It was an unplanned trip that surprised everyone. It took me only three days to plan and book everything for the trip while everyone at home were clueless where we were going. After I booked our flights, it was only then that I told them where we were headed and everyone’s jaw dropped.
Welcome to Busuanga!
Coron has been on my travel list for two years now and I cannot contain my excitement as we boarded our PAL flight. This trip was my second attempt to visit the destination with my first being cancelled on the last minute because of my unfounded fear of traveling alone back then. As small islands came into full view, with their pockets of white sand beaches, during the descent, my anticipation on what to expect just grew. Finally...
As we touched down at the Francisco Reyes Airport in Busuanga, we were greeted by green sloping grasslands and good weather. Busuanga serves as the entry point for the island by air and you can either go to Coron or Calauit from there. In our case, it was going to be another 30-40 minute ride to the town of Coron via van transfers which our inn arranged for us.
The Sleepy Town of Coron
Coron is a small sleepy town on the eastern side of Busuanga Island in Palawan. With fishing and tourism as its main source of livelihood for many locals, the town is the economic center of the Calamian Island. Its population is largely concentrated within the poblacion so you can expect that most tourist accomodations and amenities are within the same area.
After checking in at Casa Montemar Bed and Breakfast, we arranged for our tours before heading off to wander around town to look for a good place to eat. Coron town should not be confused with Coron Island because the island is actually across the sea waters from town. Nevertheless the town has its own attractions that you can enjoy in a couple of hours.
Foodstop: Lolo Nonoy's Food Station
There are a lot of food stops in Coron that caters to almost all kinds of taste buds. Blame it on the influx of local and international tourists, different restaurants have popped up to cater to the demand for varying food choices. But Filipino food dishes still trumps the rest with the popularity of Lolo Nonoy's Food Station.
The restaurant, located within the town proper, is an obvious choice by locals when you ask them for the best place to eat in Coron. It serves Filipino dishes in two ways - the hungry can choose from the prepared food choices "turo-turo" style or you can have a dish prepared from their menu for those who can wait.
The food is great and it is value for your money. Since Coron has an abundance of seafood, a definite must try is their seafood dishes prepared fresh. A must try is the Chili Crab. We highly suggest Lolo Nonoy's as a suggested food stop when in Coron.
Walking Around Coron
As we still had extra time to spare after having lunch, we decided to walk around town. The town had that extra festive vibe with the buntings and a nearby flea market. It turns out that it was the last week of celebration for their town fiesta. Coron celebrates its fiesta every August 28 in honor of their patron San Agustin and we visited just as the town was wrapping up its celebration.
San Agustin Parish Church
Quaint and simple, the San Agustin Church mirrors life of Coron. The church stands unassuming with its white facade by the Poblacion's main highway. Its simple and modern designed exterior completes its community church feel. On one side of the church's front is a small grotto where guests can light a candle and say a short prayer.
As you step inside the church, you will be amazed by its simplicity. The high ceiling and its white colored interior give you that impressive feel of a huge space. The altar stands at the front with its mix of brown and gold colors with Jesus Christ on the Cross as its highlight. A separate pulpit on the right side was set up to honor their patron saint.
The church is actually part of the Coron Town tour but we decided to drop by the church to say a prayer of thanksgiving for our weekend.
Coron Town Plaza and Municipal Hall
As we walked down the street where a flea market was set up, we came across their huge town plaza with its recreational facilities. The plaza sits at the center of Coron and it seems that it is also the center of all activities of the town. It is complete with a basketball court, tennis courts, and a performing stage.
On one corner is a Pot Monument that serves as the community's reminder of its centennial celebration in 2002. I am still trying to figure out the symbolism of the pot to the town of Coron.
Just right across the Plaza is the seat of Coron's government - the Municipal Hall. The two-floor building was still buzzing with activities when we got there. The activity was probably because of the activities happening that would conclude their annual fiesta.
