Break Your Kind Heart of Beautiful: Palawan
On a catamaran, at dusk, we are sailing at a threshold. A threshold of where the open ocean calms, ever so slightly in a respectful orbit of land. The relationship between the open water in Asia and the land is tenuous, especially in the South Pacific. The truce is broken and damage done, all peace thrown out at the change of a season or the turn of a trade wind. It is an abusive relationship between two who love with the same intensity that they destroy yet create together some of the most beautiful landscapes and seascapes in the world. This chaotic relationship is ever so evident in the aftermath of typhoons and monsoons and tsunamis that pound the earth and earthly beings. And then there are the earthquakes, completing the beauty and rage in the ring of fire. But then there are those days when the sun is shining, when it's paradise, when it's Elysian Fields and everything ever beautiful ever. It's confusing. What is the difference between salt water and tears?
Dramatic white karst rise of out of the water in Palawan. Some are mysterious and solitary, a sparse aquatic ascetic without a hint of foliage, permanent in the impermanence of water. Other mini mountains are found in large fraternity, staking claim in the water and land, a whole terrain and territory of their own. These karst formations are normally complete with lush green growth of sea moss, knocking the breath out of you with the hyper-color contrast of white stone providing the literal bedrock for green. This surprise of rock amid the waves in Palawan reminds me a bit of the cold beauty of Cannon Beach in Oregon along the North Pacific on the American West Coast. But it evokes a wholly different feeling. The North Pacific is frigid, dark, and gray, and there seems to be a heaviness in the sky. A presence of negative ions that was the only natural birth place of grunge. I admire this seascape like an artifact that can never be touched, as though it were behind glass.
In Palawan, the South China Sea, strong as it is with it's rip current and undertow, seems to crave engagement. And like a siren song, we the people enter it's currents. This is confirmed as much by a toothy lifeguard who serves as our tour guide on a catamaran while island hopping. Just my daughter and I, him, and two silent young sailors on board, he tells me in Tagalog, expressive and humorous because I can understand him comfortably, that he is constantly saving Australians who insist on swimming too far past the shore.
During our island hopping expedition, we sailed to several islands. One that is almost all completely rock with little crevices and caves to hide in. Here the water retreats and pours through mystic and rhythmic. As we snorkel around this island of rock, there are incredible views from every vantage point, of ocean, mountain and island. We then move on to a secluded beach, where they normally set up romantic dinners for two. But in our case, daughter and I are ocean royals, with seaweed crowns and the entire length of beach to run and laze around on. Too soon it is dusk and we sail back to our hotel in a tired but happy quiet. Sunlight shimmers through low hanging mist onto the ocean, as though spotlighting the current home. But how lucky I am that this is home to me, in a way. And since I was raised so very far away I meet this thought, at this moment on a catamaran at dusk in Palawan, that this is why I am always searching for a hot country.
Another memorable experience at in Palawan, other than our afternoon on the catamaran, was when we visited the Sheridan organic farm. An excellent 80% of the produce and meat served at the resort is grown and raised on their farm. We had a fantastic opportunity to harvest vegetables that we later ate for lunch, at the end of our tour, in an open air deck overlooking the farm.
Our guide and chef were young local women who presented facts about the food and the farm such as how the carabaos all have nicknames and the crying in the background is a baby goat who could not find it's mother (free range life!). I bought a pound of black, organic rice grown on the farm. Easily, one of my favorite souvenirs. Before we left, our tour guide and chef, charmed by my daughter, shyly asked for a photo with her. They complimented the color of her hair, a compliment we heard repeatedly while we were in the Philippines. It is a tawny brown that always lightens to a rich gold after enough sun.
If you read travel magazines or pay attention to tourism trends, Palawan is perhaps the most popular new destination in the Philippines. We stayed in Puerto Princesa, a more established part of the island at the Sheridan Resort. This trip to Palawan is a last Mama and Me escape during a month long trip to the Philippines, that will end our trip with beach time like all trips should. And while our time in Puerto Princesa was magical, the desire to return to Palawan and explore El Nido and Coron exists. A hopeful next time.