Travel like you mean it.


Beach bumming in Cancun

Spending a day at Cancun's amazing beaches - miles of white sand bordered by the azure Caribbean sea

Cenote Jumping in the Yucatan

Cenotes are naturally occurring sinkholes that dot the almost barren landscape of the Yucatan Peninsula. Jumping on it in a rope swim is one of the most exciting things I did in Mexico

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

Being in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago is like stumbling inside Hangar 51 in Indiana Jones. The museum has everything that can be possibly dug up from the ground, including Aztec artifacts, gems and minerals and dinosaurs!

Coron, Palawan

The municipality of Coron is part of the Calamian group of islands north of Palawan. It is about an hour away by plane from Manila via Busuanga. Aside from the azure seas, white beaches and islets fenced with limestone cliffs, Coron has several magnificent wreck diving sites.

Flyboarding in Subic

Flyboarding is a new sport invented by Zapata Sports, where you have a contraption is attached to your feet your arms. You ride the watr jets like Tony Stark with his repulsor jets

October 24, 2016


Changdeokgung, or Changedeok Palace, is the first UNESCO World Heritage site that I visited in South Korea, and my ninth overall. The palace, located in Jongno-gu, Seoul, is constructed in 1405 by the Joseon dynasty, which ruled  Korea for five centuries, starting in the 14th century. It was initially built to function as a secondary one, but its role eventually got more important to the royalty.

The palace grounds

It was late in the afternoon when I arrived at the 45-hectare complex; I had difficulty navigating and decoding the subway map at first. It was also starting to get cold, according to Google Now the temp when I was there was 1°C but felt like -1°C due to wind chill factor. I find it hard to take pictures; either I fumble with the gloves on, or my fingers feel like freezing whenever I take them off to click the shutter.

Winter in the palace

There weren't a lot of visitors when I was there, maybe on the account that it was in the middle of winter. There were a young Korean couple in costume taking selfies, and a very noisy mainlander. The couple even asked me to take their photo when I passed them by.

Selfie in the palace

I explored the complex by going from one building to the other. The visit to the palace was actually my introduction to Korean history. I don't remember it was mentioned substantially when I was taking up North Asian history in UP. Of course their history is tied up with Japan's and China's, though I understand that it is an sensitive topic even until now. I did watch the Korean TV show Jewel in the Palace before, which depicted the royal physician of the Joseon Dynasty. I would imagine that this palace is the setting for that story.

The concubine's residence

I got as far as the residence of the king's concubine, which is smaller than the main palace. After admiring the building I started to backtrack. Beyond it was the Secret Garden, which was used by the royal family of yore.which was used by the royal family of yore., but my  ticket was only good for the main palace grounds. A more expensive one will give you access to the  Garden. It was almost closing time when I got to the concubine's residence, so I thought it wasn't such a loss to miss the garden.

I retraced my steps soon after until I got to the main entrance, then I went back to Hong Dae just in time for dinner. 

Golden hour at Changdeokgung

Useful Info
Entrance to the palace grounds cost ₩3,000. ₩8,000 if you include the pass for the secret garden. The main grounds are open from 9 am to 6 pm, while the secret garden opens at 10 am.

How to Get There
Take the subway at Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), then exit at Exit 3. Go straight for 5min until you reach the main entrance. You may also take the train at the Jongno 3 (sam)-ga Station (Subway Line 1, 3 or 5), Exit 7. Go straight along Donhwamun-ro Street for 10min.

October 15, 2016

Indoor Climbing in Manila

Indoor climbing is a rock climbing activity done on artificial structures. The climbing walls are usually constructed of brick, steel or wood, with shaped grips, called climbing holds, attached to the wall. Belaying devices, which are designed to prevent climbers from falling, are attached at various points on top of the wall. Specialized shoes are recommended for climbing, and climber may use powdered chalk to prevent sweaty hands and fingers. 

 Wall climbing, as it is also known, is a new sport for me, so I am still a noob for this. I've tried it once during my PE college but that was too long ago I forgot all about it. I was recently reintroduced to it and so far I've done it on two sites in Metro Manila. I will add to the list below as I try the other sites.

Climb Central Manila
This facility is actually the most ideal for me as it is located centrally, in the Greenfield district, just across Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City. The facility is huge too - with several walls with varying degrees of difficulty plastered along the inside perimeter of the building. I've visited Climb Central with my friend Vince, who also taught me flyboarding. We took turns as belayer when climbing.

