.  I walked further and sent her a message that this was ridiculous, chasing her through town, showing up where she said she would be and she wasn’t there.  Obviously Jenny had her own agenda and Candice was happy to tag along.  I really didn’t care, I could explore on my own but chasing around to vacant destinations was not my idea of a good time.  I told her to just do whatever she wanted, I was going back to the tour office.  She said she would meet me there and we retraced our steps


“Hey Jim, I hear that there is a village up in the mountains in the rice fields with a small group of people that grow pot, make hashish and have an old lady famous for her painful tattoos.  There is a nice five kilometer trek in the mountains to get there.  What do you think?”   “Sounds awesome and whatever you want, girl.”

A guide is a requirement but I have no idea why, the trip is easy, including the trek.

Joining us was So we headed down to the bus station at 6 in the morning and made our way to Bontoc, took a jeepney to a transfer point and found a bus heading to Bugnay.  This bus was full and the top had maybe 10 people on it.  This was our bus. My backpack was handed up and I ascended a ladder, the rungs where maybe 25 centimeters wide and 30 millimeter rungs but 8 centimeters from the body of the truck.  I ascended carrying my computer bag and my daypack filled with electronics and camera equipment.

My feet hung over the edge but it wasn’t too uncomfortable.  Our next three hours would be spent on a road cut out of the side of the mountain.  On our left was a cliff wall, to the right a steep drop off.  The road was barely wider than the bus.  Periodically we had to duck to ensure we didn’t get an overhead cable in the neck.  The views were spectacular, verdant rice terraces and towering mountains in the distance.  I was certainly positioned to take pictures.

We arrived at the start of our trek.  I had no desire to carry a computer I wouldn’t be using and all of the stuff in my pack that couldn’t possibly be of any use while trekking uphill and walking along cliffs.  I asked if there was anyplace I could store my stuff.  The guide made a phone call and a few minutes later someone arrived on a scooter and drove me one kilometer down the road.  I unpacked what I needed and deposited the rest in indicated spot and was driven back to the bus drop off point.  In the mean Candice, Jenny and a Filipina descended the and proceeded to do likewise.  I walked back down to join them and returned with them.

We headed up the road and shortly caught up with our guide and a couple hailing from an unknown place.

We proceeded at the pace of the slowest, Candice proceeding at the leisurely Caribbean pace of Guadalupe.  I preferred to complete this trek before it got too hot and before it started to rain and proceeded ahead.  Soon I caught up with the guide and the couple then passed them.  Candice, Jenny and the philippina took up the rear.

I ran out of water and stopped by a house on the side of the road and asked if I could have some.  I was directed to the tap, a piece of 18 mm pvc sticking out of a rock that continuously streamed clear cool mountain water. I was soon to learn that nobody shuts off their water.  Anything they didn’t use was diverted to an aqueduct that served the rice terraces farther downhill.

When I reached the end of the road part of the trail I encountered a tram which is employed to transfer goods into and out of the village on the far side of the valley.  This tram was constructed by the government, not by the people of the village and is not used for transporting people.  I saw many others serving similar villages.

The road became a footpath along the wall of a viaduct and occasionally had a sheer drop off on the right.  There were a couple of narrow bridges with no rails.  I will admit heights bother me, I crawled over one of them.  Down, down, down.  In the valley a pool had formed and the river flowed on.  Children frolicked in the pool and I moved on  encountering stairs, about a thousand and I ascended into the village.

Each person I encountered inquired as to the whereabouts of my guide.  I told them he was about an hour behind me.  Parched I inquired as to where I could buy a coke.  Sugar was in order.  I was directed to a house and approached the pane less window and asked the girls within if I could buy a coke.

As the generator is not run in the day time even though it was in the refrigerator, the liter of coke was warm. I had a couple of glasses and offered the bottle back for them to distribute.  The girls then invited me into the house and we chatted for a while.  One is supposed to bring gifts, so I gave them the kilo of coffee that had been brought to me by Candice from Indonesia.  I had been carrying it for two weeks but couldn’t find anybody to grind the beans, so the bag was unopened.  This was gratefully received and I was offered a cup of coffee.  I accepted but never received same.

They then proudly showed me a large bundle of marijuana and a bag of hashish.  The hashish sold for 60 pesos a gram.  I doubt they had a scale.

After about an hour the rest of the crew showed up and asked if I had taken a motorcycle ride. Haha, no just walked at my usual pace.

Though I walked all through the village repeatedly I only saw Candice once after that.  I don’t know where she went.  I was provided lodging the room of a woman’s house.  The bed was wooden slats and privacy was afforded by a curtain.  I was asked where my companion was and I indicated that I had none.  The person inquiring pointed to the woman who owned the house and said she could be my companion for the night.  I looked at the time worn overweight woman and her husband and wondered if this was a joke.

On another pass I reached the edge of the village and happened upon some blacksmiths squatting under a house, with a hand operated billows forging the very heavy duty knives that serve as machetes.  I don’t know what they use them for, they seem far too heavy for any use I have

A dinner of rice and potatoes was prepared and I ate it.  One more  pass around the village, the girls were not to be seen. It was dark and I barely made it back to the house where I slept in little comfort on the wooden slats and knowing that after three wonderful weeks I would be departing at dawn without a chance to say goodbye to my wonderful companion.