Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Mitchie Chronicles: Coron Escape

I have been lucky enough to be employed in a company where it's mandatory to actually join in the company outing.  I'm also lucky enough to have found a company that includes new employees even if they're just a day old to join in the company outing (one of our officemates just arrived the day before and he was included in the list of people who joined in the fun!)

Anyway, I have to admit that I have never really gone around the country. The only places that I have really been to is Albay and some parts of Negros Occidental because that is where my parents hail from. I've been around Baguio mainly because it was a go to vacation spot of the family when the weather is hot and Laguna and Tagaytay really isn't a tourist spot for me because they're just a stones throw away from Las Pinas where I can actually go there anytime I feel like it.

So, going to Coron was new for me and it was an exciting adventure. Usually in outings like this, I would be with my family. It's a first for me that I would be joining a bunch of people who are practically strangers to me since I've only been in the company for about a month and I've only been really interacting with my boss and a couple of officemates that I need to talk to because of work. But other than my "twin" Leonard, I don't really know anybody in the company.

So I find myself packed up and ready to go on the morning of July 28, giddy with excitement on what type of adventure I'll encounter. And adventure I did have on those three days.

Airport Scene: (Manila-Busuanga)

So, everyone is coming in the airport a trickle at a time until all of us are complete except for our Japanese Big Boss. So while waiting for him, our HR have distributed our breakfast of Jollibee (It was a pancake burger of some sort) and water. Then they've gathered our IDs for group check in. Our HR was already in line and when they finally got to the front to check us all in, they've asked for the people with check in baggage to bring in their bags to be checked in. While that was happening, a disgruntled passenger behind us complained why we were cutting the line. We tried explaining that it was a group check in and we were just handing out the check in baggage. He was relentless until someone from the airport calmed him down while we were given our boarding pass.

With that done, we were then lead to pre-departure. 

It was a short wait until we were asked to board the plane. It was one of the smaller planes that I have rode on. I was used to the bigger models but amazingly enough, the legroom was nice and they actually serve food.

They only had 2 Flight attendants on the plane and they were very efficient.  Then thirty minutes on the flight, we were served snacks.

3 Turbulence and A Storm

Okay, the title is a bit of an exaggeration, but I was reminded of a chapter in a story that I was writing on Wattpad when this particular occurrence on the plane happened. It didn't help that our pilots for that day were Captain Sam Reyes and First Officer Jerald Robles, It was an eerie experience for me as our head flight attendant was named Anne. It was like the characters of my story came alive that day and was manning our plane.

We left Manila with the typhoon "Gorio" in the country. So we left with not so good weather. The sky was overcast and it was drizzling when the plane took off. But once we were in the air, of course the rain is gone but all I could see were clouds. Clouds meant turbulence so it was a bit of a bumpy ride for some of the parts but for the most parts, since we were over the storm, it was pleasant.

I was a bit shaken with the landing though.

When the pilots were preparing to land, we have encountered a bit of turbulence. I think the pilot over underestimated and needed to make adjustments with the landing that he dropped the plane down quickly that we felt the descent. It was like riding a roller coaster when you're on the top and would be making the steep drop from above. It was pretty scary but he managed to land us in one piece so I am thankful for that.

 So now safely on land, we disembarked the plane with smiles and renewed excitement on the Francisco B. Reyes Airport.

The airport was small. They didn't even have the moving baggage claiming carousel. They just have an L-shaped wooden platform where airport staff places the bags and the passengers just looks for their bags and gets it from the platform. We weren't that many so it was pretty quick we were out of the airport where a hotel staff with the sign "AIM Global" (wrong company name...hahaha) waited for us.  We filled up three vans (we were 26 in total) and then it was a 30 minute drive to our hotel from the airport. We were given a nice view of farmlands and hills but it was a relaxing view.

My iPhone, Percy, Still Have a Bit of Trauma

When we arrived at the hotel, my iPhone started acting up. It was charging when we were enroute to Busuanga. I was still taking some pictures of the scenery and then after I had taken the photo of the hotel sign, it suddenly died with 40% battery life left on it. I tried turning it back on but it wouldn't. I actually thought that it wouldn't turn on anymore. I think it was traumatized from jumping into the sea the last time and it didn't want to experience that again so it just suddenly stopped working when it thought that we were going out to the lakes that day. So, left it alone for the time being and switched phones. I also brought my fake new 3310 on this trip and it boasts of a 1.2 MP camera. So, I placed my other SIM in the extra slot and used it when we took a tour around the city.

So, even though I have a camera phone with me, photos are a little fuzzy for the most part but it still gave me some memorable pics to share.