The walls are graded according to difficulty, so there is no second guessing for beginners for which walls to try. The scale is numerical, with 4 as the easiest, then 5 up to 7. Letters are also used alongside the number, for further distinction of the grade. The holds are color-coded as well, so it's easier to find the next one when climbing and lessens the tendency to "cheat," i.e. grabbing other holds within reach. So far I've only managed up to 5b, but I think I can improve with constant practice.

The climbing walls in Climb Central Manila
Useful Info
The fee is PhP600 for an unlimited one-day session (you can go out of the facility and come back within the day). You will be issued a pair of climbing shoes for every climb. When signing up for the first time you will be issued a keyfob-style ID. The facility has a locker room and showers, so you can freshen up after a climbing session.

How to Get There
Climb Central Manila is located in Greenfield DIstrict, in Mandaluyong, just across Sahw Boulevard. You may take the MRT to Shaw Boulevard Station to go there.

Trying the wall in Timberland
Timberland Sports and Nature Club
I actually was reintroduced to wall climbing in Timberland Sports and Nature Club, during an office activity that we had in the country club. Located in Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal, Timberland is kind of difficult to get to due to its location. One disadvantage though is that the place is not that busy so you can climb as much as you can.

The indoor climbing facility in Timberland is also smaller than Climb Central, and the routes are not graded (although the climbing holds are also color-coded). There are no auto-belay devices so a belayer is a must before climbing. They do have a staff on hand to assist as belayer, so you can still go there alone and not worry about having a belayer.

Useful Info
The hourly rate is PhP150. The catch is that you need to be booked in their hotel or is in the facility for a corporate or social activity to be able to use the facilities (which, aside from the indoor climbing, include the pool, billiards, Jacuzzi, and spa).

How to Get there
Public transportation is not viable for going there, so a cab or driving is the only practical way. You may also bike all the way to Timberland (a popular route for cyclists).

The climbing wall in Timberland Sports and Nature Club

There are other indoor climbing facilities in the metro but I won't elaborate on them yet as I haven't tried any besides the two. There's PowerUP in Tandang Sora, Quezon CIty (the one I've tried in college) and also in ROX store in Bonifacio High Street in Taguig. I will add them to the list above as soon as I try them.

September 15, 2016

Surfing in Crystal Beach, Zambales

I discovered another surfing spot, and it is closer than my usual go-to place in La Union. I was actually surprised that I did not discover this sooner. The place I was talking about is Crystal Beach, in San Narciso, Zambales. It was introduced to me by my friend Vince, who accompanied me on this trip two weeks ago (he was the one who taught me flyboarding and hoverboarding in Subic).

I thought that the surfing trip would not push through, owing to the inclement weather brought about by the habagat. It was raining very hard the night before, until the early morning we set out from Olongapo. Luckily the skies cleared as soon as we got there, and we were able to surf all morning.

Crystal Beach is actually a resort, located in the town of San Narciso in Zambales, with the beach facing the West Philippine Sea. It became a favorite among the locals and out-of-towners alike, and it is easy to sea why. The beach is expansive, with regular peeling waves that can excite the experts and challenging for beginners and newbies. Since I am new to the place and not yet familiar with the surfing conditions I got myself a trainer. Before surfing we were given some pointers, some general and a few on intermediate level, such as how to make turns and do a hang ten. We set out after that.

It took me a while to get used to the conditions, and to the board, which is too slippery for me. I also haven't surfed for almost a year, and it showed in my balance and stamina. Still, it was great to be able to play again. 

There were around eight of us in the surf (it was a Tuesday, so the beach wasn't crowded), taking turns catching the wave, and we stayed in the water until well past noon. I got a nasty souvenir, a skinned knee, when an errant wave crashed into me and dragged me to the shore. Part of the territory, I shrugged.

After the surfing session we spent some time going around the resort and chatting up with the local surfers and the instructors, with them giving us tips on which months and days are best to visit, and which surfing events not to miss. Surely, I will be back.

Useful Info
Surfboards can be rented for PhP200 an hour. Instructors can also be hired for PhP200/hr. Rooms and cottages are available, if you want to stay overnight, with rates varying from PhP 2400-10,000, depending on the size and amenities.


