The powerboat angrily roared to life, a sleek, raucous dragon with twin four-stroke engines and the attitude of Al Pacino, all alone with a mountain of blow. The hull cut the waves like a scythe, the fiberglass spine bouncing and bounding – an aquatic bucking bronco threatening to toss us into the sea. Nonchalantly, I looked over to Emman, my photographer, who was sitting sublimely with his back to the engines, his face serene. I had my shades on to ward off the glare of the sultry morning sun but they did nothing to prevent my hair from getting whipped into a rockstar frizzy frenzy.
This is how it must feel like to be a Miami drug lord. All I needed were gold chains ‘round my neck, diamonds on my teeth and bikini-clad bunnies on each arm and the ensemble would be complete. No guns. You don’t need a gun to be awesome.
In the distance, we saw our destination – Two Seasons Resort Coron Island Resort and Spa, a veritable tropical playground for the rich and hermit-like. Hidden away in Malaroyroy Peninsula in Bulalacao Island south of Coron, this luxury resort of forty two bungalows was like its own little community, a veritable home away from home. Complete with a desalination plant, industrial-sized generators and a plethora of facilities, the resort had everything a wealthy dude and dudette could crave for months of idyllic cocooning.
Once on the island, we got ushered into our sweet digs, a sumptuous little villa with a glass paned terrace, tall ceiling and cavernous bedroom. A walk-in bathroom with partition-tiled shower and toilet ensured privacy while a petite dining table held a welcome note and a basket of (extremely hard to find in Palawan) apples, oranges and pears. Voluminous beds with Persian-style brocade throw pillows served to invite us to siesta and as I was to end up a bit ill towards the end of my trip (more on that later), having a large USB-ready Sony flat-screen TV for epic marathon sessions of My Little Pony was a godsend. Ok, I’m kidding. I was watching Stranger Things. Really.
Exploring Two Seasons Coron Island Resort and Spa can either be a hike or a leisurely ride, depending on your tastes. As most of the island is a bit on the hilly side, electric golf carts seating anywhere from four to six are always available to ferry guests anywhere they may please. Otherwise, your calves, knees and ankles are in for a bit of a workout as you cross from one incline or stone step to the next. Even the spa mentioned as part of the resort’s name is a lovely little tribal village of bridges, stone stairs and peaks. Each spa hut has massage beds and hot tubs carved into the island rock and lined with flat pebbles. Aromatherapy is the name of the game and essential oils are always on hand to soothe the nose and mind from the day’s frantic frolics about the island.
For said frantic frolics, the Pawikan Aqua Sports Center stands at the ready, with a row of odd yellow vehicles flanking the doorway like glass-domed little robot sentinels. The Pawikan Center is for booking powerboats, glass bottom boats, SCUBA gear and all sorts of fun-filled island hopping vehicles but these cool little machines were something I’d never seen before. Called hydrobobs, they’re normally used to explore the sea floor – think of them as diminutive undersea scooters. As much as I wanted to try one for a spin, weather conditions that day were not all that ideal so I hope to give it a go the next time I found myself in the area.
As I headed back, I noticed a fully stocked gym stood right next door from our villa, equipped with free weights, exercise bikes, treadmills and elliptical machines. I couldn’t imagine using any of the stuff given that we were on a hilly island and just the act of walking from place to place, paddling a boat or swimming around was going to be enough to raise my heart rate.
Speaking of raising my heart rate, my heart did skip a beat when our hosts took us to the children’s playroom (I’m really a ten-year old masquerading as a grown-up so sue me). This stand-alone bungalow is the largest play area I have ever seen in a private resort. The floor was covered in Day-Glo puzzle mats and piles of Legos sat in tables awaiting eager hands and unprotected (adult) feet. An upstairs loft held storybooks for story-telling sessions and blankets and pillows for naptime, while other nooks and crannies held widescreen flat TVs equipped with a PS4 and a DVD player respectively (with of course, the requisite library of anime, cartoons and kid’s movies).
