El Nido’s one of my favorite things to write about because it’s one of my favorite places on Earth. So when I was approached by the wonderful editors of Mantle Magazine (oh hai friends Rej and Dante) to write about the El Nido experience, I quickly accepted. The catch? I had to write about El Nido’s development as a tourism destination.
Writing this was both easy and heartbreaking. Easy because it’s a topic I know well and once I got the outline and supporting statistics figured out, I hammered out the thing in two days. Heartbreaking because I had to put my experience to paper (err, keyboard?) and describe both the good and the bad that comes from increased tourism to a place that isn’t ready for it.
Tourism is often trotted out as the solution for funding protected areas, but that’s a simplistic answer. A destination can go after fewer but higher spending tourists, but that means only the rich get to experience the personal growth and satisfaction that comes from traveling and learning. But lower the price too much and you overwhelm the destination with an unsustainable number of visitors. How do we ensure that the local community benefits from increased tourism? How do we ensure that the proper infrastructure is in place? In short, how do we ensure visitor satisfaction and safety while protecting the environment that they came here to see?
There are no easy answers, but answering it needs the cooperation of the local government, community, businesses, and the tourists themselves.
I finally returned to El Nido, Palawan last June 2018 after three years away. The last time I was there was back in 2015 when I helped train DENR personnel in coral reef monitoring methods. At least this time, I was back for a vacation with the husband and some of our friends ❤️
I’d like to credit AirSwift’s New Year’s Day sale as the reason we were able to afford to fly directly into El Nido. Yes, the sale started at 12:00 midnight on January 1, 2018. Thank you also to our hosts, Patrick and Cindy, for understanding why I brought a laptop to their NYE party.
In all honesty, it’s taken this long to write about the El Nido trip because I wasn’t sure what to write. Coming back after practically living there for six years then being MIA since 2015 meant that I watched El Nido change through a screen, with my Facebook feed filled with posts from friends who had grown up there and friends who decided to move there. I watched El Nido turn into a crowded tourist destination, with all the good and ilk that comes with it. It was conflicting to see friends proudly start their own businesses alongside seeing the trash and pollution piling up in an unprepared town. I wasn’t sure how I felt then, and I’m not sure how I feel now. Continue reading “El Nido, after all this time”
After the 12 days straight of nature interpretation training in Miniloc and Lagen, we moved to Apulit in Taytay for Batch 4 of the training. It wasn’t included in our original schedule but we reconfigured it once we found out that the Pangulasian “Shark Squad” would be in Apulit and available to take over for the regular guides.
August 9 marked my first trip to Taytay Poblacion. I visited Apulit back when it was still Club Noah Isabelle but I never got to see the town because we transferred directly to the resort from CLR Airport in Sandoval. The van ride from Taytay to El Nido took two hours. Since we had plenty of time to kill, Kring, Mavic, and I left our bags in our Taytay office so we could look around.
First stop was lunch in the Taytay branch of Sea Slugs. The waiter shouldn’t have bothered giving us menus since all they had available were fries and some sandwiches. Also didn’t help that we got two orders of fries and they took forever to serve. I’m sticking with the El Nido branch from now on. Our second stop was Casa Rosa café, where we drank juice (there was no electricity yet so no blender for shakes), played dominoes, and took photos of the fort.
Third stop was the Fuerza de Santa Isabel. Known in Taytay simply as “kuta” (fort, or hideout), the Fuerza de Santa Isabel (Fort of St. Isabel) was first built in 1667 using wood by forced laborers under the Augustinian Recollects. It was rebuilt using coral rock (again using forced labor) and completed on December 17, 1738 during the term of of Governor Fernando Manuel de Bustillo.
The Spanish built the fort to protect Taytay from Muslim pirates (hope they tried that line with the Taytayanos they forced to build it). There are bastions at the fort’s four corners, each with a statue of the fort’s patron saints: St. Toribio, St. Miguel, St. John, and St. Isabel. The story goes that when the Muslim pirates finally stormed the fort, they smashed the first three statues but left St. Isabel’s statue intact because they believed that women shouldn’t be dragged into warfare. This is also the reason the fort’s chapel is also intact.
My only complaint about the visit is that there was minimal interpretation around the fort. If you wanted to know the fort’s story, the only signage was the one in front by the National Historical Institute. There was no English translation for it so good luck to foreign tourists. There were no docents. The only reason I’m able to share the fort’s story now is because Mavic was with us and because of post-trip Googling. How do you expect to get people to donate for the fort’s upkeep if you don’t give them a reason to?
We spent the rest of the afternoon eating and eating and eating: dirty ice cream, pork barbeque, and some chicken barbeque as well. There was practically nothing else to do. We finally left the Poblacion at 4pm and headed to Apulit. More diving, hiking, and training to come!
The previous post is up here. Yes, it’s taken me this long to write about the second part of my Puerto Princesa adventures. This trip happened last July 8-9. *hangs head in shame*
We woke up at 7am because we needed to get an early start for the day’s activities. The latest we could leave Puerto Princesa was 5pm so that we’d arrive in El Nido at the somewhat reasonable hour of 11pm. Since breakfast wasn’t included in the room rate (boooo), we checked out of the inn and had breakfast in Jollibee.
I work in El Nido, a municipality on the northwestern side of Palawan. The funny thing is that people are always surprised they I tell them it takes 6 hours non-stop to travel from El Nido to Puerto Princesa by land. First: Puerto Princesa is on the opposite side of Palawan so you travel via old logging roads turned paved roads that hug the side of the mountains. Even though you’re traveling on flat land, the winding and swerving road from El Nido to Puerto Princesa feels worse than Kennon Road going up to Baguio. Second: the road from El Nido to Taytay isn’t paved. During the dry season, it’s dusty as hell. During the wet season (when we traveled), the road is littered with deep potholes that need to be avoided or traversed carefully. I went on my first El Nido-Puerto Princesa road trip last July 8-9 when we went to Puerto to buy stuff for Family Day.