Palawan

Calauit Weekend

I’m in Coron town as I write this; at the nice Acacia Garden Inn on a quiet road parallel the noisy highway. It’s been 15 years since my last and only trip here and I barely recognize the place. The two nights I spent at Calauit with the team facilitating workshops with the Tagbanua were wonderful. I never ever did any research in Palawan so I quickly grabbed the opportunity to join the team. I never had a better field site with so much food. Never was a fan of seafood but the fish was so fresh and I never had local octopus before.

It was an experience hearing samples of tablay, a traditional Tagbanua song and the Cuyunon carol, “El SeƱor Tagbalay” which I only ever heard through recordings. I got all these data via an impromptu “Tagbanua Got Talent” contest.

There are still so much to learn from the locals and they promised to bring some music instruments next time.

After our delicious lunch 8f crabs, octopus, and lomi, we set-off for the other side. We took a bigger boat this time which managed to fit all of us plus our stuff back to the pier on the other side. It was still high tide thus we managed to dock at the concrete pier which had much better steps. Another 2 hour bus ride and we’re back in Coron town.

I will miss the water and the beautiful sunrise that greets me each time I get up.

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Beautiful Calauit

I arrived at the small rickety pier at Quezon, a small town at one end of Busuanga. It was a little past 3pm and the tide had gone out exposing the tangled roots of mangroves and the sand.

I was with a team of 4 people from the university, our contact from one of the NGOs based in Coron town, and a few Tagbanua from San Isidro who were joining a worskhop we were facilitating. They had all met us at the airport from where we took the 2-hour van ride to this little pier after lunch at the eatery just outside the Arrivals. I slept most of the way, oblivious to all the bumps and the curves. From across the pier, I could see the island of Calauit. Nope, not the part of the island made (in)famous by the crazy dream of a dictator to establish an African safari in the tropics. We were headed to the other side where gentle dugongs swam and feasted on sea grass.

The most challenging part of the trip was getting down the bamboo ladder with rungs that were so spaced far apart.

Because the water was so low, the boats had to be pushed by two men from the pier to deeper water. We probably could have walked all the way to the other side. A few pushes on the shallow sea bed with his long bamboo pole and the boat had enough depth to start its engines. It took a while before the engine sputtered to life. One of the boats had already gone ahead and we were in the middle of the calm sea. What if we drifted out to the open? But the engine roared to life and we were on our way.

We docked at the small pier and headed to the Dugong Research Center, a 2-storey wood and thatch house where we were to stay for the next couple of nights. Never mind the very basic amenities, I was thrilled to be sleeping with the sound of the sea.

There was nothing much to do for the rest of the day so three of us decided to take a walk around the village guided by Bornok, a Tagbanua from San Isidro who has been to Calauit a couple of times.

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