Calamianes (Coron and Culion)

KWhen traveling, workers like us are bounded by time, schedule and getting the best deal. We do not have much time because we need to be back in our respective offices to work. Whoever said that we do not need to work is a piece of wasted humanity. Well, if you are a Trump or an Ayala, then you can have that luxury of spending twenty-grand a night in a private island, or hide under golden rocks in the middle of nowhere for a month without worrying about your financial capabilities. But if you are an ordinary Joe Smith or Juan dela Cruz like me, then we need to snap back to reality. We are but servers of capitalism (lol!). What we should think about in exchange of our not-so-much money and time is getting the best deal, ie, maximising the number of things that we can do, places to visit but staying within the range of the amount of money that we have.

Sample Itinerary (3 days, 2 nights)

DAY 01

1030-1110 – Manila to Busuanga Airport

Skyjet offers spacious legroom, serves sparklers and decent pastry, flies up to 19 thousand feet above the ground and has turbo jet engines, so it does not need long runways. If you are seated at the window side, you can have a magnificent view of the green mountaintops, white coastlines and blue seas and oceans.

1120-1200 – Busuanga Airport to Port of Coron

If you are traveling for only 3 days and 2 nights, then make sure to pack only a 40-litre backpack. Have clothes and undies that dry easily so you won’t have a problem drying them up if you run out of decent attire and need to wash a pair for a quick meet-up. Plus, it is easier to move around if you only have a backpack to mind.

There are vans waiting outside the airport, 150 pesos fare to the town proper. Bear in mind that these vans wait to be filled-up. If you are not that lucky and end up as the only passenger, you wait until the next plane arrives. You may want to consider talking to the driver of one of the private vans (owned by hotels and private resorts), let you ride with them to town and pay the 150-peso standard fare.

If you are in a public van, you can politely request the driver to drop you off at the Port of Coron.

1300-1530 – Port of Coron to Culion

You have to pay 20 pesos for the terminal fee at the port. Get inside and wait for the call for the boat ride to Culion. You will be guided to the boat. The boat is not big, but enough to carry 80 passengers and supplies for the island. You will be required to wear a vest. Fare (180 pesos) is collected at the middle of the trip.

1540 onwards – Culion

Culion is located 200 miles south of Manila and has some of the most scenic locations with unique flora, fauna, ecosystem and geology. Rodriguez et al wrote (2003), ”… Culion is the bearer of a rich, unusual but very painful history that all Filipinos should know and remember.” This dark side of the town has been haunting me since the time I read and heard about Culion as the world’s largest leper colony.

You may take a trike outside of the port and ask the driver to take you to Hotel Maya (10 pesos). There are other two lodges in the island. I chose a fan room (800 pesos) for the night. Mobile signal (Globe network) is not good.

The Culion Museum closes at around 4:30PM. After that, you can roam around the town and read signages on the history of Culion when it was still the world’s largest leper colony. If you are lucky enough, you can get to meet some former lepers. You can talk to them and listen to their stories. Don’t worry, the town has been declared leper-free since 2006.

If you want to try local cuisine at Hotel Maya, make sure to tell them prior to your arrival. They have Manila food (aka not local food). Hotel Maya, by the way, serves as the hotel for interns from the nearby Loyola school (administered by Ateneo school).

IA CBDAY 2

Start the day as early as possible. You can talk to a local boatman to take you to the nearby Malcapuya, Banana and Bulog Islands. The islands are nearer from Culion, but they are part of Coron town. From Coron, a tour to these islands would cost you around 3,500 pesos. But you can rent a small boat in Culion for 3,000 pesos and you could choose your island destinations.

As early as 6 o’clock in the morning, you can start your trip to Malcapuya Island. The island gets crowded when the visitors start to flock in at around 10AM. The island is under the management of private corporation. Entrance fee is 200 pesos and camping fee for an overnight stay is 700 pesos.

The island is popular for its white, powdery sands. Refer to the following photos.

D E HAfter basking under the sun, you can head up to Banana or Bulog Island (entrance fee to these islands is 250 pesos, Bulog only for 100 pesos). You may want to skip these islands because there is nothing much to see here. If you are only after white and powdery sands, you can stay at Malcapuya Island.

In the afternoon, you may choose to go and experience the cleanest lake in the country, Kayangan Lake, and one of the shipwrecks. You need not to see all the wrecks or the lakes or the beaches. Malcapuya is the best when it comes to swimmable, clean and blue waters. Kayangan Lake is the best among the lakes and inland waters. For the wrecks, you may choose one from among the sites.

When you reach Coron via the same private banca, you may take a trike and proceed to Maquinit Hotspring. Entrance fee is 300 pesos. You can enjoy the warmth of the spring until 10 pm.

For the night, you can have a fan room at 400 pesos or an AC room for 600 pesos at Calamianes Pensionne (near Sea Divers).

You can have decent coffee or green tea latte at Coffee Kong. Have a drink at No Name Bar. Kapemos is not a coffee shop, this has been turned to a resto from its previous café nature.

DAY 3

Mount Tapyas is an easy climb. You can go here for the sunset and sunrise.

After your morning hike to the summit, you can go to Coron Gallery for a free taste of Tagbanua coffee. They don’t sell it. Coron Gallery offers tour packages.

Tell the hostel / hotel about your departure. They can arrange airport transfer for you. The van will pick you up three hours prior to your departure time.

WHAT NOT TO MISS

Coron has the best shipwreck diving tour in the country. Try it. You will enjoy seeing algae-covered ships under the water, extravagant display of fins and scales, wonderful sways of corals, among others.

Culion is just a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride. Get to know the locals. Listen to them. Hopefully they can open a side of your heart by just listening to the stories of the former lepers.

G

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