How to Get There
Crystal Beach is located in Barangay La Paz, San Narciso, Zambales. If from Metro Manila you may take a Victory bus from Cubao to Iba, Zambales. Just tell the conductor that you're getting off in San Narciso. The bus stops near the town hall. Take a tricycle from there to Crystal Beach. 

August 22, 2016

Malalison Island Escapade

If you're sick of the maddening crowds of Boracay, then this island is for you. No night life, pub crawls and tranny shows, no overzealous hawkers shoving trinkets to your face every three paces. Nothing but pure, unadulterated island life. I am talking, of course, of Malalison Island.

The island, as seen from my drone

Malalison (or Mararison for the locals) is a small island located at the northeast side of Panay Island, facing Sulu Sea, in the Philippines. It is part of the town of Culasi, and it has only been appearing in the radar of travelers recently. The island is populated by a few hundred families, mostly fishermen.

The beach in Malalison

We - me and my friends from the university - began our adventure to the island with a plane ride to Kalibo (also the gateway to Boracay), and a two-hour ride in a passenger van to the town of Culasi. From the port we then took a motorized banca to the island, the trip  of which took around half an hour. 

Approaching Malalison

As the island is still undeveloped for tourism - this will appeal to people who don't like beach resorts - there are no hotels or restaurants in the island. Visitors may opt to get accommodations in homestays, or just explore the island on a day tour from Culasi. We stayed in Arjee's Homestay, which is composed of two thatch-roofed kubo. After we settled in we set out to explore the island.

The village in Malalison Island

The first destination was of course, the beach. On certain months  a sandbar appears that extend the beach, called Kawit Beach, further along the sea. We were only the ones on the beach when we came, except for a handful of boatmen tending their boats. I was able to fly my drone, and take photos and video of the island. Further down the beach is the area where the fishermen dock their boats. This is also where they started putting wave breakers for protection from storm surges during typhoons. 

The next area that we explored was the hilly part of the island, at the other end. There was about a 20-minute hike going there, passing through the village and the grade school. On the way, we met several kids at the school, cleaning the school yard as part of the school activity. As we climb up to the highest point in the island we noticed lots of carnivorous pitcher plants along the trail. I was tempted to bring some with me but thought better of it. 

At the peak there was a cliff overlooking the beach, and the view was spectacular. You can also see most of the island from here, including the islet that gets separated from the main island during low tide. I also flew the drone from here.

We were in the island for three days and two nights, but it rained for most part of the second day so we were not able to tour the island with the boat. Two of our friends who came to the island ahead of us were able to, and they also snorkeled on the reefs. For us, it means spending most of out time there hanging out in the beach. With the cell signal spotty at best, it was the digital detox that we all needed to get. 

I didn't hear anyone complaining. 

A little girl in the island

Useful Info
Electricity is rationed in the village, running only from 6pm to 10pm, although some homestays have generators for their guests.  Water is sourced from artesian wells, manually pumped from the ground. There are a handful of sari-sari stores where you can get snacks, bottled water and softdrinks, and essential stuff, and there's a small market with a few stalls selling fish and meat. Guests can cook for themselves since the homestays have kitchen, or they can ask the caretaker to cook for them. 

Cellular reception is spotty, and the area with the best signal is Kawit beach. We also noticed that Globe works better than Smart in the area.

How to get There
Malalison is located at the town of Culasi. You may take a Ceres bus or passenger van from Kalibo,  San Jose de Buenavista or Iloilo, depending on where you initially flew in. You may also take a van from Caticlan, if you decide to ditch Boracay to go see an unspoiled island. Fare from Kalibo is PhP 120. 

From the Culasi jetty you may rent a boat that will take you to the island. A boat for 5-7 people the rent is PhP 750. This includes roundtrip transfers and a tour around the island. 

Guests are required to pay an environmental fee of PhP40, at the tourism office just across the jetty.

Arjee's Homestay

Where to Stay
We stayed in Arjee's Homestay. There's a kitchen that guests can use, and they can also request the caretaker, Manay Alma (please leave a generous tip when you check out), to cook food for the guests.

