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Published: January 22nd 2014
Typhoon Haiyan / Typhoon Yolanda
When we were initially planning for our Philippines trip in Sep 2013, we had included Coron for its beautiful beaches and awesome diving reviews. We even had our connecting flights from Busuanga to Manila booked. Unfortunately, when Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda hit Philippines in Nov 2013. Coron was one of the islands that were hit. To make matter worse, I was not able to contact any of the dive resorts in Coron for weeks.
Quickly, we came up with several contingency plans, such as going to Sipadan or some other parts of Indonesia instead. However, flying to and forth Philippines is not easy and there are many stop overs, mainly in Manila.
After some time, we waited and monitored the news coming from Philippines, my fear for the worst seem to come true. This is especially so after seeing photos that were coming out of Malapascua Islands. Ed said that why not we just stick to the plan and we will decide later if going over to Coron was really feasible.
Boy, was I glad that we stick to our decision of going to Coron despite all the news and difficulty.
I felt that Coron was the main highlight of my 2 weeks in Philippines. It was such a beautiful town and I really would like to plan another dive trip there some time in 2015.
Devastation in Coron
During our stay in Coron, I took one day off from diving to explore the town, having lots of fun, shopping, eating and people watching.
Even though, Coron was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, the main town in Busuanga was not really affected. It was business as usual for most people. Although, I saw some signs of devastation, most of the houses were made of bricks / stones, thus they were not badly damaged at all.
In comparison to Puerto Galera, this town is friendlier and it felt safe to walk the streets at any time of the day. Our dive resort is situated some distance from town, and there is not much street lighting in the area. Despite all that, Ed and I were able to make our way back safely every night.
Although Busuanga seemed to be not affected, we heard that the inland of Coron and the outlaying islands were badly hit. This
Places in Coron
The town was bustling with activities. It was so busy and filled with people going about their everyday lives.
is due to the fact that most of those houses that were built inlands, or on the nearby islands, were made of wood and straws. Hence, alot of people where homeless and stranded on the islands after the typhoon.
Most of the search and rescue efforts were completed by the time we got there. However, the donations of food supplies were still ongoing, and I had also noticed that they had converted the main sports hall in Coron to store them.
However, after conversing with our divemaster, we realised just how corrupted Philippines is. For all the money we donated, only a very small portion will eventually make its way to those in need. Even those countries that provided supplies, only a fraction of the rice and food will reach them, as the rest will end up being sold at the local stores.
Our divemaster, Toon
(I will mention more about him later in the post), even told us that PETA had managed to arrive before any humanitarian aids. The irony of feeding the animals, while the humans were still waiting and starving from the disaster.
Hence, the only way to
Sorry. This is the only pixs I have of the wrecks.
truly help Philippines is by going there. The main revenue for Philippines is tourism.
Only by continuing your visit to Philippines, will you truly help the people to get back on their feet faster. You will also be able to provide direct help and aid to the local community while you are there. - Toon
So do visit Philippines, to support the community!! (^_^)
While I was busy contributing to their economy, through shopping and eating, I also realised that the people there are alot friendlier and approachable. I had a great time shopping, eating and buying t-shirts souvenirs for family and friends. Even the aroma from several bakery shops was beckoning me to get more food. In the end, I bought too much food / snacks for this leg of the trip.
As I walk further, I stumbled upon the main market place and realised how bustling it was. There was really alot of things on sale, from daily necessities to fruits to dry food to fresh meat too!! It was amazing. The best part of it, the market place only closes at 7pm. So if you need to do any marketing, you can do it any time of the day. It was a huge contrast to El Nido, where the shops were close in the afternoon and there are no electricity from 6am to 2-4pm.
However, I do notice that
Coron felt slightly hotter than El Nido, and I was so happy when I stumbled upon an ice cream vendor. She was surprised at how delighted I am to see her. You should have seen the look on her face ^_^
The main highlight of Coron is their beautiful dive sites. We were recommended by Deep Blue Seafari
to try out Corto Divers
in Coron. We were lucky that due to Typhoon Haiyan, they had rooms available for us. Prior to this, when I had emailed them in Sep 2013, they were fully booked during the dates that we were going.
Nonetheless, you do not need to worry about accommodation in Coron, as there are many good budget hotels available along the main road. Before deciding to stay with Corto, Ed and I went on a hotel hunt and found many affordable rooms with great facilities, such as A/C, hot shower, and some even had TV. In the end, we decided to stay with Corto Divers so that it is easier for us to go out diving.
Do take note that Corto Divers
is related to Corto Der Mal Hotel
, so you could actually get to use the hotel
facilities and swimming pool for free. Although we didn't managed to find time for a swim there, we went there for dinner and to check out their rooms. It is a very beautiful hotel. However, the accommodation and food there is slightly more pricy.
