Updated! We got a winner!
It may have something to do with the fact that we are living in a stressful time that people started finding ways to take that much-needed break without straying far away from the city. In 2007, they invented a word for it, “staycation.” It gained popularity in the US during the time of financial crisis that lasted until 2010. Now, whenever I hear the word, I associate it with this 3-star hotel that is the venue of my first solo staycation. It’s somewhere in Makati, near my place of residence, which takes the name of the street where it is located, Guijo Suites.
After staying in Dream Land Cottages and Tapik Beach Park Guesthouse in El Nido, I was ready to experience something real comfortable. For the record, I don’t mind staying in rustic accommodation, but I’d be lying if I tell you that I don’t prefer a much pleasant or cozier setup, which is exactly what I found at Palo Alto Bed & Breakfast in Puerto Princesa.
I recently went to a bar cafe and restaurant that has so much going on in it I remember it most for its interior than the food. Not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing. Filling Station can be found in the so-called Red District in Makati Ave. On why it’s called a gas station you have to go upstairs to find out.
“Puerto Princesa is famous for the Underground River…”
is the sad summary of what I used to know about this city in Palawan. This first solo sojourn changed all that. Though my stay was rather brief to allow an in-depth insight of the place, let me share the things that I enjoyed and discovered during my trip in the place they call as the City within the Forest.
The first thing that she asked me when we first met is,
“When is your next travel?”
For the whole night, she would ask the same question to the other people she met during the Backpacker Teacher launch. That’s how I met Karan Grace Ballon, our third featured traveler in our Travel Bug Series. Get to know the woman behind Ritz & Grace Travel and Tours in this interview.
Somewhere in the eastern tip part of Palawan, in the sleepy town of Sibaltan, time seems to stand still. There lies a concealed paradise only known to a select few. There, you can behold the most beautiful sunrise as it slowly breaks into the horizon. There you can walk barefoot on the sand filled with holes created by the tiny and almost translucent crabs. There you own the sea, the air, and the quiet. Somewhere in El Nido there is an isolated paradise and it’s called Tapik Beach Park Guesthouse.
My search for accommodation in El Nido led me to Trip Advisor. There’s one place that reviewers are calling as a hidden paradise, out of way, and breathtakingly beautiful. They say if you are looking for something peaceful and offbeat, this is the place to be. Not only is it beautiful they say, accommodation is also cheap. The words were enough to pick my curiosity, but it’s the photos that I saw from their website that sealed the deal. I didn’t even care anymore how I would get myself to the place, I just knew in my heart I should go there so I booked in heartbeat.
The biggest challenge you will encounter is to find a means to get there. Sibaltan is about one a half hour away from Corong Corong. Tapik offers a service to their guests but only until 4:00 p.m. Beyond this time, you can request them to come pick you up from Corong Corong terminal but it will cost you PHP 1,500 (USD 32.54). This may not be a big deal if you came in groups, but in my case, that amount is a dent in my pocket. Good thing, I was able to get in Corong Corong in time for their service. Because I missed their service the day before, they were kind enough to wait for me this time even when I reached Corong Corong Terminal at 4:40PM.
You can also hire or rent a motorcycle to get to Sibaltan. In fact, this is the preferred method of most foreign tourists. According to a local, you can rent a motorcycle, which you can use to drive around for PHP 800 (USD 17.36) per day.
Bus ride is another option but it only travels twice a day. From Sibaltan you have to be up as early as 4:00 a.m. to catch this bus back to Corong Corong. According to some people travel time also takes a bit long, about 2-3 hours.
The road to Sibaltan is long and at times, rough. This is true of the entire El Nido. Some roads are paved, some are coarse and muddy. The ride was too long, I found myself having a little game of “are we there yet?” in my head. When at last the van has stopped and parked on a clearing, I followed the driver to a narrow path that leads to the resort. The walk took about 5 minutes.
