El Nido — an eco-friendly paradise
- Rey Gamboa () - May 3, 2008 - 12:00am

Last week, I had the good fortune of spending the weekend in Palawan in the company of colleagues in the automotive industry and motoring journalists as well. It was Toyota Motor Philippines Corpo.’s (TMPC) annual out-of-town sortie, primarily to allow the journalists to test drive their newest models available in the market, then to give them plenty of time for rest and recreation afterwards in some of the best tourist sites in the islands. These test drives cum R&R called Toyota Roadtrek had always been fun, exhilarating, a driver’s dream, but I shall leave the details of this year’s event for my motoring column.  Suffice it to say that Toyota came up with a brilliant idea with the 4th staging of the Toyota Roadtrek — the Palawan treat.

The big guns at Toyota kept the idea under wraps - no one knew what the final destination was after the test drive, so on pre-departure night, we were all booked at the Sofitel Hotel and TMPC’s First VP for marketing, Danny “Sir John” Isla broke the news after dinner.  We were all going to breathtaking, fascinating El Nido.

I must confess this was going to be my first time, so I was as excited as everyone else in the group.  I came fully prepared for a wonderful weekend.

Unknown to many of us, there are several islands in El Nido. There is the Palawan mainland, which has several well-known beach areas like the Commandos Point, Lapus-Lapus Beach, and others. It is also here where environmentalists can enjoy something as esoteric as a mangrove tour along the Aberawan River where they can watch egrets roost among the mangrove trees at the mouth of the river, and an ancient burial site at the Cudugnon Cave which archeologists will find stupefying. 

There is the Cadlao Island, the largest in the group of islands, which is said to have the highest peak at 609 meters above sea level. It is also the biggest, with a land area of 1,000 hectares! I think this island bears discovering, from what I’ve heard of it. It has white-sand beaches, which by today’s standards is now de rigueur among first-class resorts, and plenty of hidden lagoons inside the island. 

And then there is the Miniloc Island, apart from about ten other major islands comprising El Nido, which was going to be home sweet home for the weekend, courtesy of Toyota.

It is an area blessed with fine white sand, several islands and islets dotting its scenery, and a perfectly sculpted landscape. We were told that there are some 45 islands and islets within the bay, and right the next morning, the order of the day was island hopping to discover the many wonders of these islands. Though we did not get to explore all the islands, we learned that there were many caves around the islands. One of the bigger islands, Paglugaban Island, has one and a group can go kayaking to this cave to admire the stalactite and stalagmite formations.

We did go Kayaking in a group composed of Sir John, Jing Atienza,  Al Mendoza, Popong Andolong and myself, but alas, we didn’t have the luxury of time to explore all the natural wonders of the islands. There is so much to see, like the cathedral-like cavern in yet another island, the Pinasil Island. Or the limestone walls of the Pinagbuyutan Island, which is also quite famous. Or the Vigan Island, which swimmers and picnickers prefer, due to its natural sandpit, the beach offers shallow swimming areas.

Even a week is not enough to explore and discover the many wonders of El Nido. We only had a couple of days, so we made the most of it-Kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, cavorting in the beach. I got my feet wet, literally, in scuba diving more than a decade ago in Anilao, Batangas, more specifically the Vistamar Resort where beginners like me gaped in awe at the “cathedral”, one of the many attractions of this resort which is a haven for scuba divers.  But somehow, I did not get to pursue it further, after only a few dives. So, my scuba dive at El Nido was aborted much too soon, sooner than I would care to elaborate on, thanks to my years of non-practice. Have to start from scratch again, a promise I made to myself as I watched some of the more adventurous in the group, first timers really, dive to unknown depths.

But I did get to enjoy my snorkeling, and watched a plethora of colors swim by me. Swimming with the fishes, feeding the fishes, some of which were hefty groupers and talakitoks, like I did just about a month ago at the Shangri-La Resort in Mactan with the family. Common as it may seem to some, especially the veteran scuba divers, it is still a pleasure I can’t deny myself whenever I find myself in the beach. The relaxing waters, the colorful tropical fishes and the big feeders like the talakitoks — I can spend hours doing this, and literally find my back red as a lobster at the end of the day.  But what the heck, it was well worth it.

Two of the most breathtaking, awesome sites in the resort were the big and small lagoons. Scientists believe that these lagoons were actually caves which abound in these islands. The roofs of these caves must have collapsed millions of years ago, or so the scientists say, and these lagoons have emerged in their stead.  These are must-see for first-timers in El Nido, though one can’t miss out on these spectacular sites on your subsequent visits as well. For it is a spectacle to behold, Mother Nature at its best. The sheer beauty, the tranquility it offers-no wonder foreigners and locals alike don’t mind spending a fortune to bear witness, and enjoy nature’s masterpiece in Palawan. We relished the scenic experience as we sailed in the clear azure waters, while others chose to snorkel. Still others just drank in the scene, along with 2 or 3 bottles of beer.

Palawan has been touted as one of the last frontiers, and many share in the pleasurable task of preserving its beauty and purity. El Nido spearheads efforts in keeping the bay area clean, clearing it especially of non-biodegradable debris left by unscrupulous vacationers who think nothing of leaving behind their plastic wraps, soda cans, and other garbage. They give away the Eco-Nido bag which they enjoin their patrons to use to stash away their waste, and bring them out of the El Nido Protected Area on their way home. They do take their eco-friendly environment very seriously, a sentiment we all should share if we want to keep this last frontier as pure as we found it.

There is much to preserve in this frontier. Apart from the thriving coral reefs, El Nido’s aquatic resources are rich.  They still have their giant clams, the attractive pink and blue barrel sponge, and the colorful feather star. Then they have the gentle giant of the sea, the whale shark which only feeds on plankton, the Blacktip Reef shark, the rare Bryde’s whale, and the bottle-nosed dolphins, which are all benign, and the huge turtles, Hawksbill and Green Sea. On the wild life, they have the Palawan squirrel, the long-tailed macaque, the water monitor lizard, and the variety of rare birds found here — the Palawan hornbill, Eastern Reef egret, white-breasted sea eagle and migratory birds as well. All in, they provide a rich wildlife for Palawan.

A most enjoyable, relaxing time we had at El Nido, thanks to the ever-creative minds of the top honchos of Toyota who seem to outdo themselves every year. Where to next, Danny “Sir John” Isla?

Open House tomorrow

Asia Pacific Realty Holdings and Development Corp, managers of Philippine Realty Listings, will be hosting an Open House Affair for one of its partners, Pan Asia Property Management Inc. for one of its projects, Luxureville, the premiere development of Luxure Properties & Development Corporation, tomorrow, Sunday, May 4, at the site of Luxureville, Matthew St, Multinational Village in Paranaque City.  Professional Asia Pacific Sales Associates will be on site to assist clients who wish to be briefed on the project and see the on-site developments.  Other Asia Pacific business partners will be at different saturation points in BF Homes P’que and Mall of Asia to promote Luxureville. 

For tripping and on-site briefing and inspection of Luxureville, call 631-8822.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

For Comments: (e-mail) businessleisure-star@stv.com.ph

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