We started our city tour and our tour guide, Kuya Mac, was a very funny and energetic bloke who likes to joke around and tease the rest of us. He first took us to the souvenir shops where we started buying "pasalubong" to take home.  So I got myself some assortments of stuff for my friends and family. I personally like the turtle ref magnet. Hehe...

Also, I was still hoping that time that dear Percy would revive himself that evening so I took precautions and bought a bunch of waterproof bags. So in case my dear Percy decides to jump into the water again, he'll be prepared.

So, with the "pasalubong" out of the way...well everything is all set except for cashew nuts, our tour guide took us around the city.

Coron was just a small city with everything just walking distance from each other. He took us to the plaza where we saw a carnival was being set up for that evening.  He also led us to the docks where we will be heading the next day for the island hopping part of our trip. The city really had that provincial vibe to it and with every locals face lights up when they see tourists in their area. They were pleasant enough folks with all smiles and were very accommodating even if you're not buying anything from them.

After our little walk around the city, our next stop was Mt. Tapyas. It was a hiking trail with around 700 steps going up. It was a daunting trek for me as I have not been doing any type of work out for the past year. I've only started doing long walks again whenever I go home from work, but that's about the workout I've been doing. So, going up to Mt. Tapyas was something of a challenge for me but it was a challenge I took willingly. It was a hard climb, but once you've gotten a good pace and routine going, it was a steady climb up with the occasional 30 second break to rest up the legs.

I was proud to say that in our group, I was the first girl and the 8th who was able to climb up those 700 steps. Achievement Unlocked indeed! :) And I was given a fantastic view of the whole city. Too bad I only had my 3310 that time. The pics would have been great.

Mt. Tapyas has this huge metal cross on the center where people really go to take photos of. I only took a photo of the cross itself. I already have a hard time getting it all in one frame, putting me in it would be quite a feat to do.

The view from up there was really great! You could see the whole city and the lakes below. You would feel like you were on top of the world when you're up there. It was amazing.

Behind the cross, there's a hill with a rest area. It was also a nice place to relax and it gave you a different angle of the whole city.

Going down wasn't that much of a challenge but it still stretched my muscles. But when you've reached the bottom, you still feel that sense of accomplishment that you have successfully managed to climb up those steps. It was an experience I would never forget.

Our last stop for that day was the Maquinit hot springs. After that trek, we were thankful for the hotsprings. It soothe our tired muscles and it was really relaxing. It rejuvenated everyone and we were once again full of energy after that.

We had dinner at the hotel and everyone slept early for the island hopping tour the next day. Everyone was pretty much excited for that.

Percy Wakes

That evening, I checked my iPhone again to see if it would function.  Thankfully when I plugged it in to charge, it opened. I left him charging the whole night so he could be ready to use the next day.

Our Quest for Bacon

Our office actually split the group into two batches. The first batch of employees went a week before and told us about the bacon being served during breakfast.  They said the bacon was really good and everyone really looked forward to it. So they told us to wake up early for the bacon. Woke up early we did.

The hotel resto was still closed when a small group of us converged for breakfast. We were waiting impatiently for the doors to finally open to serve breakfast for us. One of our officemate was already by the door ready to go in. So when the door finally opened, he was the first one in line to get most of the bacon.  We looked at him badly when we was walking to get a seat with a plateful of bacon in hand. I was lucky enough to get the last two strips before it ran out completely.  But it was really good bacon with the crispiness just right and the juiciness still intact.

Island Hopping

Honestly, the island hopping part of the trip wasn't really a favorite of mine to begin with as I easily get sea sick especially when the sea isn't calm and wavy.  But miracle of miracles, the Bonamin worked this time around and I actually get the full experience of the trip.

We were taken to five different islands, with each one having it's unique eco system and coral reefs. We were taken to: Siete Picados, Kayangan Lake, Atwayan Beach, Skeleton Wreck, Twin Lagoon and Malwawey Reef and Coral.

For the most part, the weather was cooperating. It was a bit cloudy but we didn't mind as it was better since it wasn't hot and we've enjoyed the boat ride more because it wasn't sweltering. The sea was also cooperating as the waves were manageable and the boat wasn't moving a lot. I had actually enjoyed the ride and I wasn't nauseous unlike in the past when I really hated going on a boat even if it was just a short ride to someplace. During our trip, the Bonamin cooperated and I completely enjoyed the whole experience. I even managed to get a picture of myself up on the second floor with a genuine smile on my face.

While we were snorkling, we made sure that we don't really touch the corals as the areas are protected by the government.  You can only look but you can't touch. It's nice to know that we have these rules in place to protect nature. And you can see that the water is full of life and the sea creatures are unafraid to swim with us.

