Coron, Philippines

After the madness of the Holy Week crowd in most resorts in the Philippines, we find ourselves in the quiet surroundings of Divelink Resort, tucked here in Uson island just 10 minutes away by banca from the town of Coron. In fact, Clarence and I plus two others are the only guests right now in the whole resort!

Our day started early at the Manila domestic airport for the 8:40 a.m. flight to Busuanga via Asian Spirit. At the check-in counter, I was so surprised to be asked by the agent to step on the weighing scale along with my backpack. This is the first time I've been asked in an airport. Our plane, it turns out, is a 19-seater LET 410. We were only allowed 10 kgs. baggage inside this little tube of aluminum. Will this plane ever fly if there was a group of obese passengers?
After an hour of noisy, propeller-driven plane ride, we landed in an airstrip in the middle of a huge ranch. Herds of cattle can be seen miles away. For a moment I thought the plane landed in Wyoming. Outside the small terminal building a sign says: Francisco Reyes Airport, Coron, Palawan. So OK, I'm in Palawan alright.

As this trip has been arranged with the resort, I expected our transfer to be waiting for us outside the terminal building. It's a-45 minute jeepney ride to Coron. No one came, not one with our names on a placard as I hoped. I called the Manila reservations office right away who apologized for the mishap and told us to take the Asian Spirit jeepney still parked outside and waiting for passengers. Our jeepney fare would be taken cared of by their Coron staff, I'm reassured.

We drove on the dusty, bumpy road into Coron and got off right at the seaside Public Market where a staff of Divelink resort met us. The banca was moored at the pier nearby. Clarence and I walked around the market while waiting for the staff who got themselves busy bringing our backpacks and some cargo into the banca. At the market, we find local folks perusing the day's fresh catch from the nearby sea.

The banca ride to the resort took only 15 minutes over the calm waters of Coron Bay.
As soon as we arrive at Divelink Resort, we were offered fresh coconut juice. We sat at the main pavilion atop the resort while cooling ourselves off with the breeze and enjoying the view of the bay and the nearby Baquit island. Robert introduced himself to us - he will be our guide for the next two days.

We were escorted to our cottage - one among the twelve or so the resort has. Each native-style cottage is painted a different color and named after Philippine fruits grown on the resort. There's no airconditioning, no television and no telephones. Who needs these comforts anyway if one wants to be away from it all? The ensuite bathroom at least is clean and has running water. Out in the balcony, there's only the sound of lapping waves and the muted roar of a distant banca that we hear.

Robert encouraged us to use the kayaks and explore the nearby mangrove forest. After a hearty lunch, I challenged Clarence to try the sit-on kayaks. He's never been on a kayak before. We took one kayak and paddled parallel to the shore until we reached an area full of mangrove. Despite the heat of the early afternoon sun, Clarence found kayaking a fun way to get away from it all - even if it was just a hundred meters away from the resort. As soon as Robert saw us back, he herded us into the banca for the afternoon's activities: hiking up Mt. Tapyas and soaking our weary bodies later at Maquinit Hot Spring.

Mt. Tapyas is a hill jutting out behind the town center, crowned at the top with a visible huge white cross. Robert confides the provincial government shouldered the cost of building the concrete steps we are now clambering upon with Stations of the Cross added along the steep route. I could only imagine the crowd of devout Catholics huffing and puffing up here last week as they re-enact the sufferings of Jesus Christ on His way to Calvary. On the summit, we got a panoramic view of Coron and the islands around the bay.

Back at the town center, we rode on a tricycle to Maquinit Hot Spring, 5 kilometers away. The road is a bit rough, hugging along the hillside. The hot spring is actually next to a mangrove forest with the water flowing directly to the sea. There's a large circular pool made with stones next to two smaller ones and nipa huts nearby for picnicking families. The water felt very warm initially but my body adjusted in a few minutes and soon I was enjoying it as I my aching muscles from that climb to Mt. Tapyas was relieved. As far as I can remember, this is my third hot spring immersion after Mt. Apo's Lake Agko and Camiguin's Ardent Resort.

Just before sunset, we got back into the resort. The day has been long but Robert promised an even longer and more exciting day tomorrow as we explore Coron island. In the meantime, dinner is waiting for us in the main pavilion. I'm starving!

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