I assumed Coron would be like El Nido: more of the same. A few beaches, island hopping trips, some restaurants and tourist shops. I was unsure if I should go or not, I liked the beaches, but quite frankly, I can only take so much of it. On top of that, my flip flops had damaged my feet to a point that I couldn’t join an island tour because I simply couldn’t bear wearing the footwear. But the lack of Internet left me with little opportunity to research my options so I stuck with the original plan of visiting Coron and boarded an unfortunately bumpy boat for about eight hours, which was a pretty horrific ordeal in itself. I had imagined an opportunity to catch up on my reading and writing, instead I was mortified I had left my travel sickness pills in the hold of the boat and spent most of the time trying to sleep so I didn’t have to think about throwing up, which is exactly what some other people were doing.
At arrival, I dodged the tricycles and walked into town. I hadn’t booked anywhere and it was my first time heading to a new place unprepared. Coron is small, but I still didn’t know where I could find all the hostels. I walked into several hotels that were way out of my budget. Surprisingly enough, they still tried to negotiate down, but I couldn’t afford them. I was pointed towards a cheaper place with dorms so I headed in that direction and kept on looking. When I found a backpackers hostel I was guided through a housing area on stilts: planks suspended over a muddy back area. Makeshift homes over mud that would flood with water when tide came. Meanwhile, it smelled of dirt and sewage.
I entered Coron Backpackers. A Filipino guy with boobs approached me and quickly informed me he only had a room for one night, as opposed to the three nights I intended to stay. I declined. I sat on a seat outside to put my shoes back on.
‘This is a lot of effort,’ I sighed to a Filipino girls sitting next to me, who was playing with her guitar.
‘You need a room?’ She asked.
And I nodded.
She had one, right there. A simple, single room. Her family was renting out rooms to pay for damage that was done to the house. I should’ve asked what had happened, but I didn’t. Clearly a natural disaster that had left people with broken homes.
I looked at the room and peeked through the window, overlooking the improvised sea-slash-sewage feature. I took it. When the girl left, I closed the window to never open it again. (Which didn’t keep the smell from seeping into my room at 5pm every morning.)
Coron soon felt like a big mistake. El Nido had been lovely. A tiny town with not too many tourists, a slew of lovely beaches, restaurants to eat at and numerous island hopping trips to book. I thought Coron would be the same, but it wasn’t. The town was much less developed, and I struggled to find food options most times. There was no beach. Coron was unable to entertain anyone unless you booked an excursion. To me, that defeats the purpose of a good place to stay. I like to roam around town and amuse myself without having to pay to be entertained.
Coron soon felt like a big mistake. El Nido had been lovely. A tiny town with not too many tourists, a slew of lovely beaches, restaurants to eat at and numerous island hopping trips to book. I thought Coron would be the same, but it wasn’t. The town was much less developed, and I struggled to find food options most times. There was no beach. Coron was unable to entertain anyone unless you booked an excursion. To me, that defeats the purpose of a good place to stay. I like to roam around town and amuse myself without having to pay to be entertained.The first day I set out to find the beach. After a few hours, all I could see were the houses built over water, the obvious poverty of it, and no beach areas or other tourists (I assume they were all on the boat trips.) I decided to hike towards the Maquinit Hot Springs I had seen on the map, and followed a dusty red dirt road through tiny villages with happy locals greeting me.
When I got to the springs, hours later, I was relieved. It was a lovely place and still quiet when I arrived. Several pools overlaid each other and they were all filled with clear, hot water. I waded and swam. I had nowhere else to go and stayed for hours, until it got busy and the sun started to go down.
The next day I had booked an island trip. I felt as though I had seen enough islands, but I still liked being on the boat and driving around, the water splashing everywhere and the serenity of it all. It was beautiful. The islands and lagoons we saw were clear and turquoise, just like the ones in El Nido. The snorkelling was equally disappointing, but I didn’t care. Swimming and walking around these islands in the heat was simply amazing. Coron may not have been my island of choice but, admittedly, the island trips are never dull.
So although I thought Coron was a mistake and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped to, I had no idea about the low times that were about to slap me right in the face, in the shape of an experience called: the city of Dumaguete.