The wind was warm I could feel it gently blowing against my face. From a short distance, I could hear some chuckles. It was almost music to my ear – those snickers mixed with the splashing sound of gentle waves. But that was just my friends playing with a giant star fish and a minuscule jellyfish.
Jean, a French engineer based in Hong Kong, was hopping from cottage to another trying to sell the jellyfish he placed in a plastic cup.
“Nobody likes to buy my jellyfish. I’m already selling it at a bargain price – 20 pesos,” he said in a distinctive French accent. Kuya Henderson, our tour guide-slash-boat man butted in with a wide smile, “Never mind your jellyfish, lunch is ready.”
Everyone huddled around and started taking snaps of the food served on the bamboo table. We were on Smith Beach, our second pit stop after an hour-long swim at the Kayangan Lagoon. Smith is a small beach covered with powdery white sand and surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. The tiny piece of paradise can be accessed through a 30-minute-boatride from Port of Coron, the main entry to the island.
While feasting on our lunch prepared by the amiable tour guide, a group of Chilean tourists approached our cottage. One of them, Valentina, asked for a cigarette lighter. I offered her a glass of beer.
Val, her nickname, has just finished her school. She went to Australia right after graduation where she worked as a waitress and a traffic controller. She’s able to saved enough money and now spending on a vacation in the Philippines. Her first destination is Palawan then she’ll visit Bohol and Cebu before finally embarking on an Asian trip (if her budget permits) that will cover Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. But she might change her mind she said, deciding that she might stay longer in Coron (that seems love at first sight).
“My friends in Chile are already building their career professionally. And here I am, chasing my dream of traveling the world. But I’d go back to the Philippines most definitely. I like the people and the beaches. They’re captivating,” said the young tourist.
Val’s story is similar to Daniel, an engineer from Essex. Like Val, Danny left his career in London after working for a few months. The ex-engineer has been staying in Manila for three months now. He’s also been to Cebu and Bohol and some parts of Bicol. I first met Danny in Port of Coron when he asked our tour guide if our boat could still accommodate a passenger so he could hop on. But since we pre-booked our island tour, we could no longer accommodate the British bloke.
At Smith Beach, I saw Danny again. This time, he’s now with a group of local tourists from Quezon City.
“As a solo traveler, I’m always a chance passenger. If I got lucky, people would take me where they headed. It excites me to meet new faces. I don’t take pictures though. I collect memories. And I will share them with my friends and relatives when I go back to London,” the man beamed.
Danny’s Philippine trip has been “good” so far if not for the delayed flights, which he’s beginning to get used to. His rather long holiday in the country happened not by chance. He chose to stay in the Philippines particularly in Visayan Islands because of the laid back atmosphere – a complete opposite of his life back in London. Prior to his arrival to the country, he read a few travel reviews online, and when he stumbled upon a review about Palawan, he had moment of eureka. Quitting his job was an easy decision. He’s bachelor and is only responsible for himself. Though some people viewed his chosen path a bit unordinary, a number of young professionals have already started chasing their dreams, exchanged their decent paying job to be free-spirited. In case of Val and Danny, leaving a comfortable life back home and venturing into a world unfamiliar to them is similar to enriching someone’s soul. The pleasure and excitement of seeing and physically experiencing foreign land is worth the barter.
After a few minutes of chatting with Danny and Val, Kuya Henderson waived his hand asking our group to board the boat. We were headed to Skeleton Wreck, a little wreck that can either be done as a dive or snorkeled on.
Swimming away from our boat was no longer necessary when we reached the wreck. A school of tiny tropical fish were already waiting for us. They were like tiny guest relation officers welcoming the tourists before they finally explore the sunken ship and the surrounding area.
We didn’t stay long in Skeleton Wreck. We were told by our tour guide that we have to head fast to CYC Beach and Twin Lagoons. You see, we had a lot of places to visit for such a limited time.
Our last stop was Lake Barracuda.
Lake Barracuda is Coron’s primary attraction. And it’s easy to understand why. Named after a ray-finned fish that thrives in the lake, Coron’s hidden jewel is of more interest to divers for its unique layers of fresh, salt and brackish water and dramatic temperature shifts, I was told.
When we arrived at the area, a group of German divers were emerging from the water. So, I thought we had the lake all to ourselves. But I was wrong. We had to share the secluded lake with Spanish tourists.
Not wasting any time, I asked one of the young ladies what brought her to Coron. Her companion was the one who’s quick to answer.
“We invited her here, and now she doesn’t want to leave!” the man exclaimed.
Vanessa, that’s her name, was obviously smitten with the island. Like the previous tourists I had spoken with, Van was a newly graduate. Instead of immediately working after graduation, she decided to just work for a few months just to experience Palawan.
While at the lake and balancing myself on a bamboo raft, I’ve realized that I was meeting the same kind of tourists in Coron. And all of them say the same exact thing: Quit your job, and travel!
I sure want to explore more of Coron – immerse myself in local culture while marveling at its majestic sights. But no, I’m not going to quit my job. For one, I wanted to share stories, stories like those of Val, Danny and Vanessa who are choosing an unconventional way of life. I think that would work better for me.