The hype was to be believed : Palawan is indeed a paradise, only for me it turned to be a rainy one. Relentlessly so. I got soaked so, so many times, in so many different places, doing so many different things. Strolling on the beach before dinner. Looking for a tour operator for a quintessential island hopping tour. And, comically, during the island hopping itself, as the delicious grilled food turned soupy and we sought refuge under the palm trees. No respite, really.
I generally took it well -philosophically, one might say. What the hell, I thought. I’m still on vacation. This is beautiful, and there is cheap beer and awesome reggae music at night. Actually – most scenarios in my life are significantly worse than getting soaked while island hopping and snorkeling in Palawan.
I did suffer a moment of despair, though. It was at night, walking back from a bar in El Nido to my accommodation. All of a sudden the downpour had started, surprising me. Just when I thought the rain had gone to bed. And so I found myself walking on puddles in the dark, splashing mud on my legs and my shorts, too tired to reach for the dignified garbage back that hiker buddy Czarina had given me in Alicia, Bohol, and which now was torn beyond any recognizable figure.
I sought refuge and texted a beautiful friend back home:
“Fed up with the rain. Wanna be in Tres Cantos.” Yes, you read me, that’s my boring suburban hometown – the epitome of everything that is not travel and excitement. No offense, neighbours.
Beautiful friend answered with a laughing emoji and suggested that I write about my different feelings toward this weather – a topography of the rainy experience, so to speak.
And, come think of it, there is an upside to bad weather when you travel. Bad weather is, shall we say…edifying. A bit like temporary sickness, it teaches you acceptance, and helps you value sunny beach days and clear-day views from the mountain tops. More so, it forces you to slow down, cancel over-ambitious plans and take in the modest, anonymous sights on offer. Locals roasting a pig in preparation of a party. Empty beach bars flooded by imaginary sunsets. A beautiful yet empty hotel plus yoga centre plus cafe boasting the best view in town.
Bad weather is also conducive to conversation and making friends: rum and coke on the boat with friendly Filipinos, buying cheap happiness shots at the eponymous bar, listening to covers of Nirvana and Bob Marley at Coco Loco.
“We’re tired of this“, said Jerome, with unmistakably French accent. “We’re trying Port Barton just in case the weather gets better, because we can’t take it anymore. Like, in Bali it’s sunny everyday.”
I met Jerome and his girlfriend in the van from El Nido to Port Barton. A rather hazardous ride, or so it felt as the van started skidding on the mud just a few meters away from a deadly cliff.
“Sorry, I’m getting off“, said the girl. “A friend of ours died in Guatemala in a van accident, so we’re taking no risks”
But we did get to Port Barton, only to be welcomed by another downpour. No problem: my new Filipino friends and I were eager to explore and so we ended up jogging on the mud with the hope of getting to White Beach before sunset.
And we did, and it was beautiful: quiet, lonely, pristine. A highlight of my Filipino trip. Despite the prospect of hiking back in the dark, I felt compeled to go for a swim during which I thanked God for life, love, travel and Thai food.
Later, I bumped into the French couple at one of the two bars that were open that night.
“That’s it, man”, Jerome said. “We’re out of here tomorrow“.
“But….What about the island hopping? What about White Beach?”
I was happily drunk after reggae covers and a bit too much Red Horse, but nonetheless felt that there was something objective about my case.
“Forget it, man! We get to Port Barton and it starts raining like hell! Tomorrow we’re flying Puerto Princesa to Bali. It will be sunny there!”
Possibly. But that same day an earthquake hit Bali as I enjoyed an amazing island hopping experience to reasonably sunny skies.
One never knows just how much acceptance is right.