The first thing you'll notice in El Nido is the abundance of foreign tourists. They're literally all over the place. The chance of not seeing a foreigner when you're in El Nido is close to none. Whether you're walking down the beach in Bacuit Bay, or having a stroll along Calle Hama or Rizal, you're bound to meet and see White people, that's for sure. So if you're the type of person who's afraid of foreigners or have something against them, you better think twice before going to El Nido because they dominate the place. Not in a bad way though.
I've met really nice people in El Nido - they're mostly foreigners who came from around the globe. The only Filipinos I talked to were the staff from La Banane Hostel, tour organizers from the island hopping tour and the owner of El Nido Plaza Inn.
In no particular order, here are some of the cool folks I interacted with.
Having been recently to Vietnam and Thailand where he was exposed to rich gastronomical treats, Johan was interested to experience the Filipino cuisine. He noted that so far he wasn't very impressed with local food. He liked Red Horse though. Johan blogs his Southeast Asian backpacking experience at http://jinseasia.blogspot.com
As soon as the gate was opened, Jorge and I excitedly went to the beach, which was only inches away from the hostel. He began scribbling some name on the sand. Ron Ezpina, it read. I asked if that was his real name. "No, that's my friend's name. I want to make him jealous by taking a photo of the beach with his name on it," he shared. I met Jorge again early that evening. He just arrived from the island hopping tour and was waiting for his turn at the common bathroom. He looked suntanned but undoubtedly happy.
Jordi & Clara [Spain]
Helicopter Island. (I wasn't eavesdropping, they were just sitting close to me) I took a few units of Spanish back in college so I knew some words in Spanish. It wasn't until we were in Cagbatang Cove when I finally had the confidence to talk to them. "You guys Spanish?" I asked Jordi as they were preparing to snorkel. His face lit up, and answered "Yes" with a smile. "How did you know?" he asked back. "I know a few Spanish words," I said, "but un poco."
After telling me his name, he introduced his wife, Clara. "Me llamo Ryan," I said with a pretentious Spanish accent I mimicked from Spanish films I've seen and remembered. I wasn't sure if that impressed Jordi, but he smiled anyway. They told me (well mostly Jordi did the talking because Clara was more interested to swim - haha) that they're doing a tour in Southeast Asia and they needed to go back before the end of January. That kind of made him sad. Apparently, they're enjoying their stay in the Philippines. "We'll be back though," he promised, hopeful.
Kess & Dirk [Holland]
Kess & Dirk are long time friends who took some time off work to travel. They came all the way from Amsterdam. After realizing that I was alone in the tour, these two gentlemen were kind enough to invite me for some drink at SeaSlugs restaurant, where they downed a couple of San Miguel Beer Pale Pilsen (they're favorite local drink) and wolfed down freshly-cooked seafood.
These guys were amazed to find out that language barrier wasn't much of an issue in the Philippines because everyone knows how to speak English. "That's just convenient for us," Dirk said. "But it's also saddening to realize how poor most people in your country are" he added as an afterthought. Apart from the friendly locals, what these Dutch men loved about the Philippines are the food. "Those fish and rice we ate during lunch at the tour were equally good," Kess said as he munched a grilled squid.
"The only problem we have is getting money from the ATM," Dirk shared. "We're running out of cash and there aren't banks here in El Nido, which is surprising considering the number of tourists that come here." Dirk suggested that tourists who plan to go to El Nido should be advised to bring as much cash they need.
Ipil Beach, began with monkeys. I was admiring this lovely tree with its beautiful flowers, when he approached me and started telling me about the monkey he spotted earlier at the same spot. I couldn't tell for sure if he's just pulling my leg or wanted to while the time away by talking to a complete stranger. But his unusual discovery sounded authentic so I didn't rain in his parade.
"Spotted two monkeys right there," he told me enthusiastically, pointing at the nice-looking tree.
"Oh yeah? Where did they go?" I asked, intrigued, looking up.
"Hid away, I guess. Took some photos on my iPhone though."
"I wish they'd show up again," I said, hopeful.
"Yeah, I guess they got shy or scared."
Daniel said he had just graduated from college and was taking a month-long vacation in the Philippines. "When I come back, I have to find a job real soon," he said. He talked about a few interesting spots he wanted to visit. He wanted to go to Mt. Pinatubo and see the whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu. He also liked to visit Mt. Mayon. When he asked me for suggestions, I mentioned Caramoan as he could see the volcano and at the same time, see butandings in Donsol. Our conversation ended with him scribbling my travel blog on his iPhone.
Janus & Daniel [Germany]
I was preparing to leave for dinner when Janus came to the room and started having a lively conversation with me. He and his cousin, Daniel, had just arrived in El Nido. They were the newest dorm occupants at La Banane. Janus had this bubbly and super friendly personality which made the room feel so warm. I felt like I was a tourist being welcomed by a local. His energy level was top-notch and the smile on his face didn't seem to fade. As soon as Daniel came bustling inside the room, he introduced me to him.
"Where are you guys from?" I asked.
"Germany," Janus responded.
"Frankfurt?" I guessed, only because that was the first city that came to mind.
"Yes!" Janus said, excitedly. "Have you been there?"
"Nope. I'm just good at guessing."
They both laughed. They invited me to do some night swimming but unfortunately I had to meet Dirk and Kess at SeaSlugs. They asked where SeaSlugs was and told me they'd check out the place later and maybe share a few drink with me. And they indeed went to the restaurant a few hours later but they didn't see me. When I came back at the hostel a little before 11PM, they were setting up a Skype call back home.
Out of the blue, they started singing "Happy birthday" to me - both in English and German. I told them earlier that the reason I went to El Nido was because I wanted to spend my special day there. If it weren't for Janus and Daniel, I wouldn't have been able to mingle with the rest of the guests at La Banane. They dragged me along to join the Dutch travelers who were having a rum-coke party at the lawn. One of those cool Dutch peeps was Ida, a nursing student traveling in the Philippines with friends. Prior to El Nido, they spent several weeks in Boracay and Sagada, which she found beautiful.
Sean [Australia] & Brennan [Canada]
Sean and Brennan were both solo travelers who met earlier that day on a bus bound for El Nido. Passionate about traveling and going to the same destination, they hit it off pretty well. I even thought they were best friends because they looked like they were.
Sean is an Australian dude who's got Filipino blood. His grandmother is in fact a Filipina who hasn't come back to the country for a very long time. He's kind of tracing his roots, so to speak, by going back to where his folks have originally come from. Chattering away in his thick Aussie accent, Sean shared his ideas about the colonial mentality of Filipinos. It obviously ticked him off.
While Sean aired his views heatedly, Brennan, a good-natured Canadian, had only good things to say about the Philippines. He was definitely loving it here.
Other Interesting Folks I Met in El Nido
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