A Late Afternoon in Coron
The town of Coron has its own unique charm. Apart from it being the jump off point to the nearby Coron Island, it also hasits own attractions that tourists can enjoy. In fact, late afternoons come alive with tricycle drivers and van tour operators buzzing tourists for the town tour. Here is a tip, you can get a cheaper rate if you hire tricycles for the tour. You can also help locals get dditional income from these activities.
Our first stop was Lualhati Park. The park that sits along the Coron Passage and it is a good vantage point to see Coron's landscape and seascape. It offers a good peek of the nearby Coron Island and other surrounding islands while you get to see the rugged terrain of Coron on one side.
The park springs to life in the afternoons as it is a favorite spot by locals to spend lazy afternoons. The breeze that blows from the sea is relaxing as you watch boats docking by. The best way to enjoy the park is by sitting by the sea wall while watching everything go by with ice cream on hand.
A trip to Coron will not be complete if you have not traversed the 700+ steps leading up to Mount Tapyas. Mount Tapyas is the second highest peak in Coron standing at 210 meters above sea level and offers an amazing 360 degree view of Coron town and its surrounding areas. The trek to the top can take you 20 to 40 minutes depending on your pacing. Take your time and enjoy the views on the rest stops. There is no need to rush.
The magnificent view from the top of the mountain is a just reward for the challenge of traversing its steps. A viewing deck was constructed that gives guests a full overhead view of the town, Coron Island, and its surrounding areas. A large cross was also installed that is also illuminated at night and serves as a beacon for seafarers.
There is more to discover at the top. There is a small cemented pathway that leads to a smaller viewing deck at the back where you will be treated with a refreshing view of the grasslands. The setting sun gave the hilly terrain a shade of orange color which made it look surreal.
I wish that I could have stayed longer or until the sun had set because I reckon that it would have been an amazing view from that vantage point.
Hot tip: Make sure that you bring a bottle of water and a sweat towel for the trek.
Maquinit Hot Spring (Entrance Fee: Php200)
What is the best way to end a physically challenging day? Taking a dip at the Maquinit Hot Spring.
The road to the hot spring is a mix of an easy and rough ride. It is a 20-30 minute ride through the smaller streets of Coron and along thick vegetation. It didn't help that it was starting to get dark on our way there. It was pitch dark, with only the headlights of our tricycle providing light, that it was like you were at the set of the "Blair Witch Project". But do not let the fear take hold of you because there is nothing more refreshing than taking a quick dip at the hot spring to relax and soothe your tired muscles.
It was already dark when we got to Maquinit Hot Spring. Interestingly despite the distance and the darkness of the evening, a lot of guests still poured in to take a dip. There are two elevated small pools and two large pools where the water flows before it flows off the adjacent river. Our driver/guide told us that the water on the smaller ones. Word of caution though, do not jump into the pool because it is hotter than usual. Take the time to make your body adjust to the temperature as you slowly dip yourself.
But once you have adjusted, taking that relaxing dip on this hot saltwater pool is the best way to end your Coron day tour.
Post Travel Notes
The town of Coron has its own charm that attracts visitors. I like the simple life of the town and its people. It is amazing how the locals were able to incorporate the town's attraction to their daily lives, with the exception of Maquinit Hot Spring. Tourists get to climb the steps of Tapyas with a pregnant local who does the routine as a regular exercise. On the other hand, you can share stories with locals as you watch the afternoon go by at the park.
Coron is quaint but at the heart of its beauty are the locals who have no qualms giving you a smile when you meet them.
Watch out for the second serving of our Coron experience soon.
Getting there: Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Skyjet have regular daily flights to Busuanga. You can take a van to Coron proper. If you are looking for a nice place to stay in Coron, I highly suggest Casa Montemar Bed and Breakfast.
Going around touring the town is easy with Kuya Harvey, our trike driver/guide, who can also give you tips on where to eat and bring home great pasalubongs. You may reach him at +63995 3835713.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.