coron and its bountiful ,magical seas

am in the middle of the most beautiful seas and islands. the best fishes and rarest of marine food are here in coron but the filipinos cant buy them. they are exported at once to china, taiwan and japan.

tony and beth de castro brought me to spend a four day visit. i didnt plan anything and went with barely a schedule of what to do. the first sight from the air is a bouquet of pristine islets . upon landing in the new airport, we were greeted by staff who handed out forms for us. the bags were loaded quickly and retrieval was fast. a shuttle to the main coron was ready. the roads were partly cemented and the ride was a dusty one hour trip.

i saw the first row of mountains in coron , calamian islands. there is no beach shore,only  an expanding pier,a small market and  rows of boats, smaller barges a yatch. the streets are narrow but carry large street  signs, making it easy  to navigate and  find institutions. the first order of the day was to visit the farms that tony and beth own. a tricycle was handy and we went to the nearest farm. later, tony and beth said we would meet many of  tony’s relatives. it turned out tony has a town full of relatives. the whole day, people came up their bamboo house and brought water to drink, pails to bathe with and the meals were organized. we were told that water was rationed by the local mayor. that was the first item: conserve water. how paradoxical, so much water everywhere and not a drop to waste. why? the mountains are denuded and the springs have dried up. the coron wells have dried up too and the local water utility has to ration water.

the evening was good. we met the expat community in the french bistro. the food was good, especially the scallops and salmon. the british david jones treated us and we ate all his dinner. later we found out the scallops were from new zealand, the salmon from norway, and the sausage was from brazil. we were entertained with stories  of sunken japanese  ships and the treasures retrieved. it  astonished us,  so this is the reason the french, the germans, the british and other foreigners are in coron ? i wonder how many filipinos were part of this bounty hunting. the french mother and son, marie and pierre, told us how lovely coron is and why they like it. pieere even showed us his map of the calamian islands and his tshirts with the  japanese sunken ships. it was a detailed map and he said he was selling it.later i found out it was P1000 per copy and pierre gave tony and beth a gift copy. we didnt buy his  t shirts  because they were p1000 each.

going back to the bamboo house, i wondered how we  could bath before bedtime. since we could only use one tabu of water. i just made do with all the water in two tabus. but no problem, we were going to travel by boat to other islands according to beth ” we could bathe and have fun in the other islets”.

the next day, we went up 750 steps to see a view of coron and some of the busuanga islands.  the philippines is full of 7100 islands, what is so precious in busuanga, or in coron alone? if you have seen the suhotan coves in siargao or the hundred islands in alaminos, multiply the islands ten times and pour more  marine resources. the scene is magical, even more mysterious as you approach the ancestral mountains of the tagbanuas. they are jagged and impossible to climb nor fly over. it is a dangerous habitat to explore and only the hand of God can allow you to open its fortresses. i took some photos and you decide if you can do rapeling or trekking inside its bosom.

tourists can find various diving sites. am a fire woman, not a water nymph. the gentle  waves of the sea beckons and i closed my eyes, tasted its salty balmy fingers. that was enough. when i saw the deep blue sea,  i retreated to my fear of drowning. am no swimmer, it told beth.  i was happy just watching her boys and their cousins  dive and swim with the fishes. we went to five diving sites and i only sat on the  boat ladder, feeding the fish with crackers. no dare, no sea glory. but i did the clinging and trekking. the sea floor was varied, mossy, rugged, sandy and jagged. but the sea life  colours, that’s a feast for everyone. in my next life, i shall be a daring diver, i told myself.

in the next two days, i  ate a lot of lato, the seaweeds that looks like small grapes and is salty and delicious. beth and tony told me to eat all the seafood but i wasnt familiar with the ume, a black spiny anemone looking animal. when you open it, it looks like chicken shit, you shake the shit and find a yoke which tastes like an egg yoke but not particularly exciting like balut. the japanese eat ume as an exotic food and it is expensive, according to beth. the de castros are fond  of seafood and they go to the market to buy the daily catch.

what does one do in coron? swimming, snorkelling,diving, spelunking, trekking, eating and talking to the locals and expats. for a first visitor, the coron tourist sites are a must but dont expect vital information like schedules of boat  trips to the islands , what they will cost and what to bring.   visitors  need to plan many things, from knowing which islands to go first and what tours are reasonable. hiring boats vary plus the diving and snorkelling  costs .  even tony’s relatives were surprised at the entrance fees in every island we went to. according to one fee collector in 7 pescados, P100 per adult is a snorkelling fee but locals are free. in the tagbanua ancestral islands, P200 per visitor is the entrance fee in kayangian lakes . as we were paying the boat P2000 for the day, paying P200 each for 12 pax would be  P2400, so we had to negotiate that only three of us were visitors and the rest were locals. we found out that the fees were for conservation of the tagbanuas ancestral domain and we didnt mind paying.

what about food? there are a few good  international restaurants but the french bistro is popular with the expats and middle class.we found their pizzas good and their scallops very delicious. the drinks are at par with manila’s drinks but the local kids love ice cold coke while the men, san miguel beer. i drank a lot of buko juice and was happy with coconut water aplenty in coron. we had home cooked food, courtesy of tony’s relatives but we didnt have time to really find where bird’s nest soup and clams, squids, and other seafood fare were available. the de castros had a tight schedule visiting their farms and talking to their relatives,convincing them to go organic and try vermiculture.

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