The rental for the small hut (with two beds, max 5 persons) is PhP1500 a night. In the bigger house, the small room is also PhP1200 a night (max 5 persons) , while the big room is PhP1500 a night (max 8 persons). You may contact them through their Facebook page: or through this number: 0915 308 3111

July 18, 2016

Museum of Sex

During a visit to New York in July I was able to check out one of the most unique, and blush-inducing museums in the city - the Museum of Sex, aka MoSex. I visited it right after visiting another NY landmark, the Flatiron Building, which is nearby.

The museum, which opened in 2002, aims to "preserve and preserve the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality." It covers the gamut of subcultures and preferences pertaining to the subject, including gay and lesbian, BDSM, pornography, and erotic photography. Because of its explicit nature, only visitors aged 18 and above can visit the museum. 

There were several floors in the museum, each covering a particular subject. On the second floor the display was about the evolution of erotica and pornography throughout history, which is an interesting subject, as you don't get to see it covered in the academe (perhaps Anthropology 187, Sex and Culture, in UP Diliman, but that class was always full and I was never able to enroll on it). 

There's also a floor covering objects that in one way or another got associated with sexuality - chastity belts, toys an clothing, even torture devices and a Playboy magazine in Braille! Some of those things I've only read about or have seen on the internet, so it's kind of cool to see them in person. I took photos of the objects but I cannot post them here , lest I'd run afoul of Adsense policies. Also to keep this blog G rated.

There was also a whole floor covering sexuality in the animal kingdom. Think of it as NatGeo meets Penthouse Forum. The exhibit is supported by life-sized sculptures and photos of animals doing the deed, so to speak - such as maring deers, mutual onanism between dophins, homosexuality in penguins and other animals. Nothing like you see on the Animal Planet.

A visit to the museum is a great way to expand your knowledge on the subject, that's for sure. You may blush a bit while viewing the exhibits, but where else can you view erotica publicly and in guise of learning?

How to Get There
The museum is located at 233 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of East 27th Street in Manhattan.

Useful Info:
The entrance fee is $18, only adults of course. There is a shop at the ground floor with a great selection of books, toys and condoms.

May 14, 2016

Shrine of Valour

On our way to the Las Casas Filipinas on a company outing, me and my officemates swung by the Mt. Samat National Shrine. Also known as the Dambana ng Kagitingan, or Shrine of Valour, the monument was dedicated to the bravery and sacrifice done by the thousands of Filipino and American soldiers during World War II. Aside from the shrine, the soldiers were honored fowith a national holiday, every April 9th.

The monument is located near the summit of Mt. Samat, a parasitic cone of the nearby Marveles volcano. They were to hold the position for six months until reinforcements arrive from the US, and the bravery of the soldiers messed up the timetable of the Japanese forces invading the Philippines. The fortress island of Corregidor fell soon after the last stand in Samat.

A Philippine flag proudly flying in front of the colonnade

It was almost high noon when we got there, driving from Manila through the North Luzon Expressway then going through Pampanga then to Bataan, to the town of Pilar. After paying the entrance fee we proceeded to the shrine, which comprises of an altar, and a colonade surrounded by an esplanade. At the side is the entrance to a museum. Looming above the shrine is the Memorial Cross, perched at the highest point of Mount Samat. 

The Memorial Cross and the colonnade

The cross, made of steel, concrete and marble, is 92 meters high from the base, and Mt Samat itself is 555 meters above sea level, so if you climb to the viewing gallery you will be treated to a vista of the surrounding provinces and Manila Bay. Scattered around the ground are various artillery pieces and guns, point towards the sea, eternally guarding the summit.

A panorama photo of the Colonnade

The Colonnade itself is clad with marble, and covered with sculptures depicting scenes of bravery by the soldiers. They were made by Napoleon Abueva, a National Artist, who also created works such as the Nine Muses, installed in the University of the Philippines Faculty Center. I went around the colonnade from end to end, amid the gaggle of visitors.

Another view of the colonnade

I was reading the narrative of the events during the war, which were set in marble slabs installed at each end of the collonade. The event led to the Fall of Bataan, causing the surrender of 78,000 Filipino and US troops to the Japanese Imperial Army. The prisoners of war were later forced to transfer to another camp, which became known as the Bataan Death March. About 10,000 of them died during this forced march.

At the end of the narrative is a tablet with an inscription that made me teary eyed, the last sentence of which reads, "Our mission is to remember."

