I have always dreamed of finding pristine places that have never been photographed, documented, or set foot on by tourists. I was certain that places like these still exist in our country, with all its 7,000+ glorious islands. With that idea in mind, we entrusted our lives to 16 to 24 year old boys, all masters of the waters, some even former pirates of the Sulu Sea, to navigate us to islands so remote you wouldn’t even bother asking for fresh water for bucket showers. Forget about your last name, educational degree, and even the toilets. On a trip like this, when you depend on these boys for food, shelter, and navigation, none of those things matter. Your life is basically in their hands.
The idea was to sail for a week from the port of El Nido to Busuanga and stop at any interesting islands, coral reefs, ship wrecks, and communities that we pass through along the way. We would then spend our nights in camps near fishing communities which were pre-arranged by these boys. El Nido and Coron are well established beautiful destinations, but we were interested in finding the unknown, in between islands, of these places.
Traveling by boat from El Nido to Busuanga on a straight line, nonstop, takes approximately 5 to 7 hours, and considering the area and countless islands in between, we knew we would be in for a treat. Security was a big risk of course as pirates and terrorists are known to patrol the Sulu and West Philippine seas. But this thought was left unspoken for the entirety of the trip; maybe because we felt that the reward would definitely outweigh the risk. Thankfully, we were right.
On that week long journey, we explored islands that did not show any trace of human habitation. We found communities so detached from civilization that they basically spoke their own dialect. We sailed with pods of dolphins, and swam with dugongs, sea turtles, reef sharks, and giant schools of fish. The footages I captured on that trip certainly do not give justice to the stunning beauty I witnessed. I also had to use my equipment sparingly because we did not have a definite source of electricity.
In my interactions with some of the locals, I learned that they were happy and contented with their lives as fishermen, and prefer their home islands not to be found by land developers or tourists. At first they were very wary of me and my camera equipment, and I had to earn a certain level of trust before I could openly confide with them. According to them, the sea provides, while the irresponsible tourists destroy. Based on those words, I knew I was given the moral responsibility of just showing the beauty of these places, without telling exactly where, and how to get there. With a secretive grin on his face one fisherman patted me on my back and said, “If your family asks where you’ve been, just say Palawan.”
Watch the video here:
“Disconnect” is a series of travel films and music videos by Christer Isulat that documents destinations off the beaten path, or hidden places on otherwise popular locations. Follow the series at www.xtr-creative.com or directly on Vimeo at vimeo.com/xtrcreative
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