Family vacations: how to survive them with your sanity intact

Whenever my parents said “We’re going on vacation!”, my first thought was always “Who else is coming?”. Growing up in a close-knit family with an equally close-knit extended family, the term “family vacation” almost always meant going with at least 20 other aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends of various ages, personalities, and preferences. With at least one outing every summer since I turned 12, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way that made the trip less of a hassle. As they say, you can choose your friends but not your family.


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The Boats of El Nido

El Nido is the land of outrigger boats. How else are you supposed to get around the different islands? Owning your own outrigger boat is a sign of prosperity, as they aren’t exactly cheap. Mr. Ellis Lim, the richest man in town, made his fortune in boat rentals. After all, as long as you take care of the engine and the boat doesn’t capsize, an outrigger boat can last for more than 20 years. I’ve also found boats to be the ultimate topic of conversation. At a loss of what to say? Ask a proud boat owner about their “baby” and they’ll happily spend 20 minutes talking about their baby’s recent paint job, oil change, engine overhaul, and the myriad other details that go into outrigger boat maintenance.


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This is what a vacation looks like.

This is 7 Commandos, one of the many beaches you can visit in El Nido, Palawan. It’s a “Tour A” destination because it’s near El Nido town. Just hire a boat for the day and it can either wait for you or drop you off and come back later. Lunch can be included in the package price. Trust me: the sand is just as good as Boracay. Maybe even better because there are fewer people around and less trash.

Five El Nido Myths Dispelled

In recent years, the little town of El Nido, located on the northwest side of Palawan, has captured global attention due to its awe-inspiring limestone cliffs, pristine beaches, and clear blue water. That said, tourists wanting to get a taste of the sand, sea, and seafood of a “small fishing town” may need to have a few notions cleared up:

Myth #1: El Nido is hard to get to.

That depends on how much you’re willing to pay. The quickest and most direct way is by plane. Island Transvoyager Inc. flies direct to El Nido Airport from Manila everyday, with departures scheduled at 7:30 am and 3:00 pm. The flight takes 1 hour 15 minutes. However, this convenience comes with a steep price, as tickets are P13,500 roundtrip and can only be booked 5 days in advance. The next best route is via SEAIR, which flies to El Nido via Busuanga every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Taking SEAIR is less expensive, though total travel time is 2 hours due to the stopover in Busuanga. The cheapest way takes the longest – fly to Puerto Princesa via any of the major airlines (PAL, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines) then get to El Nido via hired van or public bus. If you’re traveling by hired van, add 8-9 hours. If you’re going via public bus, add 10-12. A hired van fits a maximum of 10 people (depending on the amount of luggage), is airconditioned, and costs P8,000. The public bus is open air and costs P300/person.

Myth #2: El Nido is a tiny little backwater in the middle of nowhere. How will I survive without my cellular phone?

For the record, El Nido has electricity, running water, cable TV, and yes, cellular phone service. There are even Internet cafes where you can upload your vacation photos to elicit envy from everyone else freezing back home.

Myth #3: El Nido is a class-A baranggay because of all the cash tourism is bringing in.

Er… no. El Nido has 18 hours of electricity per day, no centralized water supply, and no telephone lines. There are no banks or ATM machines, and only a select few establishments (usually the larger lodging houses) accept credit cards. There is one doctor and no actual fire brigade for the whole town.

Myth #4: Staying in El Nido is cheap because it’s a small town.

Unfortunately, no. Goods in El Nido are more expensive than in Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. The increased demand for fish by the tourists and tourist establishments who can afford to pay more are driving up the prices. The cheapest (yet clean) place to eat in town is Skyline, where meals are about P100 to P150, not including drinks.

Myth #5: Malaria and dengue cases abound because this is Palawan.

There have been cases of malaria and dengue in town. However, it’s not as bad as it’s usually publicized. Getting a prescription for malaria vaccine should ease your worries.

I sincerely hope that I haven’t discouraged anyone from visiting El Nido when in fact, it’s currently my favorite place in the world. What I’ve said here is just some friendly commentary to make sure that you know what to expect from my beloved adopted home.

See you soon!

Main Street, El Nido

What’s in a name?

Ever wonder how each tiny bit of land gets its name? With 45 islands and islets within Bacuit Bay, the early settlers of El Nido must have had a great time naming them all. As the stories behind these names get passed down from generation to generation, the original version gets altered somewhat, leaving behind something no less interesting than the original.