A reminder for the following generations

How to Get There
Take the North Luzon Expressway from Manila, then exit to Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Exit at Dinalupinahan from SCTEX, then right to Roman Highway. Continue for 24 kilometers to get to the Mt. Samat junction. Take a left at the junction then continue for 6.5 kilometers uphill to the shrine.

Useful Info
There is an entrance fee of 30 pesos for Filipinos, 50 pesos for foreigners. Parking fee is 40 pesos for small vehicles.

March 8, 2016

Gadget Review: Phantom 3 Standard Drone

I have a new gadget in my travel toolbox - something that can give me a different perspective when looking at the places I am visiting. That gadget, if we can call it that, is the DJI Phantom 3 drone. 

The Phantom 3 is a quadcopter-type aerial unmanned autonomous vehicle. Powering the x-shaped drone are four rotors, which drive the propellers. It is battery-powered and is controlled via a radio remote control.

Flying it in Puka Beach

The drone has a satellite navigation module (receiving signals from GPS and Glonass satellites) that enables it to get its bearing. It also has a visual positioning system that it uses for landing, which comes handy especially when you lose contact with the drone and its return-to-home mechanism kicks in. The GPS module also made it easy for the aircraft to hover  in the air automatically, even when you let go of the controller. 

Inside its carrying hard case backpack

The camera of the model I have, the Standard, can capture images in 12 megapixel resolution (3000 x 4000 pixels), with a 96° field of view on a f2.8 lens. It can also capture video in 2.7K resolution. Images and video footage are saved to a removable micro SD card.

The camera module is mounted on a 3-axis gimbal system, which enables it to keep the camera level even while the drone is moving or being rocked by wind, canceling out unwanted vibration or sudden movements. The gimbal can also move the camera to pitch of between -90° to +30°. The -90° position is what you use when you want to take a photo with the subject straight down.

Images are being beamed to an app in your smartphone or table (that you attach to the controller) via WiFi. Aside from live viewing high-resolution images, the app is also used for various controls, such as automatic takeoff, triggering return to home, and tweaking the settings of the drone. 

The four motors of the aircraft is robust enough to power the aircraft to a speed of up to 16 meters per second. It can ascend at a speed of 5 meters per second, and descend at a rate of 3 meters/second.

The drone has a lithium-polymer batter that is rated for 4480 mAh, good for about 25 minutes of flight. Twenty-five minutes is too short when you're having too much fun piloting the UAV, so I'd suggest to invest in an additional battery pack. It can be charged to full in about an hour and a half. 

Its WiFi antenna operates at 2.4 GHz, with a range of about  1 kilometer. On my experience the furthest I have gone was 115 meters up. When it loses the signal the aircraft will automatically initiate the return to home maneuver, which it did in this case. 

I love the Phantom 3, it was such a joy to fly and operate. I have already brought it to some of my trips (to Boracay and while flyboarding in Subic). I've also been practicing and flying the drone in the open fields in the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman.

I think that it's a great addition to bring in trips, as it enables me to get photos from unusual perspective, like 100 meters up. It does present a logistical consideration. I got mine a hard case backpack, so it mean's I will be carrying two backpacks with me when I travel, as I usually have a backpack as my carry-on luggage. I was stopped once while checking in the airport once too; the x-ray operator wondered what it was I was carrying. Of course I also have to contend with some prohibitions that would prevent me from flying the drone. When I was in White Beach, I have to sneakily operate the aircraft early in the morning so I can fly it over the beach to take some photos. 

And it does make some very cool selfies.

Sample Photos and Video:

Flyboarding in Subic

Puka Beach, Boracay, at 90° pitch

February 20, 2016

Skiing in South Korea

My main motivation for traveling to South Korea during the winter was to do winter sports. I want to try snowboarding again, which I did in Hakuba, Japan. I was in the country for four days, and I devoted a day in the ski slopes for it, although I was only able to try skiing, not snowboarding.

Around 7am on a cold Sunday morning (it was -12 Celcius) I was picked up from the hostel by the guide. There were several others in the group, including a Malaysian family, a group from China, and another from the Philippines. Our destination is the Jisan Forest Ski Resort. It is located in Icheon, about an hour or so from Seoul. 

