Many would describe Coron, a first class municipality located in Northern Palawan, as one of their favorite getaways in the Philippines. It is home to many inland lakes and lagoons that are hidden behind towering jagged rock formations. Beneath the azure seas are pristine reefs and various World War II shipwrecks. If you are not into diving, then there are the usual island hopping tours that can be availed and suited to your budget and preference. Some stopovers are just a few minutes away from the main wharf while there are also tours that would take you to Calauit, Culion and the other islands in the Calamianes group where Coron is also a part of.
Coron is also attractive for budget travelers because they can join an online DIY group beforehand or they can request their inns or hotels to bump them with other tour groups as well. You could also proceed to the local wharf where many bangkas (motorized outrigger boats) await. Boat rates are fixed so you are assured that you would not be ripped off. And with insane promo fares from local airlines and travel coupon discounts, anyone can now head to Coron without spending their entire life savings.
When my good friend and I were just planning our Coron itinerary early this year, I suggested that we include a trip to Cabugao Lake which is said to be the biggest in the island. A college friend told me about this lake, that is sacred to the Tagbanuas and that it is currently off-limits to outsiders. The few people we met and who have lived all their lives in Coron knew about it too, but they have never seen it for themselves. You could just imagine how it looks like all this time and it is probably even more beautiful than Kayangan Lake, the cleanest like in the Philippines, but sans the maddening crowd.
For now, only the Tagbanuas have access to the elusive Cabugao. They go there to harvest nests from swallows which are said to frequent in the area. The birds’ nests, which are the main ingredients of an exotic soup in Chinese restaurants, are then sold for quite a hefty sum. The Tagbanuas also have exclusive rights not only to Cabugao, but in most of the beautiful sites in Coron. Although it was only in 2003 when they were granted full control of Coron, this has always been their ancestral domain for as long as they can remember. The various entrance fees collected at Kayangan and Barracuda Lake, Banol Beach, and the Twin Lagoons go to the Tagbanuas who maintain the cleanliness of these places and protect these from illegal fishermen and greedy investors as well.
With Cabugao out of the picture, my friend and I decided to forego another island hopping tour and opted instead to experience an off the beaten path or destination. We only have 2 full days in Coron, that is why we wanted to maximize our trip by including stopovers you would usually see in postcards and also those adventures that you would not normally see in your friends’ Facebook albums.
It was a blessing in disguise when we did not find the enough number of people who could join us in our trip to Calauit, either via bangka or airconditioned vans. It was quite expensive to split the total cost with just two persons. But we push through anyway with the trip but on motorbikes. Take note that this is a 3 hour journey on mostly rough roads. Despite the bumpy ride, we were richly rewarded with gorgeous views along the way – exclusive resorts on the western coast, what could be the island’s only waterfall, a unique church perched on a hill and many others.
Looking back now, there is indeed so much to Coron beyond a famous hotspring, white sand beaches and hidden lakes. It can still surprise you in many ways than one. I do hope that the next few blog entries will capture the beauty of this island paradise in the best way that I can. It is definitely one of the destinations in the Philippines that I wouldn’t mind going back to, if not for constraints in budget and leave credits of course.
But in the meantime ladies and gentlemen, my Coron series begins with this post.
Almost all the local airlines in the Philippines have regular flights to Busuanga. But you may want to take the morning flights since there have been instances where afternoon flights get cancelled due to the challenging runway conditions at the Francisco Reyes Airport.