The guard seemed puzzled that a guest would be heading to the beach as early as four a.m. “Mag sho-shoot lang po sir! (I’m gonna shoot some photos sir!)” I said. “Ah cge sir! (Go ahead sir!” he replied with a smile as he unlocks the side door. It was the main gate from El Puerto Marina Beach Resort and its a few meters walk to the beach walking, by the resort fence on a dirt path. The nocturnal salty air got stronger as I near the shore. I seemed to have stirred the attention of a resident dog who doesn’t stop barking seeing (or was it smelling) my presence there. Another guard doing his round saw me and I sent a quick wave to to let him know I saw him there and start setting up my tripod for a shoot. The landscape was well-lit by the waning crescent moon. I wanted to shoot stars but this dreamy and solemn landscape will do. Lingayen beach in all its vast morning glory unseen in slumber.
A 4–5 hours drive in a private van from Manila to western part of Lingayen, in North Pangasinan led us to El Puerto Marina Beach Resort. A resort that seemed to be at its lonesome on the western end of Lingayen Beach. Secluded and far-flung. Within its gate and fenced property is a fairly large area. There’s enough parking space for at least 5 vehicles. There’s a fishing pond, a pavilion for dining and if you look closely by the reception counter, a small pond with an arapaima.
There was a night in Sibaltan, El Nido where a group of performers from the Sibaltan Heritage Society (SHC) showcased a few Cuyonon folk dances. Cuyonons, are an ethno-linguistic group that originated from Cuyo Island. I watch at least five pairs of young boys and girls enthusiastically dance on the sand, under somewhat dim light of the night from Tapik Beach resort. The sound coming from a boom box was all treble with scratchy bass but the performance was all heart and passion as we could see the expressions from the young performers as they execute dance steps highly Spanish-influenced, often upbeat to jumpy with a lot of swirl movements from the girl. I could not understand the lyrics but I was told these dances are often about Cuyonon life – livelihood, courtships, marriage that are often depicted with witty naughtiness to slightly obscene which is a character of Cuyonon songs. Watching this humble spectacle made me imagine how the Cuyonons manage to cross the Sulu Seas, traversing at least 100 nautical miles to reach the shores of Paragua, what we know now as the land of Palawan. The newly built Pangko Maritime Museum in Sibaltan, sheds some light into the history of Cuyonon migration.
All eyes were on me. Somehow, my presence interrupted what seemed to be an early morning trade of freshly caught fish and other seafood. I was running the upper stretch of the San Vicente Long Beach in Palawan and just reached the rocky cliff cutting the long stretch of this white sand beach on the other side. I was already heading back when I caught this small crowd and it seems from their reaction, they don’t get as many visitors as early as this morning. “Magandang umaga po! Ano pong meron dyan? (Good morning! What’s in here?)” I asked, bringing out my best smile which seemed to have broken the tense and curios atmosphere. I was reciprocated with the genuine smiles from the locals and they went on with their bargains, weighing-in of goods and sale. I went on with my run back to where I started.
So you have done all the tours in El Nido Palawan from Tours A, B, C, D and E. The west side of El Nido, the Bacuit Bay in particular does have dramatic limestone karst islands and captivating beaches, but El Nido doesn’t end there. The other side, the El Nido east coast holds more islands to explore and stunning white sand beached to bum around. Sibaltan is the jump off point for these island adventures. I have written about some of the islands of Linapacan, now discover the limestone of Imorigue Island. From afar it looks daunting but the locals swear on how rich the marine life surrounding its waters are.