Our first night at Sea Breeze Lodge was surprisingly comfortable despite the warning of Kuya Alvin about mosquitoes in the area. My friend Vanessa didn’t even notice it even though she forgot to put on insect repellant that night. Perhaps we were too tired to notice and too excited for our island-hopping adventure.
We had an early start the next day, had breakfast on the go and bought our water and food supplies at the market. Fritz and Archie were also in the market buying the ingredients for our lunch. Buying fresh seafood in the market and having it cooked for you on your chosen island was such a good deal because the seafood here was fresh and cheap.
We were back at our lodge by 7 a.m. all excited and ready to meet Archie and Fritz. Instead, we got a call from them saying they were still at the wharf fixing a glitch with the boatman. The boat was suddenly unavailable because the boat man’s wife rented out the boat to another client. I knew it! The price he had offered was to good to be true and for some reason I kind of expected it to happen.
We waited impatiently in our lodge hoping the whole trip would push through. Our itinerary for the day complemented the package tour we had availed from Coron Village Lodge, since the four islands we were supposed to visit with Fritz and Archie were not included in the tour package.
Luckily, it didn’t take long before we got another call from Fritz. She found another boatman at last! The new boatman charged 3000 pesos for the four islands on our itinerary, slightly more expensive than the first one. We agreed with the deal in the end because it was still cheaper than the standard rate imposed by the tourism office. We would rather pay a bit extra than to wander around the town or stay in our lodge again. Besides for 750 pesos, we could already visit Malcapuya Beach, also known as the next Boracay; Culion Island known to be a leper colony; Malaroyroy Island; and Banana Island which are known to be good spots for snorkeling.
We left the wharf around 8 in the morning and sailed straight to Malaroyroy Island. It took us an hour and a half to reach this small tropical island dotted with coconut trees. It has a narrow sandbar connecting a small island to a bigger one which has denser foliage. Just 10 minutes away was Banana Island gleaming from afar with its white sand and emerald water. It got its name from its remarkable shape – it looks like a mango . Banana Island offers overnight accommodation – it has semi-bungalows cottages with several rooms for rent. Malaroyroy Island is a perfect stop-over for camping and picnics, sunbathing and taking pictures because most of time you would have the whole island for yourself.
We didn’t go down anymore from our boat and just cruised along the shores of both islands. The entrance fee was 150 pesos for the two islands. We wanted to spend more time at Malcapuya Beach hyped as the most beautiful beach in Coron and dubbed as the next Boracay so we skipped the two islands altogether. Besides, Van and I still have many opportunities to snorkel around Coron while Fritz and Archie had their faire share of better snorkeling sites like Siete Pecados and some WWII ship wrecks.
After the last shot was taken, we set off to Coron’s version of Boracay. Seeing the current state of Boracay, I do hope the similarities would end with the powdery white sand and blue water and not with other things Boracay is known for. Malcapuya Beach was just 10 minutes away from the two islands and we could see its silhouette from Malaroyroy Island. Like a movie about to hit its climax, the island gradually revealed its beauty as our motorised banca cruised near the beach. Its shore was lined with palm trees, a handful of native cottages and colorful flags common on many beach resorts.
Malcapuya has no hotel or any accommodation available yet. There was only one luxurious beach house owned by Mr. Eddie Reyes who bought the island for only 4000 pesos from the Tagbanuas back in the 80s. He was indeed very lucky to have this pristine and unspoiled paradise for himself and his family but kind enough to share his private island for public use.
It was only half past nine when our boat docked at Malcapuya Island but its sand was already glistening brightly. It was indeed as powdery and as white as those of Boracay. The beach was well maintained and there wasn’t any trash or seaweed scattered around. There was only one group of tourists when we arrived on the island so we almost had the place for ourselves. Aside from the fine sand, I was amazed by the crystal clear water, it felt like I was swimming in a man-made pool.
The island was small but there was another beach on the other side and a view deck on top of a small hill. There was also a good snorkeling area beyond the cliff on the left side of the island and the coral formations get better as you swim further away from the shore. After exploring the island and taking lots of pictures, we had our sumptuous lunch courtesy of our boatman and Archie. For only 115 pesos, we had fried talakitok, steamed bakalaw (a kind of shell fish) with mustard, and nilagang isda with cold softdrinks and water from Kuya Dick’s improvised freezer. We only stayed for about four hours here but Malcapuya Island had already made it to my top 3 beach destinations in the Philippines!
We left Malcapuya Island around 1 p.m. and arrived at Culion Island after an hour. Culion is part of the Calamianes Group of Islands and includes 41 surrounding islands. But it is best known as The Island of the Living Dead and the largest leprosarium in the world. It had been the sanctuary of those afflicted with leprosy rounded up from different parts of the country and the mecca of scientists and people who were interested in the cure of the disease. Culion has been isolated from the rest of the world by a government policy but now has reintegrated itself as a regular municipality.
