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Operated by couple Eddie Flores and Orquidia Valenzuela
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Christmas Holiday in Coron, Palawan – December 2012

By Wilfredo Valenzuela
December 26-30, 2012

It was Yuletide season, a good time for another family reunion in the Philippines.  We celebrated Christmas Eve at my brother Danny and his wife Cindy’s house.  Cindy’s sisters Annie and Bettina hosted Christmas lunch.  Our holiday meals were both delightful and generous.  It was time for some physical vacation activities.  Our destination – Coron in the province of Palawan. 

Coron is remote.  We took three modes of transportation to get there - by air, land and sea.  Our big family tour group flew from Manila to Busuanga Island just north of the island of Palawan, then rode two vans through hills and dirt roads, before taking two motor boats to reach our secluded vacation hideaway by the beach.  The skillful boatmen waded and pushed the two small crafts as we passed through shallow waters between mangroves. 

We took advantage of the remaining daylight to look around upon reaching our destination.  A one-hour hike brought us to the top of a nearby hill with a gorgeous 360-view of the surrounding hills and sea.  It was dark by the time we got back to our huts by the beach. 
  Group photo –Coron-Palawan Tour- December 26-30 2012

For the next five days, we stayed in quaint little huts with no modern conveniences; just hammocks hanging on trees.  Our daytime was filled with interesting physical activities.  We spent the evenings just eating, drinking and telling stories.  The younger generation – nephews and nieces - ate and drank even more while playing ping pong or dice….and the first-generation Valenzuela siblings played mahjong.

There were two ways to get from where we stayed to other places – the open sea or through shallow waters lined with mangroves.   The first place we visited was the Coron town center, to get the souvenir shopping out of the way before going to Kayangan Lake. The lake can be accessed only by hiking a steep hilly trail. 

After snorkeling in the crystal clear water of the serene lake, we were served seafood lunch on Vivian Beach.  In the afternoon, we reached Barracuda Lake after a short hike up and down a rocky hill.  Both lakes offered impressive views.  We went swimming in the dark and deep Barracuda Lake.  The water was too dark to see anything underneath by snorkeling, but there were several scuba divers there.

It was low tide by the time we got to the mangrove channel on our way back.  Our boats were stuck in the shallows, but the boatmen know the channel and the adjacent sea intimately.  We had to transfer to smaller boats before it got dark.  Insects in these parts are plentiful and unforgiving at night.
Navigating through mangrove passage

The following day, we took the boats to East Tangat to scuba dive, a first time experience for most of us.  After a few minutes of lessons, the scuba diving instructors took us in pairs under the water to see the East Tangat wreck from World War II.  The rusty sunken vessel resting among the beautiful corals is a mesmerizing sight.  After scuba diving, we proceeded to Coral Garden for more snorkeling.  The colorful corals were magnificent to watch.   

We enjoyed the hot springs in Bintuan.  From the sea, access to the hot springs is by getting off the boat in the shallows, and wading between dense mangroves in waist deep water; quite a unique experience in itself.  But immersing ourselves in the soothing water of the springs afterwards was a reward well worth it.

The day before we left Coron, we climbed the hill near our huts once more for an early morning look at the stunning panorama around us.  With the sun shining brightly, the view was even more magnificent than the first time we saw it.
Early morning panoramic view of Coron

That night, some of the local kids came to serenade us with Christmas carols.  We spent the rest of the night around a bonfire to celebrate with the crew of boatmen who cheerfully took care of us throughout our stay. 

Christmas carolers

These folks live a simple and happy life.  They worked hard to assure our safety and enjoyment during our vacation.  Their kindness and skill made up for the very poor accommodations and inadequate food at Majika Resort, and ensured a memorable and fun-filled family reunion.
  Majika resort personnel, Our tour guide, scuba diving, snorkeling instructor giving the group’s  day program

When we got back from our Coron trip, it was a flurry of one gastronomical adventure after another.   From the mouth-watering spread catered by Mingoy’s at the home of Marty and Ana Ordonez, Cindy’s cousins, to the home-made cochinillo and callos media noche dinner amid booming fireworks, and the succulent roast leg of lamb and prime rib New Year’s lunch, there was no escaping the harsh realities of the dreaded weighing scale. 

It’s always with a heavy heart that we head back home, but the prospect of seeing each other again in May for another European adventure will certainly keep the internet and phone lines burning.

Orquid and Eddie stayed behind for an extended holiday to meet old friends in Manila  and attend a family reunion with the Floreses.

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