An escape to Coron

The rains of June have made their presence known. Gone is the sweltering heat of the summer sun, painting Manila a gloomy grey. The winds pick up and while the heat is certainly not missed, the calmer air surely was. And so an escape to Coron was planned: one minute, you’re wearing a jacket in cold Manila; the next, you’re donning a thinner tee in the streets and waters of Coron.

The rain was a constant companion in Manila, a chilly reminder that summer was ending and it was time to bring out the sweaters and shelve the shorts. And yet the thought of pristine beaches and blue lagoons was enough to get one out of bed and into the airport, waiting for our Skyjet flight to Coron and get the adventure underway.

Boarding pass while waiting for the flight.

Coron, in some way, was a welcome reprieve from busy and gloomy Manila. The islands are home to WW2-era shipwrecks and blue waters. It was warm and just the right amount of wind. The sky was foreboding yet the air was hot and reminded you that yes, you’re on vacation and taking a dip was the best way to cool off.

View from the airport immediately after getting down the plane.

The place we stayed at was hidden in the mountains. Once a thriving coffee shop before it fell to the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), Kopi Doki Haus now stands as a guesthouse for tourists and other backpackers.

Kopi Doki Haus, a café-turned-guest house.

Late lunch was the first order of business. As much as the mamon was appreciated from Skyjet, lunch is still a lunch affair. And just a few steps away from the entrance of Kopi Doki stood Balay Karaenan, a quaint restaurant with bamboo chairs and tables, a bunch of bahay kubo lining the area, and a BTS playlist playing in the background. Their chili garlic shrimp was delicious, and so is their pancit.

Pancit, chicken binakol, and chili garlic shrimp for lunch.

A tour around the neighbourhood was on the menu after the hearty meal. It was necessary to look around and feel the town, getting familiar with your surroundings and quite possibly looking for a place to have dinner. And just a few steps away from St. Augustine Parish was the infamous joint that everyone keeps recommending and talking about: Lolo Nonoy’s Food Station. The popularity of seafood in the island spoke a hundred times over considering every sort of seafood wasn’t available; in other words, we came in far too late for seafood availability. Even then, breakfast for dinner (and giant crepes from the little crepe stall we saw on the way back to the guest house) was a nice cap for the evening.

Tapsilog, BBQsilog, and liemposilog for dinner.

Early next morning led us to the port to begin our tour (largely thanks to Travel Bay Tours for the hassle-free organisation). Bangkas lined the pier, awaiting their passengers for the day, the red clay of the island staying put as the winds picked up. The skies were turning grey but the thought of blue lagoons were enough to push through with the boat ride. Twin Lagoon was a dream and if we could, we would’ve stayed there longer. And then a bunch of beaches and snorkelling areas later, lunch was served courtesy of the boat captain and the bangkeros.

An islet near the Twin Lagoons.

The dark blue waters of the West Philippine Sea.

Kayangan Lake was the last stop, with clear waters greeting you as you trek towards the foot of the hill. The uphill climb and downhill trek to see the lake was killer for the legs (and if you’re like our dad who’s not the biggest fan of stairs, it could feel like a hundred times more arduous), but the view at the top was gorgeous and the waters of the lake was a welcome respite for your otherwise tired body.

The clear waters we passed by while we were on the way to Kayangan Lake.

The entrance to the lake.

The view from the top.

On the way back to town, the winds got stronger, the skies became darker, and the tides were going lower. Just as we were near the pier, the boat we were in found itself stuck; low tide came faster than what had been anticipated. Kayaks were prepared and we were ferried to the pier three at a time. That was certainly an experience one couldn’t forget. Too tired to look for a place to eat dinner after shower, lechon manok and rice from the many stalls in front of the guest house was the pair of the night and a few bottles of Gatorade and Fit N’ Right to wash it all down.

The foreboding skies on a Coron afternoon.

The day after was a special day: It was our parents’ silver wedding anniversary and our mom’s birthday. Our first plan was to visit the church and be blessed by the parish priest, by the priest was in another town and would come by in the afternoon. So after lunch, we found ourselves having cold coffee in a café near the church, waiting for the parish priest to arrive. The café was nice and quiet, and they offered a bunch of art materials if you were in the mood for doodling.

Mom looking at the coffee menu.

Dad relaxing with a cold cup of coffee.

Coffee and cake.

The parents finally got their blessing from Rev. Fr. Efren M. Galit, the parish priest of St. Augustine Parish. And it was just our luck that the flowers from earlier weren’t taken down yet.

The parents at the entrance of St. Augustine Parish.

The summit to Mt. Tapyas was next on the agenda, and Kuya Rafael the tricycle driver accompanied us then. Getting to the top took 724 steps (we counted), and the numerous pit stops were much appreciated. But once you get to the top, the view was absolutely breathtaking. Our dad hates anything uphill and opted to stay behind, chatting up the locals about anything he could think of.

The cross at the top of Mt. Tapyas.

A panoramic view of Coron.

Our dad with Kuya Rafael.

Going down, humidity hit us like a truck and our legs were shaking. A trip to Maquinit Hot Spring was in order. Maquinit Hot Spring is one of the few saltwater hot springs in the world, with the minerals in the saltwater said to be bearing more health benefits than freshwater springs. And the hot spring was the best way to end the trip as all the dirt and fatigue get washed away from our bodies. And just like the rest of the trip, seafood was out of the menu because of its non-availability; instead, grilled food was the choice of the night.

Pancit, grilled liempo, grilled chicken, and sisig for dinner.

At least you know the beer’s cold from No Name bar.

The next day, Coron was as warm as when we arrived. Planes were arriving one by one and the next thing we know, we’re back in grey and windy Manila. Blue lagoons and saltwater springs almost felt like a dream. And yet, with the tan lines and the otherwise refreshed feeling despite the rains in the capital, Coron happened and it will be forever be a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila.

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