The rooms in Tapik look like the traditional houses or what we call locally as bahay kubo. They are scattered about the land, on top of the plateau facing the beach. Some rooms have their own toilet and bath, they cost PHP 1,600 (USD 34.71) per night. The cheapest room goes for PHP 800 (USD 17.36) per night but without its own bathroom.
Down the elevated ground, just in front of the beach is the in-house restaurant. Round the back are the shared bathrooms with toilets.
I stayed in a beach hut, PHP 800 (USD 17.36) per night. It has a double bed, enclosed in a mosquito net, and an electric fan.
This place is all about the peace and quiet, the answer to a person’s hope to be alone with his thoughts. Lounge chairs, small cottages, and some hammocks are strewn about the beach. No noise save for the calming sound of the waves hitting the shore and the cawing of birds flying over the horizon.
I was not prepared for the creepy crawly things that disturbed the peace of night. My bed is covered by a mosquito net because Tapik is very much a province, insects of different variety are common. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that mosquito net because of the animals that hang out inside my room for the whole night. There are slats that connect the roof and the upper wall, which made it easy for these animals to come into my room. I figured they were attracted to the light because I didn’t turn it off due to my paranoia that those creepy crawly things would somehow find their way inside the net.
When I returned to my room after taking a shower, I was appalled to see that there were two bats flying in circles inside my room. I called for help and one of the staff, Mabel, immediately responded. Armed with a long stick, she shooed the bats away from my room. One bat returned when I was about to sleep, though it did nothing but hang upside down on the ceiling.
The creature that really made this experience a thing for nightmares is a gecko. I am no stranger to the sounds they make, I heard them when I stayed in the house of a friend in Batangas, also in a resort in Laguna, but this is the first time I saw one in the flesh. This is coming from a woman who is also afraid of frogs and snakes, so imagine my horror when I saw this thing on the ceiling that looks like a big house lizard with a head bigger than its body; I was beyond petrified. For the whole night, he was busy chasing this black bug that kept falling off on my mosquito net.
The only thing that kept me inside the net is the fear that the gecko would somehow fall and attach itself on me. Despite knowing that the chance of this happening is next to none, I wasn’t pacified. This is the only time in this whole trip that I hated being alone. The scenario led to what I view to be the most restive sleep I’ve ever had in my life.
Tapik has it own restaurant. On the menu, they offer an extensive selection of Filipino and International cuisine. When I had dinner the night of my arrival, I noticed that I was the only Filipino guest. There’s a French couple, two men from Australia, a white guy who was also in his lonesome, and a younger couple whose nationality I wasn’t able to find out.
Tapik’s source of electricity at night is a generator, which they turn off at 4:00 a.m. In the morning, they use solar energy to power up the place. I’m not sure if this is the reason the light was dim in the restaurant at night. Each table though has a candle. The entire setup is romantic, really, like I needed to be reminded that I am single still.
Upon the recommendation of one of the staff, I ordered Chicken Adobo (PHP 250 – USD 5.42) for dinner on my first night on the island. As she promised, this adobo is unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. The sauce is of deep dark orange instead of brown, which I think comes from tomato sauce, though I am not quite sure. The chicken was sliced into small pieces and they were wonderfully tender.
The afternoon before I left the place, I had Pancit Mami (PHP 180 – USD 3.90). The serving was big, but something seems to be lacking with the taste.
As soon as I saw the light, I got up and roamed my eyes about the room. There was no sign of the gecko so I carefully raised the mosquito net, let myself out, took some things from my bag, then went out of the room; it was 5:00 a.m.
It was too early, not a soul can be seen in the property. I took the time to roam about to truly appreciate the beauty of the place. As I was sitting on a chair by the beach, I noticed this faint light breaking through the clouds. To my utter delight, I realized I was about to witness a sunrise. I’ve seen so many sunsets in my life, but sunrise, this is something rare. In fact, I don’t even remember the first time I saw one. The spectacle had me so overwhelmed I wanted to cry that I couldn’t capture it on camera because my phone is dead. Now, some of you may say that some beautiful moments are best appreciated without technology and I respect that. But for me, I’d rather have a solid remembrance of some memories.
