We get a ton of story submissions everyday here at WhenInManila.com, but it is not everyday I read a story that moves me. This is one of those special occasions.
André Fonseca wrote to me saying that he saw an amazing video of El Nido on WIM, and decided to share his as well. In his email, he gushed about the beauty of El Nido, and expressed how much he and his wife missed “this paradise.” He wrote an exclusive account of this travel to El Nido for WIM, which I’m including on here, along with some great photos.
Read on. There is much to learn in the way travelers like André see the Philippines and “the human experience and the kindness of its people.”
My name is André and I’m a 34 year old Portuguese. I’m graduated in Environmental Engineering and I work at a local University as a laboratory technician. I am married (my wife name is Tania) and we have a 3 year old daughter. I am addicted to travel, even though I wish I could enjoy this kind of addiction more often… In my free time, when I am not spending quality time with my family and friends, I am usually playing sports (trail running, football, volleyball) or dreaming with the next travel destination… Me and Tania visited El Nido in late March and beginning of April of 2016.
My personal view of El Nido: The right time to come is…now!
Like many others, we live a simple and modest life all year long in order to save some money to travel internationally once or twice a year. So, when it finally comes the time to travel, our anxiety and expectations are always sky high! Our trip to El Nido, which was being prepared for months, was no exception! Even though a lot of effort ($$$) has to be made to get there all the way from Portugal, the appeal of dramatic limestone cliffs falling into crystal clear waters and bordered by pristine sandy beaches and palm trees was enough to convince us!
And El Nido is indeed a natural wonder that leaves, even the most skeptical eye, mesmerized with so much natural beauty. The islands, beaches and caves along Bacuit Bay and the colorful and luxuriant life that happens underwater makes El Nido, probably, the most beautiful place I have ever been to…
But El Nido is much more than that… It is also about the human experience and the kindness of its people. Ok, I know it might sound like the romantic vision we like to build when we visit the place of our dreams. And I also know not that, despite being a remote place, El Nido has been under the radar for quite a while and probably is significantly different from what it used to be when it was just a quiet and forgotten fishing village… However, it was in this busy little town, barely able to cope with the growing flocks of tourists arriving every day, that I discovered genuine hospitality in its most pure form.
My reasonable share of international travel has made develop a natural defense against tourist traps and scams and to be constantly suspicious when negotiating with locals in touristic places. But honesty, kindness, integrity, joy and humility was all that I found in El Nido. There, I was able to witness first hand some episodes that revealed the very best of human nature.
Just one small example: once, I was waiting in the line to buy dinner in a food stall, where there were being prepared a kind of deep fried vegetable pork sticks (delicious, by the way). The business was run by a young couple who had a baby daughter around 2 years old. The wife was frying the pork sticks and the husband was collecting payments from customers. The cost of each pork stick was 5 pesos only (in Portugal, it wouldn’t be enough to pay the meat itself). I found myself wondering how much would they profit from each pork stick sold… Half peso? One peso? How much pork sticks would they have to sell in a week in order to ensure a decent life for their family? Hundreds? Probably not… Thousands maybe? Probably enough to lead to exhaustion… But instead of exhaustion and apprehension, in that family I saw contagious energy and a giant smile crossing their faces.
I was deep in thought when the husband realized that the last customer had forgotten the change. The customer had already leaved but the husband started running like crazy shouting “Excuse me… Mister! Mister!” in the middle of El Nido’s main strip until he finally reached the customer and returned his change. I don’t know how much money it was, but judging by the amount of bills, it would be enough to buy a lot of pork sticks! This wasn’t just an isolated case, it was the norm throughout our entire stay. I guess El Nido has managed to preserve so far the identity of its people. It is not common in a place so strongly shaped by the tourist industry.
However, it is with some concern that I anticipate the future… I fear that, in a few years, the growing touristic pressure might asphyxiate and endanger this special place. Not only the fragile ecological balance of the islands and the already chaotic little town, but also the character of its people, which remains somehow untouched. I don’t know what the future holds… But one thing I know: if you want to visit El Nido… hurry up!
There is a saying that goes, “you should never try to go back to the place where you were once happy”. But I would love to return and prove myself how much I was wrong… Sunbathe again in unspoiled beaches… Taste again the hospitality of the locals… And watch again kids playing on the beach with nothing but innocence and curiosity in their eyes and without asking for anything in return … Until this moment comes, all I have left to say is, “Hanggang sa muli Palawan.”
What do you think of André’s story? If you have your own stories to share as well, about anything under the sun, send them in! We’d love to hear from you. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with me on Facebook at facebook.com/wheninmanilanicole.