05 Apr2007


We set out early on our second day in Coron, aboard our chartered banca, headed towards Culion Island, originally identified and designated as a special community for lepers in 1906. cul4The island is rather remote, and presumably, figuratively at “the ends of the archipelago”, hence it was considered an ideal place to “exile” those with leprosy. At the time, there was no known cure for leprosy, so segregation and isolation were the best options known to health officials. But this particular post is about the morning journey, not the destination. Leaving the town docks at 6:30 a.m., we had an early morning view of the imposing rounded mountaintops on the nearby Coron Island. The water was incredibly calm, like a sheet of glass, and we cast off from the back of the Coron Public Market, with a plan to pass the “back route,” weaving through smaller islands taking in the scenery rather than making a beeline for the marine highway equivalent, where one’s pumpboat could travel at full throttle…

The “back route” was perfect for a tourist like me. The totally calm water, the increasing light after sunrise and the knowledge that the trip might take 90 minutes at a languid pace meant you had to sit back, relax and observe with a keen eye. cul2The serenity and simplicity of the journey is what made it so memorable. The surrounding islands were barren in some areas, had a few trees, or were heavily covered in low and lush trees and foliage. But while the hills were sometimes dry and arid looking, much of the shoreline was covered with an impressive amount of lush and healthy looking mangrove trees, indicating a very clean and ideal breeding ground for fish and other marine creatures. Sure enough, just as I was contemplating that thought, a school of small dilis-like fish, locally called salinyasi, started jumping out of the water right in front of the banca’s bow. Leaping a few inches above the water and at some angles, catching the light, they were a pleasure to watch and despite my trying hard to get a picture of them, they disappeared before I could click away… Shivers of silver and intense reflections of sunlight bouncy off their tiny bodies really made you think there are good things all around you…

Our boatman explained that the little fish were born in the mangroves and went to the equivalent of “fish school” there, before venturing out to the cul3wide blue yonder. He also said that with so much ideal fish food for larger fish, it was likely that one would see the schools of tiny salinyasi “attacked” by larger predators. As if on perfect cue, minutes later we were in a calm basin where lots of salinyasi started jumping out of the waters around us and sure enough, these fantastic 2-3 kilo tulingan or baby tuna jumped a foot or two out of the waters chasing their pray. It was interesting that the boatmen described the fish as playing or frolicking. One side of me thought, yikes, humongous cousin comes to eat me alive but the whole scene was just so National Geographic that I knew my trip was worth it if only for that moment of seeing the fish jump straight out of the calm waters chasing smaller fry. I hope the poor little salinyasi tasted as good as the best tuna sashimi I eat in Japanese restaurants…

About 20-30 minutes later, and admiring more coastal scenery, deserted beaches, little coves, stunning rock faces, we got closer and closer to Culion. cul5But before we got there, we came across hundreds and hundreds of buoys which apparently signaled the vast cultured pearl farms that “rented” water/sea space from the municipality. Japanese managed firms raised tens and tens of thousands of oysters in cages suspended in the cool nutrient rich and utterly clean waters in that area that had been implanted with the beginnings of cultured pearls. I was in awe of the fact that millions and millions of pesos worth of stunning cultured pearls were at that moment just several meters away from our banca and several meters deep. Closely guarded by armed security…it was again an eye opener for Marketman about the beauty and wealth of some of our natural and less inhabited areas. The fact that the oysters were here could only mean the water was really of fine quality… Just minutes later, we landed at the pier in Culion and a day of new discoveries for Marketman. The 90 minute boat trip was already enough food for the senses for one day but I was to be bombarded with more and more nourishment of all kinds…



  1. Zita says:


    Are you still on holidays though?

    Apr 5, 2007 | 11:28 am


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  3. Tetet says:

    Hi MM, This Coron trip looks so amazing. Im just curious, how much does it cost to do this Coron trip? And also the incidentals… I was thinking of El Nido, but I guess this is better.

    Apr 5, 2007 | 11:32 am

  4. Ali Figueroa says:

    This post reminds me of our own visit to Culion last year. I’m afraid that boat trip was far from serene and simple though, as we travelled in the wake of typhoon Milenyo, and the seas were still rather rough. But despite the harrowing and frightening journey, we could not ignore the spectacular beauty of the islands, and I’m looking forward to returning soon.