Around 8:00 a.m, the staff started coming in. Thanks to the solar power, I was able to recharge my phone and to my relief, it turned on. As soon as it had enough juice, I wasted no time photographing the place.
Tapik arranges their own island hopping tour on the islands that are not included in the famed Tours A to D of El Nido. They also have what they call, a Castaway Tour, which means they will take you to an island and then come back for you later in the day, or if you want, the next morning. The island they say is so private, you’d feel like you have been castaway, hence the name. I was trying to go easy on my expenses, I decided not take any of these tours and just spend the whole day beach bumming.
Because there were only a few guests in the resort—some didn’t get up until around 8 to 9 in the morning—I had a chance to feel like I was alone on the island for a few hours. It felt so good to breathe in the fresh air and be in a serene place with the magnificent view of the beach. I lead a pretty stressful life back in the city so I appreciate having this opportunity to be away from all those things.
There is a tiny uninhabited island nearby, which the guests are also free to visit. It is so near it can be reached by kayaking. One of the staff offered to take me there by a boat for PHP 300 (USD 6.51). I almost said yes but when he told me that the place has water snakes I was like, hmm… no. He assured me that water snakes only come out at night but after that restless night in the company of a bat and gecko, he couldn’t change my mind.
In my wandering, I discovered that there is another resort beside Tapik. I’m not sure if the place had any guests but apart from this local woman with a baby, the beach area is deserted. According to Mabel, the owner of the other resort is a relative of the one who owns Tapik.
In the remainder of my stay, I tried to finish a Sidney Sheldon novel, played a guitar, talked with the staff, sipped my coffee, and napped in one of the lounging chairs by the beach.
I have nothing but kind words for the staff of Tapik. From their manager, Kuya Randy, to the crew, Mabel and Shailene, the van driver, and the old guy who mans the beach area at night, everyone treated me with respect and courtesy. They were very warm and friendly, always with a smile on their faces, and they tried their best to make sure that my stay in their place is comfortable.
They are also good conversationalists that I found myself enjoying those little… okay, long chats that I had with them.
From talking with them I learned that the word “tapik,” refers to a kind of stone that can be found in the place, and not to the Tagalog word that means “a tap on someone’s shoulder.” The owner, they say is a Filipino who lives in abroad.
If you too want to experience this relaxing getaway, here’s a few tips:
- Be in Corong Corong Terminal before 6:00 p.m so you can ride their service van free of charge.
- Tapik gives their guests a small sachet of insect repellent, but if you are staying longer, this will not be enough so I suggest that you bring your own.
- Bring a budget for their tours. Not taking their tour is one of the things that I am truly sorry for. I didn’t have enough money anymore so if you’re going there make sure you have extra moolah.
- If you’re also afraid of gecko and the likes, I suggest you book the rooms with their own bathrooms. According to Mabel, those kinds of rooms are more enclosed compared with the one that I had.
I regret that my stay at Tapik is rather brief. On June 12, at 4:00 p.m., I decided to go back to Corong Corong where a Lexxus van was waiting for me to take me back to Puerto Princesa. There are buses that leave Sibaltan to Corong Corong at 4:00 a.m., but since it’s too early for me, I just availed of the transfer service of Tapik for PHP 1,500.
If you are feeling adventurous, searching for something different, and in want of a serene place with a stunning view of the beach, I highly recommend you include Tapik in your El Nido trip. I assure you that it’s worth that extra one and half hour trip.
Three years ago, my officemates and I went to Coron, Palawan. The owner of the place we stayed in gave us a boat with two boatmen, and much like a paper boat we sailed not knowing where we would go. They took us to several islands, those that can be reached by the fuel that revved up the boat. Our island-hopping tour was spontaneous and unpredictable; we had no set itinerary. It’s an entirely different story in El Nido.