In November 2015, two years into the relationship with this charming Italian man who goes by the name of Fabio, despite it being marred by many extremely difficult experiences, our future slowly began to take shape. Fabio began to consider settling down, ending his nearly twenty years of wandering. “But first, I have to get to Australia. It would be a pity if I had been to Asia many times but never made it to Australia. It is in my bucket list,” he had said. We started to make plans for going to Australia. “Let’s make it a family trip,” he had said to me while we were in Sardegna. My sister with her family live in Sydney so getting the visas with their help was going to be easier, I replied with confidence. I started the online process in November. By 2nd December, my Australian visa was released but Lia’s wasn’t. I had neglected to include a parental consent to travel from her father. That is how we ended we ended in the Philippines for two months – waiting for her Australian visa.

We were in El Nido, then Cebu, Dumaguete, and Siquijor in December and January, waiting, and also already preparing for our third Schengen visas for our trip back to Italy for April 2016. I had to go through hoops to get the documents put together, flying in and out of these places back and forth Manila to do all kinds of things. It was not easy at all. It was also in this time that we realized we needed to go back to El Nido. I had to renew my business permit for Outventure Travel because I would need it for the Schengen visa application.

Leaving Dumaguete for Manila, we soon found ourselves back in Puerto Princesa. It was going to be the last time any of us would be in Palawan for a long time.

We spent one night at Canvas Boutique Hotel, a newly-opened hotel that was then managed by a friend of ours who used to work for El Nido Resorts. A beautiful artistic hotel with spacious rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, its own restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating, personalized service, complimentary airport transfers, and excellent staff, we enjoyed our short stay.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines (2016)

Ariiving at the Puerto Princesa Airport

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines (2016)

Two queen-sized beds in our room.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines (2016)

A big LCD flat screen TV with cable channels

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines (2016)

Separate toilet and shower rooms by the main door.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines (2016)

Entrance, parking, baggage trolley, and service van.

We have given up our lease on our house and beach bar in Corong-Corong beach in El Nido and did not have a place to stay. Our friends at Mezzanine and Palao-yu Dive Resort graciously provided us with rooms.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Dusk in front of Mezzanine Restaurant where there is good carpaccio. Must try.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Morning breakfast view of tourists leaving for island hopping tours. This chaos has since been multiplied.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

A visit to El Nido would never be complete without seeing Elvis and Paco at Last Frontier Beach Resort. More Elvis, the big black dog, than Paco his owner, really. *wink*

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

It would also not be complete without a visit to Aquanaut Diving Center, owned by our friends Tchouki Mouki and Monica , a French and Spanish couple who also met in El Nido just like us. This view is from their second floor where they now have a bar.

Finally, I was not busy with Outventure guests in El Nido. We could go out to explore. We had always wanted to explore Sibaltan – a little baranggay north of El Nido but we were always extremely busy. The time to go finally came. Renting a motorbike and packing all our things we soon found ourselves in a little tent in the grounds of Tapik Beach Park.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Hammocks on the hill facing the sea

Tapik Beach Park at that time was by far the best place to stay in Sibaltan. It has cottages and rooms but we found them fully booked. We settled for their tent which they provided with a mattress, bedsheets, and pillows. They have a restaurant with inexpensive good food and a view of the beach. They have a number of outdoor toilet and bath for those staying in tents and cottages without their own. What I love most about this place is the hill. The hill with hammocks and a hut. I had enjoyed doing my morning yoga and meditation in the hut while the sun rose. I had never felt more peaceful than when I was there – in that hut, the warmth of the early morning sun and gentle breeze caressing my face.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

The sun rises on this side of El Nido. The sun sets over at El Nido town center. A different view, for a change.

My family almost always found me there every time they found me “missing” and would “intrude”. We ended playing hide and seek and fighting for places in the hammocks.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Playing hide and seek amongst the trees

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Extremely proud of our family picture. He had to have it printed on t-shirts for everyone to see.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Sad face contest. Lia always wins.

The place is currently being developed by the El Nido Tourism office. It has two museums – The Balay Cuyonon Musuem and the Pangko Maritime Museum, and other water-related activities like kayaking, island hopping to nearby islands and snorkeling. Diving has been reportedly excellent as well although fears of dynamite fishing have been a deterrent. Other accommodations are also in the process of construction. For a list, this blog is hopeful.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Ursula Beach Resort. I took this photo for the monkey.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Wooden port

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Or more like guardhouse. Although there is nobody guarding.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

Still worth a little walk though. If only for the adventure of having to dodge broken planks in the effort to avoid mishaps.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

The sea has been reclaiming the beach for years.

What local life is exactly in Sibaltan, this blog shows a slice of it.

It takes an average of two hours on a motorbike to get to Sibaltan. The drive is hot and dusty, and scooters are a definite no-no. We rented a proper motorbike to get ourselves there and took at least two stops on the way for respite from the heat and the accompanying stress of having to dodge rocks and holes on the road. There are two roads one can take to get there. The other has more paved roads but is longer. It takes the same time to get to Sibaltan then whichever road one chooses. The trip is largely uneventful, passing through dry forests, little villages, and few sights.

Soon, the roads from El Nido town to Sibaltan would become more accessible and as the town center becomes more and more crowded, more and more tourists looking for peace, quiet, and good old nature would find themselves going north.

After two nights, we were ready to go back to El Nido town. We dropped by Duli beach to check out the surf with our friends at Surf El Nido then came back to Palao-yu Dive Resort, while I finished my paperwork with the municipality for my 2016 business permits. On my last day in El Nido, we went to Republica Sunset Bar and had ourselves a dose of sunset. A fitting end to our life in El Nido.

El Nido, Philippines (2016)

With tears streaming down my face, I watched the sun end my ten year-romance with El Nido – a town that I always called home.

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