However, it didn’t start out that way. Three of us started out with not feeling well at all. Dang amoebas. With one bathroom for nearly twenty people at our hostel, the odds weren’t good.
|Coffee…with a view|
We had breakfast at Habibi Cafe to start, as my stomach was holding itself together fairly well. I had to enjoy a nice cup of delicious coffee with a gorgeous open-air view of the water and cove. I think the view made me feel better.
|View from Habibi Cafe|
After breakfast, we are fortified enough to check out of our hostel of the last three nights and move over to our new place, a room at Rovic’s Pension House, right on the beach. At least we will now have air conditioning, which is only useful, of course, until 6 AM when the electricity turns off.
|Marco’s #1 arch-nemesis|
Since three out of five were down for the count that day, we decided to cancel our kayaking tour of the islands. Sarah rented her own kayak that we could use for the day, but I just was not shipshape enough to get into the kayak and paddle off to a remote island sans bathroom facilities. I chose instead to spend some time on the El Nido beach, chillin’ like a villain with Marco and Jason in the ultra-comfy bean-bags outside of Hostel de Banane. I was finally able to finish my book, start my second novel, and get some sun.
|Possibly the gecko that crawled out
of my swimsuit when I put it on?
|Las Cabanas Beach|
A few others went out in the kayak, and about lunch time, I was hungry again. I wandered back into town and found my little crepe shop again right off the beach. I had the best crepe ever here – calamansi (lime), crystal dark sugar, and banana. Oh, it was perfect. It was certainly a perfect small taster lunch. I topped it off with a mango-pineapple fruit shake – God bless the fruit shakes of the Philippines – and meandered back to the beach.
Once we’ve all had a little lunch, we decided to take a tricycle over to Las Cabanas Beach, about a fifteen minute trike ride over the hills. This was the best spot, apparently to take sunset photos, since the towering mountains blocked the sunset in El Nido proper.
|Two South African women designed
this out of various shells on the beach.
After scrambling down a very steep drop toward the beach, we settled out on the sand and in full view of the hot, burning sun. This beach was a postcard. Absolutely a postcard. The palm trees swayed and creaked in the soft, warm breeze. Coconuts rattled overhead. Blue skies shimmered with very few white clouds. White sand dazzled. Water gently lapped against the shore. Mountains rose from the sea, majestic, quiet, and looming. It was beautiful. Indescribably beautiful.
When I laid down, I looked up to see the rustling palms above me. Sunlight streamed through the thin leaves, blanketing us in warmth. As we began to toast a bit too much, I dashed into the cooling water, feeling my toes sink into the sand for the last time in El Nido.
I went for a beachside stroll, and, before I left the Philippines, I decided that I had to drink coconut water from a straw stuck into the actual green coconut. For a few pesos, I secured the said coconut and eagerly returned to my companions. This certainly meant I had to have a picture taken with me drinking from a straw – in an actual, fresh coconut.
However, the best was yet to come.
The sun was starting to set behind the mountainous islands, so we walked further down the beach to better see the sunset. Pale indigo and navy blue started to shimmer over the deepest parts of the horizon. Then blushing pink. Then soft orange. At the very top, it was still a deep golden yellow. All of the colors blended together like watercolors.
It was terrifically easy to simply stand still and gaze at the sunset. I could go on and on, but here, the pictures will have to do the writing. I have already run out of words to describe it.
But, for once, I thought that Valentine’s Day was actually pretty amazing. Not that I didn’t usually celebrate Single Awareness Day with other singletons back at home, but there was something incredibly special about watching the sunset, on a tropical island, with a set of new friends. It was in that moment that I realized, despite how many trials and tribulations of the past few months, that I had changed my life. Some might say that I had done that the moment I had decided to take the teaching job in Shanghai. Others might say it was the moment I stepped off the plane for the first time in China. Yet more might say, didn’t your life change before now?
Sunsets always talk to me. They are the way by which I look deeper inside myself. They’re contemplative moments where other people don’t usually bother you. As I watched the brilliant sunset over St. Peter’s Basilica (from the top of the Spanish Steps) in Rome, I realized how far I’d come by studying abroad in the UK, making that five-year dream of mine come true. I realized it as I watched the sun set over the Fox River in Batavia the night I was completing my interview and school tour at Immanuel. That became the place where I knew I wanted to teach after months of interviews; I taught there for five years straight before leaving for China.
And now, as I stood barefoot, on a rocky outcropping of Palawan, Philippines, staring at the brilliant sunset, I felt how much my life had changed. How, one year ago, I had no idea that I would be in a place like this; that, one year later, I would be standing on a tropical island, watching the sun set over a sea on fire with color.
Once the sun was nearly gone, we made our way back up to the tricycles to take us back to town. Of course, the drivers knew they had all the tourists at the beach; after all, we couldn’t get back to El Nido any other way but using a tricycle. They wanted to overcharge us at 200 pesos (we had paid 120 to get there), but we eventually worked them down to 160. Monopoly!
While we pushed the married couple off to a separate dinner for Valentine’s Day, we chose to go to another local hangout – Squido’s. Just as we scored a table, however, the power flickered and went out completely, leaving us in a velvet blanket of darkness. Power that goes out randomly was not something uncommon in El Nido. We still grabbed the seat and waited, and, eventually, the power was restored with a back-up generator.
We didn’t get out mussel special that night – they were out of the special – but we weren’t all that excited about food anyway after our debacle last night. Instead, we had a small meal and chose to spring for crepes and ice cream instead from our friendly creperie stand.
I joined the happy-marrieds at Aplaya Restaurant on the beach for one last beachside drink before we left for Puerto Princesa the next morning.
Rovic’s Pension was a great place to stay that night; the walls were thin and woven together, so we could hear the waves crashing on the floor all night. It was a pleasant way to fall asleep.
Too bad we had to get up so early tomorrow to catch our van back into civilization; I could have used a second night rocking to sleep with the lullaby of waves.