Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Enchanting Coron: Day 1 - Mt. Tapyas, Maquinit Hot spring

Got another chance recently to visit some beautiful beaches in the country. After attending two meetings in Manila, I took the opportunity to go on a side trip and this time it was to Coron in Palawan. Just this year they have upgraded the airport in Busuanga and there are now daily flights by Cebu Pacific and PAL Express. There are also the two other airlines servicing the place Zest Air and Sea Air. Hence there has been a jump in the number of tourists going to Coron. Coron is one of the towns in the island of Busuanga which is north of Palawan. Busuanga is the biggest island in the Calamian group of islands. The other town in Busuanga island is named also Busuanga. When I told some people that I was planning to go to Busuanga, the retort was quick: “Where is that?” For scuba divers around the world, the place is widely known for it has one of the largest concentration of World War II Japanese wrecks. Most of the foreigners who come to Coron are scuba divers. Since there are still few Filipino enthusiasts in this sports, the local tourists who flock to the islands come to visit the many beautiful lakes and white beaches and coves amidsts a setting of limestones cliffs and boulders and clear turquoise waters.

Since two of my friends happened to be already in Manila I invited them to join me in this trip. My other scuba diving buddy, Ronnie had to fly in from Tacloban. The four of us Ronnie, Mark, and Vincent took a Cebu Pacific flight to Busuanga. There were 50 passengers in that 70 seater plane. There was a slight turbulence as we came out of Manila and it was cloudy but it all cleared up when we arrived Busuanga. We took a van (150 fare per person) for the 23 kilometer ride to the town ofCoron. The road from the airport to the town is being cemented already, about 75% was already finished. We were told that the airport is part of the Yulo cattle ranch sequestered by the government for being a cover for the Marcoses. Since we did not have any reservations we asked the driver to bring us to some of the resorts in the area. We went first to the L & M Pe Sea Lodge which was right on the water near the market. We did not like it as the vacant rooms were not single beds. We decided to take the Darayonan Lodge which was also within the town proper. The room available had four beds. It was a native room with amakan for walls and ceilings but it had aircon. The rate was 1,600 with free breakfast.
We took our lunch at the Sea Dive resort and restaurant which was also sitting on top of the water by the sea. In the town proper of Coron there are no beaches. The town is just the jump-off point for the beautiful beaches that are found in the nearby islands. At the resort we met the photographer featured in the latest issue of Smile magazine of Cebu Pacific, Al Linsangan. He suggested that given our time, we just take the Maquinit hot spring and climb the 750 steps Mt. Tapyas in the afternoon before going scuba diving and taking the island hopping tour. While we were eating lunch we initially thought of going to Culion island, the former leper colony but decided otherwise when we were told that a special trip there would cost 4 thousand. So after lunch we decided to take a siesta first while Ronnie went to an internet café to follow up his business in Tacloban. By 3:30pm we started for the Maquinit Hot Springs. It is a 5km ride to the hot spring and cost 150 pesos round trip fare for the tricycle which just waited for us. The hot spring was just by the sea. Wonder of wonders, the water in the hot spring is salty. Since it sits just by the sea, the place could also be reached by boat. Day trippers would make it their last stop. There were a good number of people bathing when we arrived. The big circular pool had two smaller pools were the hot spring would gush forth. These two smaller pools were hotter than the bigger one.

Gong back to town, we hiked the 750 steps up Mt. Tapyas. It had a commanding view of the town and the islands in front. On top to the mountain was a huge steel cross. We arrived there just after sunset as it was getting dark.

We had our dinner at the La Sirenetta restaurant which was also on the waters just like the Sea Dive resort. The colums of the restaurant were carved with mermaids, hence the name. The owner we were told was a British married to a Filipina and their chef was the daughter who studied in Italy. The food was not bad and the price just a bit higher than the others.

Some islands that could be seen from the air.

Along the road from the airport one can see this herd of cattle. 

At the Sea Dive Resort and Restaurant where we took our lunch. It is one the popular hang outs of tourists in Coron. 

Ronnie showing the lobster he had for lunch

The road going to the Maquinit Hotspring

Maquinit Hot Spring

This hot spring although the source comes from the mountain  is salty.

The Maquinit Hotspring is just outside of the town of Coron. 

A grotto in the hotspring.

The waters from the hot spring flows right into the sea. 

The parish church of Coron dedicated to St. Augustine

The altar of the church of Coron

The steel cross on top of Mt. Tapyas. 
The town and nearby islands could be seen from on top the  mountain. 
Climbing the more than 700 steps to Mt. Tapyas was a test of stamina. Ronnie and Mark had to take a few rests before reaching the top of Mt. Tapyas.

The view of the town of  Coron from Mt. Tapyas. 

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