I’ve always wondered how it’s like to live in a small island. Of course I imagined there would be palm trees, a nice beach, hammocks, refreshing drinks, native huts and endless view of the ocean. But when I took a project for one of the private islands in Taytay Palawan named Noa Noa Island, I never expected to be staying about 11-days in this luxurious island where I was the only guest while working on a project. It was one of my memorable escapes to a not-so-known island surrounded by one of the most astounding marine sanctuary I’ve ever swam on.
Whisked to the Island
It was the start of my extended sojourn in Northern Palawan where instead of bringing a backpack, I brought my whole life in a huge suitcase not knowing when I’ll be back home. From an early flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, I then rode a Roro Bus bound for El Nido and after more than five-hour found myself in Taytay Palawan. The last time I was here, was 2005 when I went on assignment to feature Club Noah Resort before (now known as Apulit Island for El Nido Resorts). Despite the fatigue from flying then the bus ride, I was wide-eyed trying to recall what I remembered of the place when I took a tricycle to Casa Rosa Lodging. I met the owners Andy and Chele, a kind couple who owns the lodging and the island. After a brief snack, we found ourselves on an outrigger boat to Noa Noa Island that same afternoon.
The Island Life
Eleven days may be too long for some people to stay on an island where life is almost incognito from a highly connected world. No internet, no radio nor cable TV. But I found the quiet, a welcome change, with only the sound of the waves, the wind, the birds and the insects to keep me company. As soon as I got there I set up my workspace at my huge room at the Guest House with a nice veranda fronting the beach. My usual day would go like this – wake up for breakfast along with the workers of the island (from the cooks, gardeners, carpenters and guard) or if the Andy was there I’d be up at the main house with the couple. Continue my work in the morning, have lunch with the island people, spend a time after lunch by the Beach Bar and read (as it gets too hot in the room in the afternoon), back to work again and if I want to go out for a stretch I would walk around the island. Sometimes the adorable island pet, Olly, a Palawan Otter, would follow me around. In the evening we would go about what we accomplished for the day and continue working with the materials with the owner. At times if I’m feeling productive I would wake up wee hours in the morning for the sunrise or stay up late to capture the star-studded sky.
A Labor of Love
During breakfast or dinner I would start discussions with the owner about the island, how he developed it in a span of 8 years. What he did here on his own is short of impressive. For water source he managed to install a 5km pipe on the seabed to the nearby stream on a mainland. The island electricity source is powered by 10kva Solar Energy with huge panels and power storage. He also managed to landscape the island adding pathways so people can safely go around the island without damaging the natural forest cover (but be careful as some grass snakes and monitor lizards still linger around). Sometimes the pathways would lead to hanging bridges, scenic lookout points and even hidden coves where you can skinny dip to your delight without anyone watching.
A Private Island
The owner treasures privacy. I’m not sure at this time but he did plan to have this island rented for groups. A true private island where the only guests are the group renting the island. After almost a week of staying there, the tranquility of island living has rubbed over me. I missed freely snorkeling and seeing a kaleidoscope world of marine life just a few meters from the shore, I missed my chair at the beach hut where I read after lunch, I missed the sunset view from my room veranda or watching a kingfisher hunt in the morning, I also miss the fresh mango pie for dessert the house cook usually makes. I’m not sure when I’ll be back but I’m quite thankful for experiencing all that.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.