Boasting yellow sunshine, blue sea, white sand, lush green coconut trees, friendly neighbors and marvelous seafood, Tapik has everything to enchant you.
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Text and photos: Trang Ami
Say “No” to Modern Technology
This journey to the Philippines was quite different from my previous ones. Only after booking tickets to Manila do my fellow traveler and I search for possible destinations to take in the country. My partner proposes Boracay, a popular site of many tourists. However, wanting a very new and distinctive photo album, I decide to go off the beaten track. This nation of 7,107 islands must have a wonderful and unique place for us! After hours of searching, that place turned out to be Tapik, located on the distant island of Palawan.
In order to visit Tapik, we had to fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa, followed by a sixhour trip to El Nido. Because the passenger car stops in El Nido at dusk, we decide to stay overnight, having a chance to view evening clouds above Corong Corong beach, where we “can view the most beautiful sunset in Palawan”, according to the Petit Futé guidebook. Cottages are available for overnight stay, and the early Saturday morning market is worth waking up for.
From El Nido, you can travel to Tapik in three ways: renting a motorbike, contacting your guesthouse to get picked up, or getting in a Jeepney with the locals. We chose the third (and cheapest) option. Jostling with visitors, chickens, villagers, and the tangling legs of teenagers sitting on the roof, the local transportation was an experience in itself. It took an astounding two hours to travel just 35 km from El Nido to Sibaltan village (by Tapik beach) due to the poor conditions of the road, the mountainous terrain, and the Jeepney making unexpected stops, dropping off passengers at their village homes.
During the trip, you can hear about long journeys the locals take to get their children to the hospital, gaze at the vehicle’s roof laden with goods being transported, introduce yourself to the passengers and get to know their way of life. Their stories and welcoming nature made my companion and I feel right at home. We met a woman who had been working in Saudi Arabia for six years and asked her, despite her high salary abroad and achievement in making it out of her hometown, why she came back to her rural home. “I earned enough money to raise up my brothers and sisters.” she said. “After that, I didn’t need anything else. Why stay away from those you made the sacrifice for in the first place? I decided to come home.”
When the Jeepney reaches Sibaltan village, we are picked up by Randy, manager of Tapik Beach. After walking 800 meters under lush green coconut trees, we finally arrive at the Tapik Beach Park Guesthouse. Although the place just opened for visitors at the end of 2013, we were not the first Vietnamese guests. A month before, a Saigonese girl came and stayed at this same guesthouse!
Tapik: Empty and Pristine
Facing the east, the guest house is in an excellent location to witness the mustsee sunrise of Tapik. Every night, Randy treats his guests with a campfire on the beach, waiting for the moon to rise. Among the stories spoken in different languages, whispers of fellow travelers, aromas of delicious dishes in the kitchen and flavors of tropical wines, I remember a dream of mine, a longanticipated desire to witness the rising of the moon above a deserted beach such as this. My dream is granted, and through flames and the scent of smoke and food, we watch the white body emerge from the sea and take its place among the stars.
According to leaflets of the Philippines, any given location in the country is within two hours of a beach. And once you get to the beach, don’t stop there; the marine life among the most vibrant on earth. If you go to the Philippines, don’t miss taking a diving excursion or sailing on a boat. Tapik Beach Park Guesthouse offers a tour for 1,200 peso, from 10a.m to 4p.m sailing through four sites: Binulbulon, Malabuso, Maosouon and Mazonon. At the first two sites, you can dive to see coral reefs, seaturtles, colorful fish and even baby sharks swimming around you in the clear water. One day on our trip, Randy takes us to an island without any visible footprints; we could not use words to describe its marvelous scenery. For my Hanoian partner, this is the first time she has walked on an isolated beach.
Called a paradise by tourists and locals alike, Tapik can throw a very lavish party. On the first night, Randy offers us the steamed crab with a coconut milk sauce. Each of us is served two big crabs at a very cheap price of about 200,000 VND. The most popular dish in the Philippines is adobo, which is chicken or pork marinated with garlic, then grilled before being stewed with vinegar, laurel leaves, salt and black pepper. Meanwhile, the Tapik adobo rice is added with some coconut milk.
During my stay in the Philippines, I am allured by all sweet dishes, including shrimp and squid, all served with rice. At times we could taste the sourness of kalamansi, a kind of lemon often used to garnish the food. For cooling down in the hot weather, a buko, or young coconut picked from seaside coconut trees, is the best option. Sometimes you can see local people drinking buko in an early morning in Manila, which is a surprise to many tourists, including myself.
Only One BoBog on Earth!
From Tapik, you can see a wild island with the whimsical name of BoBog. There is only an old wall, which used to be a guard house on this small and isolated island. Due to its wild and untouched characteristics, every visitor, who has a bath of their own, will feel like Lord of the Island. With the help of the waiter at the Guesthouse, we go kayaking to BoBang at noon. The blue sky is mixed in the sea to create very peaceful scenery.
At the end of our journey, our host still beamed from the sites he showed us. I in turn show him a video of lively Danang streets with a thought that he would compliment my city and perhaps wish to visit someday. Contrary to my expectations, he laughs. “There is no BoBog there!” he says, the choice between the two being obvious for him. Of course, the setbacks of living in Sibaltan village are apparent. By Danang standards, the living conditions are poor: the internet signal is not stable, electricity is only seen from 5p.m to 10p.m, and the water supply is not always steady. Every afternoon, kids catch snails while young men play basketball on the village’s only court and billiards on a very old table.
Inspite of these conditions, to him his village is beautiful. His BoBog wild island is even more miraculous than my active city, which is itself a dreamland for millions of people. However, I have to agree with him in calling this place paradise. Until I can find a whiter beach, more delicious food, more considerate people and smoother sand, Tapik retains my own vision of the perfect place on earth!
- Tapik Beach Park is located in Barangay Sibaltan, a village in the east of El Nido, Palawan province. Cebu Pacific, PAL Express and AirAsia provide flights between Manila and Puerto Princesa.
- Besides these options, you can take direct flights from Manila to El Nido; however, this route is more expensive than the flight to Puerto Princesa, where you can take a car to El Nido in six hours and contact Tapik Beach Park to be picked up.
- The best time to visit the Philippines is from December to May.
You also see more Philippines travel guide at here.