My first encounter with pure, almost deafening silence was surprisingly in the province that was two hours away from the town of El Nido, via a winding dirt road. Joshua and I found ourselves in a tiny compound of ten nipa huts, fronting the ocean. My heart pounded, not because I didn’t trust my surroundings but because the silence and near solitude were quite unfamiliar to me.
“Good evening Ma’am and Sir, your bahay kubo is the one on the top left, but before you enter, here are a few reminders. There’s no electricity here until we turn on our generator from 6-10PM daily. If you need to charge your cellphone, we have a solar powered room next to the front desk. You may walk down this area to find the common bathroom, and in your room, you will find a kulambo (mosquito net), Off lotion and bottles of water. My name is Randy and I’m the tour operator. I will be taking everyone island hopping tomorrow, to places you’ve never seen before”
“Iba na rin talaga ang itsura ng dagat sa standard tours ngayon. Kalbo kalbo na ang mga coral dahil sa dami ng bangka na dumadaong, at kumokonti na yung isda.” (The ocean has changed drastically in those standard tours that the people in the town proper offer. Due to the increasing number of boats that dock just anywhere, corals have been destroyed and there are less fish)
Kuya Randy was a dive master. His salt and pepper hair and dark brown skin tell you that this has been his passion for years. A Pawaleno at birth, he’s seen much of its islands and explored the depths of its oceans with divers from all over the world. Though his age doesn’t permit him to dive as deep anymore, he loves to share the beauty of the ocean to a few number of snorkelling tourists at a time. Thanks to his tenure, Kuya Randy has designed a tour of Palawan’s secluded islands, unique from the standard El Nido tours.
And what a unique, breath-taking experience it truly was! It was a whole other world down there, astounding in every sense of the word. Aside from these corals, we bumped into swift-moving pawikans (turtles), a squid and a baby shark! Kuya Randy even scooped up a fish, which immediately bloated up (we put him back and didn’t stress him out too much, of course!)
Kuya Randy not only let us explore these hidden troves, but brought us to a beautiful islet with such fine, white sand and crystal clear waters! The best part was that we had it all to ourselves- no signs of trash or traces of footprints, just a few harmless boars roaming around. We all hoped it would stay that way, and that they wouldn’t develop the land into another luxury hotel of sorts.
Capped off our island hopping trip with a meal of seafood, rice and veggies on the islet, and said thank you to Kuya Randy for giving us the best snorkeling experience ever. We will most definitely be back in this side of El Nido soon and try out the other tours he designed. I’m willing to give up electricity, aircondition wifi signal, and other such commodities just to be this close to nature again.
At night, our little group lay on the hammocks and beach beds, built a bonfire, and spoke in hushed tones, underneath the blanket of stars. It was the most comforting silence I’ve ever heard.