    Apr 5, 2007 | 11:44 am

  5. pixeldose says:

    Good job on the imagery, MM. Your description of the place gave me the idea to fire up Google Earth to check if I could make out the details of the islands from Google’s satellite images. Zooming in, I could make out some details … the outlines of the lakes in the Coron islands are clearly visible. It’s amazing how many little islands there are in that northern tip of Palawan and I’m guessing that’s probably true all over the Pinas.

    Oh and if anyone hasn’t seen the satellite images of Manila and nearby suburbs, the resolution is pretty good actually … you could actually see the tiny cars on the streets when you zoom in.

    Apr 5, 2007 | 4:11 pm

  6. mikel in paris says:

    LOVE IT!

    Apr 5, 2007 | 8:21 pm

  7. lojet says:

    Your pictures and narrative is the next best thing to being there right now. Thanks for the virtual experience MM.

    Apr 6, 2007 | 6:34 am

  8. Marketman says:

    Zita, I am back from Palawan but out of town at the moment at the beach… Tetet, airfares to Coron are around PHP5000-7000 round trip, we stayed in a hotel for PHP800 a night for two persons (more details on hotel in upcoming posts), we rented bancas for our private use for PHP3000 or so a day for a large one with three bangkeros with us, and the food is wicked cheap…so it would cost less for a week on this trip than a day at El Nido Resort… but its much cheaper if you stay at el Nido town… Ali, yes the seas can get rough and that was what I was worried about, but it was incredibly calm during my trip. pixeldose, yes, look it up on google earth, it is an amazing view… mikel, it is totally worth a trip and lojet, stay tuned for more of the trip!

    Apr 6, 2007 | 10:10 am

  9. Cindy says:

    Hi MarketMan :)

    I can’t remember how i got linked to your website, but it’s been more than a year now that i read and refer to your writings… when i need recipees, just have time to read or browse and get balita from back home. I am based in Pacifica in California and has been residing in America for 7 years now. I am on the way with my second child and have a 10 month old baby girl, and have an American partner and in-laws of swiss-italian-american decent. We all love to eat and cook and all that. Every now and then, i cook something really pinoy and most of it they’ve liked – of course our adobo, bicol express, kare-kare, etc. Right now, i am craving for sinaing na tulingan and kinilaw na tangige. I am not sure they will like the sinaing na tulingan, i usually back home whenever i craved for it would just cook it on a small kaldero or clay pot, put lots of our rock salt on it and in between the slices of cleaned fish and butter too, put a few cubed of taba ng baboy, sampaloc na hilaw if there is, and can’t remember if it needs garlic and ginger… or i am confusing it to paksiw at this point… i learned to eat and cook that sinaing na tulingan from friends from Batangas during the almost every other weekend we would go to the beaches there. The kinilaw na tangige i learned from my mom – just some vinegar (am not sure if she used del monte or our native sukang paumbong), ginger, onions, limes, salt and pepper… and i think that’s it! I guess my in-laws will like it as it’s similar to their seviche here. I need your inputs tho’ when you get a chance, if you don’t mind – are my recipees correct or complete?, what’s tangige and tulingan in English, if you say tulingan is baby tuna? I’m not sure what fish to buy in the Asian stores here or at a Safeway or Albertson’s. Please help…

    Apr 11, 2007 | 8:33 am

  10. Marketman says:

    Hi Cindy, I have a recipe for kinilaw na malasugi and kinilaw na dilis in my archives…just type it into the search function and KEEP scrolling down and down again until you find the recipes. For kinilaw, your best bet in the states is sashimi quality tuna belly…the kind that Japanese restaurants use. I would NOT use any frozen fish at all. I also have posts on TULINGAN the fish in several areas of the archives, type it in the search function and keep scrolling. It has scientific names, closest fish to it, etc. As for sinaing na tulingan, I unfortunately have not made this at all, in fact, I haven’t tasted it yet…

    Apr 11, 2007 | 8:49 am


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