Experiencing Local Eco-Tourism & a Bruin Rendezvous in Coron

View of Coron

View of Coron

Posts by Katie Olson-Kenny, MURP candidate ’15, who interned in the Philippines over the summer

August 10, 2014

Eco-tourism suits the natural beauty of the Philippines and Linapacan’s untapped small islands and islets are no exception. Currently, the municipality’s tourist sector is underdeveloped, but the LGU recognizes its strong potential for future expansion. This weekend I took it upon myself to experience first-hand, the type of island-hopping Linapacan has to offer.

Meet my coworker and friend Kuya Dimas. (Kuya is a term of respect for an older male and means “older brother” in Tagalog.) Dimas is one of PHILSSA’s local community organizers in charge of gathering baseline data throughout the municipality’s ten barangays. He is very upbeat, funny, and warm. While neither of us is fluent in the other’s language, we manage to communicate just fine.

Kuya Dimas holding our lunch.

Kuya Dimas holding our lunch.

Our first stop was Patuyo Island, which was about a 20-minute ride from San Miguel. The water is so clear you can see fish swimming from the boat. The water is also unbelievably warm. Its proximity to San Miguel makes it a quick and easy trip to great snorkeling spots. We then stopped by Maaodit Island, where Kuya Dimas grilled fresh fish over a tiny makeshift fire. Rice, bread, and coconut completed the meal. This is the boat we took out.

There were no other boats out on the water, and we had the beaches to ourselves. Not a bad way to spend our Saturday morning!

August 28, 2014

This past weekend I met up with fellow MURP and good friend, Jake Cranor, in Coron. It was a 5-hour boat ride for me, and a 1-hour plane ride for him to reach the small island. Jake is working in Cebu City with ActionAid and, when we realized we’d both be in the Philippines this summer, we made plans to see each other. The recent 3-day weekend proved to be the perfect opportunity.

It was so nice to see a familiar face and exchange stories. Jake’s internship jump-started with a trip to Tacloban, where his office was invited to attend an appreciation weekend for the active NGOs assisting in recovery efforts. He described Tacloban as having grown into an agglomeration of NGOs, for all sorts of development activities throughout the Philippines. Jake’s main duties in the ActionAid office consist of evaluating disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) plans, mapping livelihood activities, and collaborating on the construction of a concept note for an ActionAid DRRM program.

We kept comparing his city life, to my rural village experience. He is staying in a hostel and has made friends from all over the world – Australia, Japan, Korea, England, Germany, and Switzerland, to name some. I am doing a homestay with the mayor’s family of 13, and growing closer with them every day. I conceded that Linapacan’s natural beauty was more preferable to Cebu’s chaos and pollution, but he said at least Cebu had the benefits of amenities that we’re accustomed to; electricity in Linapacan only runs from noon to midnight, and there is no running water.

Standing out as foreigners was a commonality. He, being tall, blond haired and blue eyed, easily attracts attention even in a large city. I actually had the privilege of witnessing this in Manila back in June (and it was very entertaining). At the mall, a young girl followed him with her camera phone. Later that evening, Jake caused a toddler to stop dead in his tracks. Eyes glued to Jake, the little boy’s neck came impressively close to completing a 180. Even the girls working at the fro-yo shop kept sneaking glances in his direction. The man was like a celebrity!

Katie working at the MPDC office.

Katie working at the MPDC office.

For me, being the only foreigner in such a small community has deemed me “The Korean” (note: not, “The American”). Any time I step outside of the house or office, I attract the attention of those around me. While I do not consider myself an extrovert, I am maintaining a daily average of roughly 200 greetings and self-introductory conversations to complete strangers. Waving to groups of kids yields giggles and wave-backs, and smiling wins smile-backs 99% of the time (overly baffled, young children are the exception).

However, this past weekend – due to Coron’s substantial tourism industry, and thus constant influx of foreigners – neither of us (felt like we) stood out too much. It was a nice change of pace. We played tourists for the weekend, and below is a picture of us, triumphant in our endeavor to complete the treacherous hike that is Mount Tapias. I think it took us 20 minutes. Also, there were paved stairs.

Jake and Katie at Mt. Tapias

Jake and Katie at Mt. Tapias.

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