El Nido, after all this time

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”

The Five-0 Dream comes true, part 3: the North Shore

(YES this is a super late post. WHOOO. My Hawaii trip actually happened in June. If you missed my previous posts, I talked about presenting my research at the International Coral Reef Symposium, exploring Diamond Head, the Waikiki Aquarium, and the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, eating my way around Hawai’i, and my souvenirs from the trip.)


While most of our labmates and bosses were going home two days after ICRS, some of my friends and I decided to extend our stay in Hawaii for another week to make the most of our trip. We spent two more days in Oahu before flying to the Big Island.

Our major lesson learned: touring the North Shore is more fun and much easier with a car. We considered renting a car for just the one day but weren’t sure if that was possible, and my companions didn’t want to join a tour group because of the added expense. We ended up taking TheBus, which meant that the trip from the Ilikai to Sharks Cove took 3 buses and almost 3 hours, while Waimea Valley back to the Ilikai took 2 hours. This doesn’t include the time we spent walking from Sharks Cove to Waimea Valley, as the #55 bus only comes every 30 to 45 minutes.

The bus route we took from the Ilikai to Sharks Cove consists of three buses:

1. the County Express Bus to Ewa Center, get off at the Alapai Transit Center
2. the #52 Wahiawa-Haleiwa bus, get off at Haleiwa
3. the #55 Honolulu-Ala Moana Center bus, get off at Sharks Cove

Continue reading “The Five-0 Dream comes true, part 3: the North Shore”

The Five-0 Dream comes true, part 2: sneaking away to visit the sights

One of my main accomplishments during the Hawaii trip was getting to go around Oahu without sacrificing my time at ICRS (except for that one morning, but that doesn’t count because there weren’t any talks that I wanted to attend) and without a car (a bit inconvenient but doable). I’d like to thank TheBus for being reasonably on time, though the Android app could be more user-friendly and bus drivers were hit-or-miss in the friendliness and helpfulness department.

Going up Diamond Head was something we had to do early in the morning as we had to attend the conference and the hiking trail would be too hot later on in the day. The Diamond Head State Monument opens at 6am but because we missed the first #23 Bus because someone overslept, we got there close to 7am. Diamond Head gets over 3,000 visitors a day and we definitely felt that, as there were a LOT of people there even at 7am. If you have a car, it’s best to get there when the gates open.

A photo posted by Jem Baldisimo (@findingjemo) on

Diamond Head’s original Hawai’ian name is Le’ahi, which means “brow of the ‘ahi [tuna] fish” (I included a tuna photo for reference). British sailors in the late 1700s called it “Diamond Head” because they thought the sparkles coming off of the volcano were diamonds and that they were going to get rich. Too bad the sparkly rocks were actually calcite crystals that weren’t worth anything (poor guys).

Diamond Head Volcanic Cone, Honolulu (503263)
Photo by Robert Lindsell on Flickr


See? Diamond Head definitely looks like the fin of a tuna.

Continue reading “The Five-0 Dream comes true, part 2: sneaking away to visit the sights”

There is no excuse for leaving cigarette butts on the beach. NONE.

The plastic bottle in the photo holds 500 ml. My coworkers and I filled it up in the 2.5 hours we spent cleaning up El Nido’s beaches this morning as part of our Earth Day activities (yay Happy Earth Day!). Most of them were stuck in the cracks and crevices of the cliffs. Seriously. There is no good reason to leave your cigarette butts on the beach or anywhere else that isn’t a proper trash can. Be a responsible smoker. Did you know that in 2010, volunteers during the International Coastal Cleanup picked up 1.8 MILLION cigarette butts? Aside from being eyesores, cigarette butts are accidentally eaten by animals and release carcinogens into the water. I know someone who actually keeps his butts in his pocket if he can’t find a nearby trashcan. Another option would be to temporarily keep them in a plastic or glass bottle until you can dispose of them properly.

The view from the office


I can probably get used to seeing this everyday, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss home.

(This WordPress app for iPhone is pretty darn nifty.)