Culion Island is quite scenic from afar dotted with small houses and structures interspersed with lush greenery . The red church perched magnificently on top of the hill was the most striking structure you will see as you near the island. It was the first place we visited upon docking in its clean port. The church was built by the Jesuit Missionaries and houses the body of the Spanish Jesuit parish priest. During our visit, the church was packed with school kids preparing for a celebration. We climbed up the choir chamber and explored the surrounding area of the church.
One of our friends who went to Culion earlier that morning had told us that the museum was close because of the town’s sports festival. Fortunately for us, there were visitors from the Department of Tourism that afternoon so they opened it for them and also accommodated us in the audio-visual room where we watched a documentary about the history of Culion. Watching the video had made me appreciate more how this once isolated leper colony had emerged into a new municipality and had become a tourist destination not only for its rich history but also for its natural wonders.
Culion’s museum is also a testament of the local’s effort to preserve the rich culture and heritage of the island. It displays large murals, rare volumes of leprosy journals, news clippings about Culion, textbooks and reference materials for leprosy. It has also the complete set of old Culion coins, the different laboratory apparatus used in early leprosy research, old Culion pictures and Wade’s memorabilia, and other items reflective on early patients’ community life.
Its community college building though is in dire need of renovation while the Sanitarium and General hospital would benefit a lot from an upgrade of its facilities. I even thought the sanitarium was part of the museum’s extended showroom until Fritz told me there were patients currently being treated in it. Most of these structures were situated near each other so it was easy to explore the place.
Our last stop was the Pulang Lupa view deck, a lovely spot which offers a panoramic view of Culion. It was about twenty-minute ride from the municipal center so we thought of renting a tricycle to take us there. Unfortunately it could only be accessed by 4×4-type vehicles and although Mr. Umali, the executive assistant of the Mayor, had also promised to take us to the view deck after showing around the visitors from DOT, our boat man suggested to head back to Coron Town.
Day 2 Expenses in Coron
Boat Rental – 750 each
Macapuya entrance fee – 150
Museum entrance fee – 100
Breakfast and snacks – 80
Lunch – 115 ( bought the food in the market, nakisuyo kay kuya)
Dinner – 80 ( sisig with rice)
SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS IN CORON
1. Coron Town - the ideal jump-off point for island hopping trips. Explore this quiet town and fall in love with its friendly people and laidback atmosphere.
2. Mt. Tapyas – At over 2,000 feet above sea level. Mount Tapyas View Deck provides exhilarating views of the town as well as its surrounding islands. This is where you want to be come sunset or sundown.
3. Mabentangen Forest Park – It is a man-made pool with fresh water flowing from the rainforest. Interesting endemic flora and fauna can be found around the forest park.
4. Maquinit Hot Springs - The blissfully warm and salty waters of the spring provides a soothing counterpoint to the frenzy of activities you may have had. Just take a dip and relax in its healing waters.
5. Kabu Beach – Only 20 minutes by motorcycle from the town center, this is a serene getaway, perfect for a day spent lazing under the sun, with refreshing views of Coron Island Ancestral Domain.
6 Siete Pecados – This cluster of seven islets is home to a rich marine life, abundant corals, fish of varied colors and species. The beauty underneath makes Siete Picados one of Coron best sites for snorkeling.
7. Kayangan Lake – Prepare to be mesmerized by its stately beauty and grace. The entrance itself is awe-inspiring, as is the view from the top. It has been hailed many times as the cleanest fresh water lake in the country.
8. Barracuda Lake – Hidden beneath a collection of limestone walls, this lake has the added attraction of its thermal layers. It is named for the resident Barracuda that is said to haunt its waters so be on the lookout! Perfect for Diving!
9. Twin Lagoons – Dare to swim into a small underwater tunnel to cross from one lagoon to another. The limestone cliffs that separate the twin lagoons, the tranquil waters along with the challenge of the underwater tunnel make for an unforgettable adventure.
10. Maynuno Beach- This provides a delightful mixture of white sand beach and limestone cliffs. Great for picnics, snorkeling and a bit of fishing.
11. Malbato Marine Protected Area- Mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs make this an excellent area for mangrove paddle tours.
12. Bintuan- Sangat Marine Park-This is another great spot for snorkeling and kayaking.
Coron boasts of a profusion of islands and beaches that are perfect postcard material. Fine white sand, an abundance of sun, turquoise waters are common elements. Choices include:
13. Dibatoc Island
14. CYC Island
16. Malaroyroy Island
17. Banana Island
CORON JAPANESE SHIP WRECKS
1. Irako Wreck
2. Okikawa Maru Wreck
3. The Akitsushima Wreck
4. Kogyo Maru Wreck
5. Olympia Maru Wreck
6. Kyokuzan Maru Wreck
7. East Tangat Gunboat Wreck
8. Nanshin Maru Wreck
9. Japanese Freighter
10.Lusong Gunboat Wreck
11. Skeleton Wreck