Two Seasons is also one of the few resorts I’ve ever been to with a 24-hour duty nurse and clinic, and I will be forever grateful for their care after the post-Christmas Palawan wind chill took a sizeable bite out of my constitution and had me under the weather for a few days.
On the subject of bites, Wacky David, the gregarious Kapampangan head chef of Two Seasons Coron, cooks straight from the heart and you can tell, based on the joyous flavors, aromas and textures you’ll encounter from his kitchen. Sulu Restaurant is his kingdom, and his army of cooks and waiters are only too pleased to serve you.
We started out with Ginataang Gulay, a savory stew of mixed vegetables in coconut milk. The veggie dish was a nice, healthy starter but we were yearning for some exotica, so Chef Wacky served up some Crocodile Barbecue marinated in Asian spices and glazed with barbecue sauce, and Fried Crocodile Strips stir-fried in garlic and spring onions. Both croc cuts were served with rice and we were happy with that as the rice helped take off the edge of the gamey crocodile meat and fragrant spices.
Dinner would prove to be even more exciting as we had ourselves a meal by the shore. First came in a Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Pomelo Salad and spicy dressing, followed by Sinuglaw, a Chef Wacky creation of grilled pork belly (sinugba), with chives tuna ceviche, Filipino-style (kinilaw). An artfully plated Steamed Grouper with soy sauce and crisp ginger in sesame oil followed, with a gorgeous Steamed Lobster with lemon and butter in tow, garnished with spring onions, red and green capsicum and shredded carrots.
However, the most popular way to dine in Two Seasons Coron is by ordering room service and the next night, seeing as I wasn’t feeling up to doing some hotfooting over to Sulu Restaurant, I figured I’d spoil myself with a bit of pampering. The Boneless Steakfish (tanguingue fish) served with rice is something of a point of pride for Chef Wacky – the next day, I told him how heavenly the meaty fish was and he went on to describe in detail how he painstakingly deboned the spiny fish and sewed it back together as one juicy slab. Oh, it was so worth it. Topping it off with Mango Panna Cotta, milk infused with mango puree and topped with mango compote had me almost back to my old self, enough so to make sure I didn’t miss my flight back home.
There are numerous island tours you can try while you’re in Two Seasons Island Resort, courtesy of their Pawikan Aqua Sports Center. However, these are definitely the “musts”:
Siete Pecados – A small strictly protected area where boats cannot weigh anchor or use poles to traverse the waters, so as not to disturb the teeming corals below. It’s a great intro if you’ve never gone snorkeling before, and lots of fun with large groups.
Kayangan Lake – Crystal clear water and limestone cliffs are what will greet you when you go to Kayangan Lake. This was one of Coron’s best-kept secrets and for many years, only a handful of travelers would come to take a dip in the lake’s spring-fresh waters.
Twin Lagoons – These two lagoons are separated by a narrow crevasse that intrepid swimmers can either go under (especially exciting during low tide when the barnacle-crusted tunnel is visible) or over, via a stair and bridge. Your reward for your troubles is the more private lagoon’s solitary ringed demesne.
Barracuda Lake – So named for its somewhat ornery yet secretive inhabitants beyond the lake’s yawning depths and silt-covered bottom, Barracuda Lake is accessible via a high stone stair carved out of the towering cliffs surrounding the area.
The Skeleton Wreck – The remains of a WWII Chinese merchant marine vessel, the Skeleton Wreck is so named for its ribcage-like hull, ripped open as if by a gargantuan chest-bursting xenomorph. It’s great for an intro dive or a snorkeling jaunt.
Atwayan Beach – A powder-white sandbar with a row of huts on a cove, this little nook is a wonderful place for a lunch picnic. It’s here where our Two Seasons hosts prepped a scrumptious meal of steakfish, lechon kawali, mashed potato and fresh fruit for us.