There was a night in Sibaltan, El Nido where a group of performers from the Sibaltan Heritage Society (SHC) showcased a few Cuyonon folk dances. Cuyonons, are an ethno-linguistic group that originated from Cuyo Island. I watch at least five pairs of young boys and girls enthusiastically dance on the sand, under somewhat dim light of the night from Tapik Beach resort. The sound coming from a boom box was all treble with scratchy bass but the performance was all heart and passion as we could see the expressions from the young performers as they execute dance steps highly Spanish-influenced, often upbeat to jumpy with a lot of swirl movements from the girl. I could not understand the lyrics but I was told these dances are often about Cuyonon life – livelihood, courtship, marriage that are often depicted with witty naughtiness to slightly obscene which is a character of Cuyonon songs. Watching this humble spectacle made me imagine how the Cuyonons manage to cross the Sulu Seas, traversing at least 100 nautical miles to reach the shores of Paragua, what we know now as the land of Palawan. The newly built Pangko Maritime Museum in Sibaltan, sheds some light into the history of Cuyonon migration.
So you have done all the tours in El Nido Palawan from Tours A, B, C, D and E. The west side of El Nido, the Bacuit Bay in particular does have dramatic limestone karst islands and captivating beaches, but El Nido doesn’t end there. The other side, the El Nido east coast holds more islands to explore and stunning white sand beaches to bum around. Sibaltan is the jump off point for these island adventures. I have written about some of the islands of Linapacan, now discover the limestone island of Imorigue Island. From afar it looks daunting but the locals swear on how rich the marine life surrounding its waters are.
Cool easterly winds blew toward us at the desolate San Fernando beach in Sibaltan, El Nido like a comforting afternoon embrace to what relatively has been a humid summer day. Only a few resort guests from Qi Palawan were at the beach, mostly couples situated spaced apart on some lounge chairs or standing intently. Enjoying intimate moments together while staring into the blue horizon, waiting for the moonrise. And slowly, a wondrous globe pierced through the horizon, the moon looked bigger and closer to Earth in all its golden glow. The moment was inexplicably both fast and slow as we watched in wonder. We always talk about sunsets and sunrises, but moonrises and moonsets remains an underrated beauty. Much like secluded places, like this resort, Qi Palawan, found in the far-flung corner of Northeast El Nido, away from the tourist town proper, exclusivity and closeness to nature can be found.
My curious gaze fell upon a group of people wandering the beach even before the first light of the day came. I was shooting the sunrise but I was wondering what they were doing by the low tide beach. Searching for shells? No. They seemed to be digging through the sand. “Nagsimula na silang maghanap ng wak-wak. (They’re starting to hunt for wak-wak)” I heard from Arvin, a native of Sibaltan and the current tourism officer of El Nido as he called my attention. Wak-wak hunting as he fondly called. I head on to investigate.
Discover East El Nido, the cultural side of this paradise region of Palawan. West El Nido with its dramatic karst islands and stunning beaches in Bacuit Bay may be the main draw for tourist but there’s fulfilment in discovering the quiet side of El Nido East with unspoilt beaches, island and incomparable marine life than the other side. The perfect home base in discovering the wonders of the east is Tapik Beach Park, a rustic, family-run, beachfront lodging in Sibaltan El Nido offering spartan native beach huts accommodation to more sophisticated beach cottages with elaborate designs.
I could never get tired of walking by the beach in the afternoon after work. In fact I look forward to what the sunset would be like that day. It’s never the same, especially when the amorphous clouds roll in to paint the sky towards the end of the day. El Nido, Palawan has been my home for almost three months and it’s one of the places in the country I wouldn’t mind staying long. When an opportunity arose to work on a project there, I grabbed it immediately. How can I say no to a place surrounded by inviting turquoise waters, dramatic karst islands and captivating sunsets almost everyday? While I go around my ways in El Nido, most of the time walking, I didn’t carry my DSLR or compact camera all the time. It was my smartphone that captured most of the everyday scenery I see, and quite recently the 13MP prowess of the Huawei Honor 6 takes center stage. Here are photos of El Nido that made me appreciate the beauty of the destination every day.
I always have a soft spot for small charming towns. Sibaltan is one of those peaceful coastal towns I could get lost to if I just want to have an escape. I did enjoy the visit to the Balay Cuyonon Museum, the mangroves by the beach and especially paddling to Bubog Island just off the shore of Sibaltan. I can’t say that those attractions could rival the attractions at Bacuit Bay and lure people into visiting Sibaltan, but I do know that the town has one thing El Nido Town doesn’t have, it’s the unobstructed view of sunrise over Sulu Sea. For me who’s a sucker for chasing sunrises and sunsets, it was enough reason to venture to the eastern coast of El Nido and stay at Sibaltan.