Getting our boots, poles and skis

During the trip the guide gave us instructions such as where to get the ski gear, safety considerations, and beginners tips. This is my first time to try skiing, although I did try water skiing in Boracay more than a decade ago (I sucked doing that). There is an extra fee for snowboarding so I decided to just go ahead and try skiing. After we arrived in the village we went to the snow gear rental, where we got our jackets, gloves and ski pants. I think I got mine which are two sizes larger. I also broke my fingernail while fiddling with my clothes, so my thumb was bleeding when we got to the ski slopes. 

The ski slopes of Jisan

After getting measurements for the skis and boots we assembled in front of the slopes. The guide/instruction then gave us the rundown on basically what a beginner needs to be able to ski: how to put on the skis and how to take them off, how to fall correctly and not break any bones, how to properly use the poles, how to "walk" with the skis on, etc. After the instructions we were given the rest of the morning and afternoon to ski around the area. My ticket did not include the lifts, so I basically stayed in the bunny slopes to try and practice. 

A video posted by kin | BoardingGate101 (@boarding_gate101) on

My first impression was it was more difficult to do than snowboarding (people might debate me on this, but that's how it felt to me). It is also more complicated, since the there are two skis, basically independent of each other, and there are poles too. I was also carrying my Sony ActionCam, attached to a selfie stick, which clumsily complicated everything. I also didn't have breakfast (I was picked up too early), so I was trying not to pass out due to hunger or low blood sugar. Around noon I introduced myself to the Filipinos in the group and we had lunch at the nearby cafeteria. We practiced again after lunch. 

My snow-encrusted skis after the day's session 

I wouldn't say I didn't enjoy my first stab in skiing. I ventured to the higher ground so I can glide back down without having to use the poles too much, and I found it exhilarating, even if it wasn't very high. I imagine how fun it would be if the slopes we're in were as high as that in Hakuba. It was just as tiring as snowboarding too; I was also at the slopes for several hours and my legs felt like jelly afterwards.  Still, I made a mental note to try this again next winter. 

The weather was great during that time, too.

How to Get There:
The ski resort is called Jisan Forest Ski Resort, it is located in Icheon, about an hour or so away from Seoul. To take public station go to Dong Seoul bus station. To get there, get off at Gangbyeon station in the subway, Line 2. Take the bus to Icheon (don't make the same mistake as I did, it's Icheon, not Incheon). At the Icheon bus station take the free shuttle buses to Jisan Forest Resort.

Useful Info
If you want the easy route, you may just sign up for a ski tour (your hotel or hostel can book it for you) to Jisan for 75,000 won, which includes basic instruction, transportation, ski, boots and pole rental. You may need to shell out another 20,000 won for the ski pants, jacket and gloves rental. The lift fee is 46,000 for the whole day. If you want to get a separate lesson, they start at 85,000 won for 1:15 class, 260,000 for 1:1 whole day lessons. Website:

February 11, 2016

Exploring the Calamianes Islands

This was my third trip to Coron and I still feel that I haven't scratched the surface of exploring the islands of the Calamianes Group fully. The trip was itself delayed for two weeks because of the cancellation caused by the APEC event, but the airline (we flew Skyjet Air) was able to rebook it two weeks later. 

View from Mt. Tapyas

There were noticeable changes in Coron since the last time I was here. The pueblo was busier, and there are more buildings and establishments around (fortunately not as bustling as Boracay with that Laboracay nonsense). The boat operators that give tours around the islands somehow also managed to standardized the fees and the destinations so you can just pick and choose where you want to go, like from the menu at a local burger joint. 

Selfie time

For the first day we explored stayed around the town, with a quick climb to Mt. Tapyas, and a to the Maquinit hot springs early in the evening to soothe tired muscles after that climb. We did Malcapuya Island, Bulog Dos and Banana Island on the second day.  Since it was Arvy's first time to Coron we decided to do Kayangan Lake (a must for first time visitors) and its environs for the third day, including CYC Beach, the Coral Garden, Kalachuchi Beach and the Hidden Lagoon

Day 2: Bulog Dos, Banana Island and Malcapuya Island. 

Bulog Dos sandbar

We contacted a local tour group and signed up for the Malcapuya Island tour, which includes Bulog Dos and Banana Island. There were six of us in the boat, me, Arvy, another Filipina, and three Chinese tourists. We set out around 9 am, and the trip to the first island took around an hour or so.

