Coron & Busuanga
As we flew over the sun-burnt, rolling hills of the islands of northern Palawan, Francisco B. Reyes Airport on Busuanga came in to view. It was a tiny, one-strip runway with a modest terminal to match. The prop plane skimmed the mountains and landed hard, slamming on the breaks and screeching to a halt with what seemed to be 35 meters of runway left. At that point, it was no longer surprising that our flight had been cancelled the night before – the airport doesn’t have any runway lights so landing after sunset isn’t allowed.*
Walking through downtown was incredibly hot, the late-morning sun pounding down on a desolate dirt waterfront as we wandered around. Coron is a quaint two-strip fishing town lining the southeastern edge of Busuanga and overlooking a beautifully jagged mountainous island, also named Coron. Downtown was busy with a constant stream of trikes, but otherwise it seemed quiet. Locals knew to avoid the heat, while what tourists were visiting, were out on their island hopping or dive trip to the surrounding reefs and islands.
On top of the natural beauty of Coron, diving has become the main draw for tourism to the area. In September 1944, a fleet of Japanese ships were sunk in a raid by the US Navy in the harbor. Ten of those shipwrecks are now surrounded with coral reef and are very well preserved, elevating Coron as one of the best dive sites in the world.
But we don’t dive. (I really should get certified…)
We were there to check it out, but more importantly, to embark on a five day sailing expedition to El Nido. Even with the cancelled flight, we still had nearly an entire day and with a boat trip to Coron, some happy hour with new friends, and another amazing sunset, I had already forgotten about being stuck in Manila.