Most names come from the physical features of the places themselves. Lapus-lapus Beach on the mainland gained its name from the word “lapus” meaning “tagusan” or “pathway”, as the beach has a natural pathway leading to El Nido Town. Lagen Island started out as“Langen” – the island’s four peaks makes it look like an old wood burning stove. The “minilog” or “small river” on this island’s left side is responsible for Miniloc’s name.

On the other hand, some of the islands are named after the plants and animals found there. For instance, Pacanayas evolved from “Pakanayos”, which comes from “kanayos”, the local name for the great frigatebird (Fregata minor). Bamboo thickets gave Dibuluan its name – “bulo” is the local name for bamboo. El Nido’s settlers apparently couldn’t forget the “tungaw” (little insects living in the sand that inflict a nasty bite) they encountered on one particular island that they named the place after it. Guintungauan basically means “attacked by “tungaw”“. Believe me when I say that the “tungaw” are still there to this day and that their bites itch like hell.

A few names have more fanciful sources. Seven Commandos Beach is said to be named for the seven World War II commandos whose ship sank. Cadlao comes from “kadlaw” or “laugh” – the townspeople laugh if the island is visible because that means that the weather will be good. Pinasil originates from “pinasil-pisil”, or “broken into pieces”. According to legend, two giants used the islands as tops. When the two islands collided, they broke into pieces, resulting in Pinasil Island and the small string of islets near it.

Names evolve over time, as seen by the evolution of . After all, the Tagbanua people gave El Nido its original name: Bacuit. It was only when the Spanish came that they changed the name to its present “El Nido”, coming from “nido” or “nest”. I wonder what El Nido will be called in the future.

Map of El Nido

Paradise Less Traveled, part 3

El Nido Resorts also operates two beach clubs in Pangulasian and Entalula Islands. The beach clubs serve lunch and are usually the jump-off point for the afternoon activities. Pangulasian Island has the wider and longer beach, with snorkelling areas offshore. “Panga”, as it is more commonly known, also owns the best view of the sunset. The Entalula beach club is set in a cove with fine white sand. Rock climbing, under the supervision of qualified instructors, takes place on the sheer limestone cliffs surrounding the beach club. Don’t worry – there are different routes to suit different skill levels. Windsurfing, Hobie cat sailing, kayaking, snorkelling, badminton, and volleyball can be done at either beach club. Lazing the day away is also condoned, as the highly efficient and friendly staff members will gladly fix you a cold mango shake as you bask in the sun.

Pangulasian Beach Club Long Stretch Rock Climbing Entalula Beach Club

Speaking of staff, more than 80% of the staff come from El Nido Town and its surrounding barangays, making El Nido Resorts the single largest private employer in the area. While their friendliness and dedication are their greatest assests, El Nido Resorts staff are also trained to high standards, enabling them to serve guests to the best of their abilities.

Leaving the resort will probably the only difficult thing you’ll have to do during your entire stay, that and balancing your loaded dinner plate. El Nido by itself is something else, what more if you include beautiful rooms, spectacular service, and smiling faces into the mix? I don’t have the answer so you’ll just have to come here and experience it yourself 🙂

Paradise Less Traveled, part 2

El Nido Resorts spans Miniloc and Lagen Islands, with Miniloc being the older property. Starting life as the humblest of dive camps in 1985, Miniloc Island Resort retains its rustic, paradise-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel even after expanding into a 43-room property. With Water Cottages built on stilts, Seaview Rooms with an awe-inspiring view of the bay, Garden Rooms surrounded by tropical plants, Beachside Rooms built right on the beach, and Cliff Cottages nestled in the limestone cliffs, there’s something for everyone’s inner Robinson Crusoe. Snorkelling can be done right off the pier, landing the snorkeller right in the middle of schools of colorful reef fish. Based on a fish identification survey done by Drs. Gerry Allen and Mark Erdmann early this year, El Nido boasts of 694 confirmed species of fish, with 6 potential new species. In fact, the Miniloc house reef is one of the few places in the Indo-Pacific where you’re guaranteed to see several grown giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis), a fish prized by sport fishers for its fighting ability. For guests staying in Miniloc, the famous Big and Small Lagoons are just around the corner via kayak. Just be prepared for the serious paddling involved, as touring the Big Lagoon via kayak takes about an hour.

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