The beach in Bulog Dos

The first stop was Bulog Dos (it's neighboring island, Bulog, is a private island). There was a sandbar that connects the two islets, a strip of white sand framed by the azure sea on both sides. We docked a few meters from the beach, and we had to wade through the water to get to dry land. I didn't stay long there; the water was so inviting that I was like a puppy frolicking on the beach. There were a handful of tourists there as well, but not that many to crowd you out. I them climbed up the small hill to an overlooking cliff that gives you a bird's eye view of the sandbar and the other island. So far so good.  

Docking in Banana Island

The next island in the itinerary is called Banana Island. I didn't see any banana shrubs on it, only coconut trees, though. We spent a longer time here, since we were going to have our lunch in one of the nipa huts dotting the beach. Our boatmen/tour guides began preparing our lunch - grilled chicken, steamed rice, pineapple slices, and eggplant salad, paired with Coke (they come together with the tour fee) - while we explored the beach further. We went back just as the meal was served, which we consumed with gusto. 

The beach in Banana Island

The last island of the tour is easily my favorite - Malcapuya Island. It looked so pristine - like a small Boracay before the tourists came. The sand is also whiter than that of Banana Island, although I think the sand in White Beach is finer. Still, it looks so pretty that Anakin Skywalker would even complain about it. I spent the most time here, swimming and playing on the beach, getting too many selfies at times. 

We called it a day just before the sun was to set. The trip back was a bit rougher, as the waves were bigger and the sky was a bit overcast. It even rained at one point, and that coupled with the sea spray got us cold and wet in no time. We reached the port just before twilight.

Malcapuya Island

Day 3: Coron Island, CYC Beach and Coral Garden

Snorkeling in Coral Garden

The next day we signed up for another tour, this time covering Coron Island, plus several beaches and snorkeling sites around it. There were also only six of us in the boat, plus the two boatmen. 

The first stop was the Coral Garden. The boat just anchored over a large coral reef, and we were allowed to snorkel. I swam around, testing my Sony ActionCam under water. I wasn't wearing any flippers so it kind of difficult to move around while clutching a selfie stick in front of me.

Doing a Titanic moment in CYC Beach

I enjoyed the next destination more. CYC Beach, as it is called, is partly submerged, but only for a foot or so in some places. The water is so clear and almost transparent,  with a tinge of aquamarine, making the boats look like they were floating on glass. I spent a lot of time here swimming and taking pictures.

The next stop is Kalachuchi Beach, which is nestled on the side of Coron Island. It is named after the kalachuchi plant that grows along the beach. 

At first we docked at the coral reef further out the beach to snorkel and to wait for the other tourists to clear the area. I tried skin-diving down the reef wall, and I really wished that I am scuba-diving that moment as I can only go down for several feet. We docked to the beach when a hut became available, and we had our lunch there, composed of grilled fish, eggplant salad, and steamed rice.

Arvy snorkeling in the reef near Kalachuchi Beach.

After lunch we headed to the Hidden Lagoon, and it was Arvy's favorite so far. Karst formation surrounds the reef in the area, making it like a semi-enclosed lagoon. The water is also so clear that you can clearly see the corals below the pristine water, mottled over the surface like lichen. We snorkeled again, enjoying the waters around it. We can feel the thermocline here too, alternating between cold and warm. At one point I felt a fish bite my leg, which was rather disconcerting. I thought for a second I was bitten by a snake.

The last destination of the day was familiar to me as I've been there twice already - Kayangan Lake. Third time is still a charm, I discovered. The guide took me to the caves located at the side of the limestone cliffs, as the others went to the bamboo raft in the lake.

I did go inside the small cave, following the lead of the boatman. I didn't feel claustrophobic but I was wary of the sharp rocks protruding on the sides. I wasn't very adventurous this time as I declined the boatman's invitation to swim through a small opening that opens to another cave on the other side. I didn't feel I had the air to do that.  

After exploring the caves I joined the rest of the group in the bamboo raft. We just lay there, watching the raft drift across the freshwater lake, watching the world go by, listening to the distant calls of birds as they cackle in the trees. It was a great day.

How to get there:
Getting to Coron is easier these days. You fly from Manila to Busuanga, then take a van from from the airport to Coron, 150 pesos each way. The route is serviced by many airlines, including Cebu Pacific, PAL Express, and Skyjet Air.

Tours to the islands are now standardized so you can pick and choose the places that you want to explore. Prices start at around 600 pesos. For a general guide to Coron, go here.