We had lunch at Atwayan Beach and it was an amazing spread of seafood, pork and fresh vegetables. Our guides were the ones who prepared the meals for us while we were on the boat traveling from one island to another.  It was amazing to see them prepare the food while two tour guides were in the water with us showing us around the coral reefs and the school of fishes in the area.

After the fantastic lunch spread, we went about touring again where we were taken to a hidden valley with a very nice lake was.


We went to two more similar lakes before we started to head back to the city. We were completely spent but we have enjoyed the islands immensely.

 Most of the time that I was in the water, I'm always with the guys. It was mainly because most of the girls in our group can't swim and relied on our tour guide to pull them around. So I was with the more experienced swimmers in the group, particularly my "twin brother" Leonard.

I'll give you a brief background on how we became twins. Obviously, we're not related whatsoever and we have a 10 year age gap between us. We've known each other since the pRO days (Ragnarok Online Philippines published by Level Up! Games). We were both game masters with our GM names Elros (Leonard) and Enkeli (Me). When he was making his character that time, it looked like a boy version of my character and seeing that our names have the same first letter, we both exclaimed, "Cool! We're like twins!". So twins we've became even when we're not in-game. I call him "bro", he calls me "sis". And we practically treated each other like real siblings with real sibling rivalry and teasing.  I'm actually happy that he was with me during this trip because he made sure that I was very welcome in the company and our team.

We got back on land and before we head back to our hotel, we took a pitstop to buy cashews. Our tour guide took us to where the plantation was so we got the cashews a bit cheaper than if we bought it in the market in the city.  The old lady manning the store was really happy because we practically bought the whole store with our group.

When we finally got back to the hotel, we took a short break to get ourselves ready for the firefly and plankton viewing.  We also had our dinner in this quaint floating resto called "Panget Floating Resto" (pronounced as "Pangot" by the locals).

While we were having dinner, we have a great view of the cityscape beyond. It was a pleasant dinner and I got acquainted by some of my other officemates. Dinner went on without any problems, and when we were done, our tour guide for the firefly sightings gave us a sachet of Off Lotion.  Then she took us all in the mangroves where the fireflies reside.

On our way to the fireflies, the tour guide gave us a long stick that we stuck in the water to see the planktons.  The lake illuminated with dazzling lights as the planktons were lighting it up thinking that they were being attacked. But the sight was really nice, creating a light show in the water.

Obviously, the photo below didn't give it enough justice. But the firelies lit up a the mangrove like a Christmas Tree. It was an amazing sight to see...but one that you shouldn't really prolong. I mean, yup it was an amazing sight but you could only stare at them for so long before you started to get bored with seeing the twinkling light show...either that or we were just really tired from the island hopping that we really didn't get to appreciate them with all of their glory.

The Road Home (Busuanga - Manila)

Most of us were completely spent that once more, we retired early for the evening to wake up early the next morning once more for the bacon.

Our officemate was a bit nice this time as he only took a decent amount of bacon the next day.  We had a very nice breakfast buffet again and we had eaten our fill as it would be our last day there.  We had a free time from 8am - 11am so my twin and I decided to attend mass that morning after breakfast.

He was relentless as he decided to just take that 22 minute walk from our hotel to the church. I couldn't argue unfortunately since he was older and bigger than me.  He did kept a decent pace for me to follow as I wasn't huffing and puffing when we got to the church which was San Agustin Church in Coron.

The chuch was small but really nice. The altar was well designed and well kept.

During mass, the choir was singing the songs that I was used to when I was a kid.  I missed those songs and I was happy to be singing along with the choir as the mass went on.

After the mass, Leonard and I took a tour around the city as there are a couple more souvenirs that we have yet to get. So we walked around the city some more and spotted a very nice souvenir shop that has all that we needed. We bought the rest of the souvenirs and some shirts that we got at a bargain.  By the time that we were done and was heading back to the hotel, I put my foot down that we take a tricycle back. Thankfully, he relented and we enjoyed the trike ride back to the hotel.

Once back in the hotel, we packed up our stuff to get ready to go home.

When we got to the airport, I heard our flight number being called for check in.  We were the last group to get in the airport and get checked in but we managed in time before they closed the check in counter.

It wasn't a long wait before we boarded the plane.  Unlike the time we came to Coron, the flight was better. And I managed to get a decent shut eye before we finally landed.

All in all, it was an experience I would never forget. I loved every moment I've spent in Coron, even the scary part on our flight going there.  I get to know my other officemates and had an amazing time swimming with the fishes.  I also managed to push myself beyond my limit by trekking.

I can't wait for my next adventure.