Take the road less traveled – in this case, the sea – and discover the untouched treasure that is Linapacan.
Palawan is home to some, if not the, best beaches in the world. El Nido, with all its golden coastlines and beautiful crystal waters, has been named by TripAdvisor as one of the World’s Best Beaches for 2016. Coron, on the other hand, has been dubbed “Asia’s Best-kept Secret” for its sparkling blue waters and enchanting lagoons. But far from it (quiet literally) is this little piece of heaven that I and my friends have discovered first hand. American news site, Daily News Dig, listed 35 Clearest Waters in the World to Swim in Before You Die and topping it (besting well-known destinations like the Maldives, Spain, and France) is an unknown municipality in Palawan—Linapacan.
I know how you feel, Lina-WHAT? I, myself haven’t heard of it until then and naturally, my beach-loving friend and I got curious. What followed was an adventure that was one for the books!
THE ISLAND OF LINAPACAN
Situated halfway between Coron and El Nido is the quiet, gorgeous, and unspoilt treasure that is Linapacan. Unlike the more popular destinations, there is no direct mode of transportation going there. Prior to our trip, I had to do a lot of researching (sadly, there wasn’t a lot of online resources about the place), and that involved getting info from inactive online forums, messaging random people on Instagram, and constantly asking for advice from a local inn there (where we ended up staying).
From Coron, which was where we flew in, you can take a boat that goes to El Nido and passes mid-way by Linapacan. (There is no regular schedule for this though. You’d have to check the port for availability.) My two friends, who flew in a few days ahead of me, were able to travel this way but I wasn’t because of a flight delay. To say that my adventure going to Linapacan was rough is an understatement; it was the longest nine hours of my life. I was nearly at wit’s end, but boy was it worth it!
HITCHHIKING WITH BANGKEROS
Like I mentioned, my Manila to Coron flight got delayed for about an hour due to bad weather, this caused me to miss the only trip going to Linapacan for that day (the next would be a few days later). After landing, I went straight to the pier, adamant on looking for an alternative way to reach the destination.
Thankfully, some locals pointed me to a reclaimed area near the wet market where some bangka (outrigger boat) were docked. I learned that these belonged to fishermen and traders from nearby islands, loading up on supplies from the town.
“If you’re lucky,” said the people from the pier, “you can try getting a ride with them”. Luckily enough, after a few hours of looking and waiting, I was able to secure a seat aboard a small bangka that’s going where I was headed. Together with an elder lady and about four men manning the vessel, two of which were her sons, we set off.
The couple of hours of the trip were pleasant. In between manoeuvring the boat, one of the men was telling me the names of the islands we were passing by, and giving me tips on which ones we should visit should my friends and I decide to go island hopping.
However, when we reached open water and the waves started getting bigger and bigger, that’s when things got a bit challenging. Drenched in cold sea water, I was literally hanging on wood as we traversed through the chaos. I was praying for dear life at this point. But I was put at ease by the kindest strangers who assured me that those were just small waves compared to what they were used to. I replied with a nervous smile.
Finally, after traveling the whole afternoon, we reached steadier, calmer seas and my destination —the quiet poblacion of San Miguel, Linapacan. I thanked these strangers who took me along, on board their already crowded boat, and who were nothing but kind to me the whole trip. I will forever be grateful.
It was around 6 PM at this point. And after traveling for the whole day, I was reunited with friends and our host and inn-keeper, Gretchen. When I reached the beach where they were in, I literally fell on the sandy shore out of exhaustion. But then I looked up around me, saw my friends laughing their heads off at me (really, what real friends won’t?), a gorgeous sunset as our backdrop, and the idea of the next few days on this paradise—the difficult ordeal I just went through melted away like the vanishing sun on the horizon.
The next day was devoted to exploring Linapacan and Gretchen organized an island hopping activity for us. Due to the nature of the islands, scattered far away from one other, we were only able to visit a few. That was fine by us. We were all eager and excited to explore what Linapacan has to offer.
Aboard the bangka, our tour-guide-turned-friend, Arjie, started educating us about Linapacan. From him, I learned that Palawan is made up of 23 municipalities and Linapacan is one of them as part of the Calamianes Group of Islands. In between telling us the history and tales of sunken treasure, he expressed his dismay over how little is taught about Linapacan in textbooks. Looking at the beauty around me, I silently agreed.
At this point, we were nearing our first island, Cala Cala and boy was it breathtaking! We saw how the water turned from dark to the clearest blue. Arjie explained that Cala Cala when shuffled is Acal Acal, a Cuyunon (the local dialect) word that means kumukulo or boiling (some swear that during summer, the water can be warm). The strong waves give Cala Cala its regular supply of crystal clear water. Long story short, it was the clearest blue and swimming there was like a dream!
After about an hour in Cala Cala, we journey to our next destination, Takling Island. This was where we stayed the longest and where we had the freshly caught fish for lunch.
We had the best time, just like we did in Cala Cala thanks to the softest white sand tickling our toes, swimming in the coolest, crystal water and that glorious sun kissing our skin. It was as if nothing else existed, only us and that beautiful piece of paradise.
About mid-afternoon, we bid the island goodbye and began our journey back to San Miguel. We headed back refreshed, renewed, and greatly blessed to have witnessed and experienced what we did.
It saddened me a bit realizing that it took something foreign for us to notice a local gem. But still, I’m glad and grateful, otherwise we wouldn’t have experienced that and crossed it off our bucketlist.
My journey to Linapacan was rough and difficult, one that involved going out of my comfort zone, facing my fears, and trusting the unknown to experience the glorious—well, sort of like how life works, now that I think about it.
• May and June are the best months to visit. This is when waves are at their calmest.
• There are very limited places to stay in Linapacan, luckily, we chanced upon Gretchen online. Her family owns the guest house and she’s assisted us every step of the trip! Check in at M-Liao Guest House, San
Miguel, Linapacan. Contact 0999 903 5288 and look for the owner, Gretchen.
• Ask ahead!
• You can either go from Coron or El Nido to Linapacan, as boats usually pass by Linapacan to and fro. Just make sure to ask the local port for schedules ahead of time so you can plan your trip accordingly.