The main dive sites in Coron are their wreck dives, Barracuda Lake and Apo Reef. As Ed was into wreck diving, we decided to do 3 days of wrecks, covering most of their famous and beautiful wrecks. Unfortunately, I wasn't much of a wreck diver (and I only did 2 days with them), I did not bring any of my camera equipment down with me (I am still waiting for Ed's videos).
Here are some of the dive sites that I went to (Ed did 3 more, but I wasn't sure where he went):
• Akitsushima Maru
• Okikawa Maru
• Irako Maru
• Kogyo Maru
For once, I felt that this trip wasn't long enough, even though we were in Philippines for 2 weeks. I really want to go back to so many places and Coron is one of them. I had wanted to do their Barracuda Lake and Apo Reef dives.
I have heard so much beautiful stories about those places.
Nevertheless, this dive trip was one of my first wreck dives, and I simply fell in love with wreck diving. It was only now that I understand why Ed was going crazy over these wreck dives. The boats below were beautifully preserved by the marine life. You could see the artilleries, bulldozers, gears, cement bags, and even a bomb shell. These dives were both exciting and challenging at the same time.
There were several factors that we had to take note while being down there. As visibility is very bad during December, we had to stay close to the divemaster. Moreover, with Typhoon Haiyan, some of the boats are no longer in the same position, and swimming through them is even more challenging, hence you need to be a cautious diver.
My Interesting Divemaster - Toon
I really need to write about this interesting divemaster I had, Toon
. He's from Belgium, but he had been staying in Asia for close to 10 years, with 4 years in the Philippines. The most interesting part about him was that he is the first divemaster I had
ever met who was reluctant to bring me down. It was only after a couple of dives and more small talks that I found out why.
He had a couple of bad encounters with new lady divers who were not comfortable in the water (I didn't have enough dives to convince him), and they had given him a terrible time while diving. He even shared that there was once, when they were at 15 metres. One of the lady divers panicked, took a deep breath, took off everything, BCS, mask and regulator and started to swim upwards. It took all his strength to stop her, as going upwards. As holding your breath, and swimming upwards too quickly, will cause lung damage due to air expansion. Ever since then, he had always been sceptical about female divers.
Well, I was lucky that I did not fail his test on my 1st wreck dive. He was afraid that I might panic and do something stupid underwater. Thus for our first dive at Akitsushima Maru, we did not do much swim through. We stayed mainly near the bottom to see the artilleries and around the boat, with only a small swim
Yummy Food Place - Kaison Food Corp
The uncle is the owner of the store. He is a Filipino Chinese who told me where to go to get more food! ^_^
about the engine room.
However, by the subsequent dives, he realised that I was much better than expected, we had more swim through, with some challenging ones too. He was having so much fun seeing me squeeze my way through the small crevices and holes, that when we were at Kogyo Maru (it was just the 2 of us, as Ed had a flu and he could not descent). Instead of going in and out the cabins, we had a straight 10 minutes swim through of the wreck. Going through tight spaces, small holes, under beams, over gears and everything there was to swim past.
Despite the challenging swim through, the sights in each cabins, the engine room, the gears, they were all so beautifully preserved and breathtaking. I had so much fun underwater, I simply fell in love with wreck diving.
Ed did say that we were very fortunate to had Toon
as our divemaster, as his passion for wreck diving allows him to bring us deeper into each wreck and to show us all the interesting artefacts of the wrecks. Most importantly, he is also very cautious and is always on the lookout for us.
We bought so much longans, mangoes and bananas from the market!! ^_^ they were all so sweet and delicious.
We were with another couple on one of our dives. The divemaster they had wasn't very good at wreck diving, hence he did not do much penetration in the wreck (swim through) with them, they stayed mainly on the exterior of the wrecks. The worse part, due to the bad visibility, they even got lost trying to find their way back to the boat. Hence, I was really very grateful for the fun and safe experience with Toon
is a free lance divemaster, hence he has the luxury to travel around Asia for as long as he like and to go wherever he wants to be. Do check out his facebook page to see where he might be if you want a very good wreck divemaster.
More trips to come...
Even though this marks the end of my awesome dive trip in Philippines. Philippines is a very beautiful place where I would like to go once again.
I have 4 trips planned this year, and 2 of them have been booked. I can't wait for the rest of 2014 to roll itself out. This is going to be an exciting year
I bought so many shirts from this auntie, she gave me such a huge discount that it each shirt worked to be US $2.
for me. On top of that, I have decided to write about Singapore. So that those who like to visit this tiny city of mine, you will have something to read about and look forward to when you visit Singapore.
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