El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Friday, January 24, 2014
“I have a pain in my heart. I didn’t see it coming. It was so unexpected.”
This was our introduction to Joseph our van driver who was taking us on a 6-hour ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. Peter sits up front and Joseph sensing Peter has a sympathetic ear (I’m being facetious here) pours his heart out to him. It’s about a girl It’s always about a girl) who he met 2 months ago at a training session in Puerto. His friends were actually courting her and told him all about this beautiful girl that he had to meet. When their eyes met – he knew, he just knew. And from there began this sweet but unexpected relationship until the heart-stopping text she sends him just before our trip to tell him it’s all over.
“There is a complication”, he tells Peter. “I’m married. Cue to Peter rolling his eyes in mock surprise. Over the next 5-6 hours, we are treated to a medley of love songs from the 80s – Kenny Loggins, Kenny Rogers, Michael Bolton, Lionel Richie all of which Joseph is singing to passionately as he shares his heartache – in song.
Oh, the exquisite pain of heartbreak.
Peter is in pure hell. Not only has he had to endure extensive conversation, but it has had all the hallmarks of what makes him really cringe – corny and typecast Filipino soap operas – the drama of an affair, the spurning of love, followed by the agony of heartbreak all accompanied by a soundtrack of 80s ballads. Peter tries to seek refuge at the back of the van with us but Joseph insists on continuing their conversation which wakes Sofia continuously so Peter reluctantly goes back to the front seat.
Getting into El Nido was nothing short of spectacular though, the views of the surrounding islands as we drove in was impressive. I am writing this at dawn on the balcony of our hotel which is right on the seafront with a majestic view of Cadlao island in the foreground and the multitude of bangkas (catamarans) bobbing along the ocean waiting to take day trippers out on island hopping tours. It really is a treat going to sleep and waking up to the sounds of the pounding surf every day.
We hired a private bangka yesterday and went island hopping which was fun. The islands have pristine white sandy beaches and the water is gorgeously clear. Sofia really enjoyed the boat ride, the constant rocking motion really relaxed her and she fell asleep a couple of times. But I tell you, given that we are at the beach for 5 days – the funny thing is that she doesn’t like the feeling of sand in between her toes and refuses to walk on the beach. When we take her down to the seafront she insists on only having one foot on the ground with the other out of the water. She even dislikes sitting on the beach on her towel.
El Nido (The Nest) was an important port way back when the Spanish were here) is a quaint little town filled with crowded and haphazard beachfront hotels all crammed close together and built too close to the seafront which tells you that there has been little by way of building code restrictions. It is a maze of restaurants, convenience shops and stores selling island hopping trips. There is a church right in the middle of the township and we spot a school nearby as we take a walk in the morning and see lots of primary school children skipping along together on their way to start the day. There is an air raid siren that goes off every night about 8 pm which signals to all children that it’s time to go to bed. The electricity only runs from 2 pm – 6 am every day too which is why I am sending this email off late in the day.
Asia is a great place to travel with children, especially babies. Everyone comes up to talk to Sofia – women, men and even the children. Some want a cuddle others just want to play which is nice.