On our second day in El Nido, Palawan, I noticed our tour guide handing over our bags to a lady foreigner as she placed them all at the back of the boat. The other crew member standing beside me probably saw the wondering look on my face. “Si Madlen yan. German. Tumutulong sa amin na mag island hopping dito,” he said. Well, I thought, this is something you don’t see everyday. This vacation just got a little more interesting.
Meet 27-year old Madlen Muller, a German national who volunteers as boat hand in island tours in El Nido. She used to work at an automotive company in Taiwan. She will be going back to her homeland in Germany where she would be working as product marketing executive for another auto company. Since she had a month to spare before jumping in to her new job, she thought of exploring El Nido. A diver, she first fell in love with Palawan when she visited the province back in 2014.
“I just searched the internet for good diving places, and that’s how I chanced upon Palawan,” Madlen said. “When I came here to El Nido, I thought I should try asking the people here if I could help them out with the island hopping tours and they said yes right away.”
Who wouldn’t? Madlen doesn’t ask for any salary. The spectacular sights, pristine beaches, breathtaking dive spots, and free food are more than enough to compensate for whatever she can contribute. It helps that Filipinos are naturally warm and happy people, making Madlen feel at ease right away. Most of the time, she helps a lot with cooking food for the tourists. One of the perks of being an island tour apprentice is that she gets to have a lot of lazy moments especially when the guests are out swimming or exploring the islands.
Of course, she goes diving every chance she gets and would always be ready to tell you about the awesome sharks she encountered from her diving adventures in the islands of Palawan. I told her that she should also visit other diving spots in the country like Coron and Tubbataha Reef (also in Palawan), Anilao in Batangas, Puerto Galera in Mindoro, Romblon Island, to name a few. You can bet her eyes lit up when I mentioned these places that she can explore in the Philippines.
Her favorite Filipino food, she says, is sinangag (rice fried in garlic). She has learned a sprinkling of Tagalog words thus far, but I expect her to know enough by the time she finishes her one month on the volunteer job. During the entire tour, I only heard her say tugtog (music), probably asking the crew if she can play music. Before we parted, I taught her the staple curse that we Pinoys like to throw around regardless of our mood (yes, that PI curse). “I will take note of that,” she said, laughing.
YOLO, you say? Well, Madlen sure knows how it’s done. So if you happen to spend the rest of your summer in El Nido, do ask the boatmen about this German girl named Madlen. Let’s make sure she enjoys the rest of her stay and make her want to come back with her family and friends.