Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Apulit: An Underwater Wonderland

There's something magical about Apulit Island. It entrances you in a way that words could hardly explain.

Apulit is one of the four island resorts that make up the El Nido Resorts group. But unlike Miniloc, Lagen, and Pangulasian Islands, Apulit is the only island not found in El Nido. It is located in the town of Taytay, on the northeastern coast of Palawan.

Many would think that getting there would be too difficult. Not. At. All. I took the 7am flight of Island Transvoyager Inc., the only carrier that flies direct from Manila to El Nido. There's complimentary breakfast at the airport lounge, so you can stuff yourself and hang around before you board the 50-seater ATR aircraft.

We arrived in El Nido after an hour's flight. We were greeted by these lovely ladies (and gentleman) who sang for us Palawe├▒o songs. I didn't quite catch their lyrics, but I'm pretty sure it meant something like this: Welcome, welcome to our beautiful Palawan! And enjoy your stay here!

From the airport in El Nido, we rode a van to Taytay. The ride took us an hour and forty-five minutes by land, plus another 45-minute boat ride. It was quite a stretch. But the whole trip was seamlessly convenient. I was thrilled beyond belief as we began to approach the island and behold its wonder.

I stayed in a Loft Water Cottage which can fit 4 people. But I had the room all to myself. One. Of. The. Perks. My room also had a staircase leading directly to the sea from my veranda. And every morning I would thank God for waking me up to this view of the sea and the horizon.

I woke up early one morning for a hike at the cliffs. Waking up early had its merits. While everyone else was sleeping in, or stuffing themselves at the breakfast buffet, Wendell and I went rock climbing on the east side of the island. Not bad for a morning exercise. Wendell is this game-for-anything kind of dude with a pocketful of energy. There's never a dull moment when you hang around with him. 

As we reached the top, this was the view that unfolded before us. It's like the island was greeting us, Good morning! We could only rappel down the cliff one person at a time. Wendell went first. I sat on a rock on the cliff to catch my breath. There was this gentle morning breeze at the top and you had the best view of the whole island from here. I took a deep breath as I basked in all this awesomeness.

After rappelling, we explored the caves on the other side of the island.  Not a lot of people like caves. They're dark, mysterious, full of bats and other creepy-crawly creatures. They're all the same yet different somehow. But what I like about caves are the different rock formations you'd find inside them.

There was this ginormous crocodile rock formation inside Big Cave, an image of yet another gigantic elephant, chandeliers hanging from the cave ceiling, and many others if you let your imagination run wild. If you see the figure of a man with a cape at the entrance of the cave, that's a rock formation which was thought to be the image of St. Joseph. Hence, the cave was named after him.

We visited Isla Blanca in the afternoon. A huge part of of the island is a sandbar, so it only appears during low tide. The sand had a soft and fine texture. It was no wonder why Baby Bryden went ahead and played with it as soon as we dismounted our boat. I met this girl, Cheryz. She happened to be a G-Force dance scholar. She's amazing in a million different ways. We goofed around a lot while we were there.

Of course, I wouldn't call Apulit Island an underwater wonderland for no reason. All you need are goggles and a pair of fins... And off you go!

We snorkeled in the east and west sides of Apulit Island, and in Nabat Island. You could barely recognize the sunken angel at the house reef because it has been covered with corals. We spotted blue spotted rays, baby black tips, green sea turtles, lots of giant clams, and schools of big-eye scads. I found Nemo's brushing themselves in anemones. I found that corals are actually very fragile creatures. That a lot fish species swim together in couples, in perfect synchronization, and pair for life. And that our resort guides are the most dauntless atop a cliff and the most graceful dudes underwater.  

I felt so little in an island as big as Apulit. As I climbed its towering cliffs, as I explored its mysterious caverns, as I snorkeled within its waters, Apulit made me feel so small. And I liked it. It made me feel like I was part of something bigger, something greater, something grander. It felt like I was part of a whole.

Somehow I felt connected with everything and everyone, it felt like I belonged in a really strange paradise. Perhaps it's because we're all pieces of a puzzle, parts of a bigger picture. That we're all connected in more ways than we realize. And we find that every once in a while, out of what seems to be an ordinary life, God gives us moments of magic. Moments of surreal and inexplicable bliss. And those magical moments are what make life worth living.

These are the staff from the resort. But they've become dear friends to me. They're among the best people I've met, among the reasons why my stay has been memorable, among the many treasures I've found and cherish in the island.

I'm gonna feel this forever
Or even if it's just tonight
I can see the thing much clearer
Even when I close my eyes