One of our regular activities for the faculty and staff at school, at least when we are not busy with meetings and school programs, is island hopping on the Geographic with Kuya Mesach, our ever-reliable and trusted boatman.

We were in front of El Nido Corner Beach Bar and Restaurant early in the morning, armed with lots of food and water, as well as good spirits.

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

The sky was really clear and star-filled the night before but the morning turned out to be gray and overcast.

And just as we were pulling out, headed for the islands, rain began to fall, and furiously fall it did.

We were enveloped in hard, pouring rain all the way to Hidden Beach. All our things were wet and I could not even open my eyes as rain water drenched my face and everything else.

But the best part of the trip happened, at least for me, during this time. I opened my eyes to look at the sea, and it was as calm as the desert on a windless day. The waves flowed up and down, side by side, like silk sheets blowing in the wind, and the rain drops seemed like a thousand sprinkled diamonds.

I used to not like the rain so much, until I met someone who lived and worked in the desert where it never rained. How he loved the rain on his face! I have never seen a man delight in rain so much before.

I myself used to float on my back in the water on rainy evenings. That’s one of the memories I have with Teacher Armie, who now lives in Slovenia with her husband. We used to swim in the beach in front of the town nearly every day. I especially loved it when it was raining – only because I loved watching the raindrops sparkle like stars on black sky.

Lia was fast asleep between Lovely and Amor (what beautiful names by the way) all the way to Hidden Beach, despite the rain drenching everything and everyone including Tutu, who was with us as per usual.

As we were approaching Hidden Beach, the rain began to wane, and it was evident by the number of boats that the beach was packed. We chose to be on the beach right next to Hidden Beach, had it for ourselves –  swimming, and snorkeling; and had sumptuous lunch of chicken adobo, and fresh grilled fish, eggs, tomatoes, and eggplants.

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Lia was her usual beach babe self. I had to feed her lunch in the water because she just refused to get out.

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Leaving Hidden Beach, we embarked on, this-time, a dry trip to Secret Beach, on the other side of the island.

Alongside our boat was another, smaller boat, headed for the Matinloc Shrine. Because rain wasn’t falling on us like pigs and carabaos, I was able to take out my camera and take a couple of shots here and there.

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Let me tell you a little something about Matinloc Shrine. I explored the shrine once in March 2006. Aside from a museum with religious memorabilia, it had rooms that looked like dormitories meant for retreats. I managed to sneak into some of the rooms through some open windows and saw the biggest bath tubs and jacuzzis I have ever seen. I thought, “Is this a resort shrine or a resort pretending to be a shrine?”

I took a lot of photos on that trip that I burned into a cd using the school’s computer. When I got back to Manila, I tried accessing the files using my own laptop and the CD LITERALLY BURNED. Wow, I didn’t even think that was possible, until then.

Another little anecdote I have is this one afternoon that I went to one of the teachers’ store and was told someone from church was looking for me. It was my in-laws! They have come on this religious pilgrimage to Matinloc. I had to stop myself from telling them the entire thing is a hoax! (I have another interesting story, but no, it’s too controversial for me to tell.)

Here are some blogs with photos of Matinloc: Locomote 101 and The Poor Traveler.

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

We passed the shrine and headed straight to Secret Beach – a patch of sand and rocks that you have to swim through a hole to get to.

Secret Beach is accessible both during high tide and low tide, as long as the wind and waters are calm. On this time, it supposedly was, making it possible for us and other tourists to get through to the beach.

Having been there a number of times, I had wanted to just stay in the boat and wait for the others to come back; but the boat rocked to and fro that we thought we would throw up anyway.

I asked Lia if she wanted to go through that hole, and by golly, she said YES!

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

So off we all went.

She had wanted to ride on my back while I swam, but Kuya Mesach, being more experienced and bigger than me, took her instead.

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

I would have to say though that the most interesting part of this trip was when we we’re all trying to get back into the boat afterwards. The Geographic does not have a ladder so we we’re all ingenuous with our means of getting back into the boat.

One of us, being a little on the heavy side, was having a hard time hoisting herself up into the boat, so those of us who were already on the boat, tried to balance the boat by stepping on the outrigger on the other side. But just as she was nearly there, she decided to let go and jump back into the water – and the boat tipped so low on the our side that I saw my daughter’s face nearly touch the water. My heart stopped for a second! Two of us jumped back into the water too and I jumped back into the boat deck.

Whew. Scary stuff.

We we’re all laughing, even the other tourists on the other boats who were all watching this struggle and impending doom unfold.

But, darn. That was quite a scare.

We managed to leave Secret Beach anyway with Kuya Mesach and his sons Rojame and Jotham maneuvering the boat.

Island Hopping, Matinloc Island, El Nido, Palawan

On the way back, I was so tired I wanted a little cat nap, but Lia kept her eyes open, watching the scenery with sleepy yet interested eyes.

It was a tiring trip but still worth it. Lia and Lovely had a great time. I know there’s more to come, and though sometimes I feel I have seen enough of beaches, I would board a boat any time, any day, rain or shrine, I mean, shine.

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