The Great Escape

dreaming of a simple life in Coron Palawan Philippines

My Favourite El Nido Videos

There’s all sorts of videos out there about El Nido that range from the humdrum to the self-absorbed but there are a couple of gems that stand out. They manage to capture the spirit and expansive beauty of Palawan. Forget about the humans that grace the landscape, it’s the scenery that steals the show. Humans simply give scale and context.

I still get that ‘wow’ feeling when I think back to the time ‘the Chef’ and I were there. If you visit El Nido and open your heart and mind to the experience you just might end up feeling the same way.

New Year’s in the Philippines

hello 2007

‘crazy fireworks here @ new years’ (photo credit: Jessica C)

December 31, 2011, Calamba City. – ‘Ka-BOOM!’ ‘Hiss’ ‘Pop, Pop, Pop’ – We were in my father’s hometown. It was early in the evening but the fireworks had already started. My Tita stuffed peso bills in our pockets and ‘the Chef’ and I scooted outside. We did not want to miss this. The sky was clear and a breeze blew over my skin and funny enough I got goose bumps even though it was a tropical 27-28 degrees. We walked to the back of the house and climbed the stairs to the empty balcony of the building next door. I was surprised we were the only ones out there.

The Filipino Tradition

The Filipino Tradition (photo credit: Paolo Dala)

The city was spread out in front of us in an almost unobstructed 180 degree view. Puffs of white smoke slowly dissipated in the black sky, the smell of sulfur lingered in our nostrils. – ‘BANG!’ ‘Crackle’ ‘Whiz’ – Fireworks from everywhere big and small exploded against the night sky. We didn’t know what time it was but I kept thinking it was midnight because the fireworks built to what I thought was a crescendo but kept going and going until our senses were satiated by sound and light. I thought to myself, ‘This is freaking awesome!” Satisfied, we finally called it quits and went back into the house.

Balut

My cousin gleefully eating Balut!

The table was set with a New Year’s meal – a big bowl of steaming soup, a dense, circular slab of puto (steamed rice cake), a pyramid of balut (boiled, fertilized duck egg), and a bowl of filled with grapes, longans and oranges – mostly round foods that would bring good fortune for the new year. Everyone wished each other a happy new year and we dug into the food.

As our heads hit the pillow I could still hear the distant ‘pop, pop, pop’ of distant fireworks as I drifted into happy sleep.

If you want to experience what it’s like in Manila just click on the YouTube video above. The next day we left on a plane for Palawan and marvelled at the haze and sulfur smell that still hung over Manila in the morning aftermath of the big celebration.

SOLD!….and so the countdown begins

Sold

Sold!

The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams. ~ Oprah Winfrey

FINALLY.

After months of being in limbo purgatory we sold our house. Now, the countdown begins. Soon our dream of living a ‘simple’ life in Coron Palawan will be real.

We had a five-year plan and it hasn’t been easy. There’s been doubts and struggles but we’ve also learned lots in the process.

Never stop dreaming.
Our dream is not to live in Palawan. Our dream is to change our lifestyle. Coron, Palawan just happens to be where we think we can best do this. We’ve had setbacks and failures and I’m sure we’ll have more but we won’t let it stop us from following our dream.

Don’t let unsupportive people drag you down.
Most of our family and friends are supportive of our plans but there have been some surprises. A few closest to us can’t seem to wrap their heads around why we want to trade in our comfortable western lifestyle for a third world adventure. We all have our own definition of success and happiness and I guess we don’t conform to conventional ideas. I won’t deny – it did sting us a little – but we refuse to let others dictate our path.

Don’t be afraid of uncertainty.
We know how the system works in Canada. It’s organized and predictable. When we started out we knew nothing about Coron except that it was an amazing place to holiday. Fear of the unknown has stopped many dreams. We had a lot of uncertainty in the beginning but rather than give up on the idea of living there we began to chip away at our fears. We started to talk to lots of different people – expats, locals, friends, and family – and we listened intently. We did a lot of research and treated every visit as a learning experience. There will always be uncertainty but now that we have a better understanding of the processes and cultural practices we feel more confident moving forward.

Be flexible to change.
As much as we think we can control our life, the universe has different ideas. At first we wanted to start a small resort or B&B but after much research and reflection we weren’t sure if that would be the right path for us. By that time we really wanted to live in Coron so rather than abandon the idea we decided to think about other ways to achieve our goal.

You never know where your journey will take you. Who would have ever guessed we would become organic farmers on a tropical island paradise in the South China Sea.

What if you could live anywhere in the world?

Man carrying world map

Where in the World? (photo: Timothy Krause)

When we decided to move to the Philippines I joined several expat forums. I wanted to find out as much information as I could to prepare us for the challenges we could face. There are many reasons people move to other countries. Many move to the Philippines because a spouse wants to be close to family. Others move because the cost of living is lower than where they come from.

One member from a particular forum posed this question. If you had no constraints (circumstance, family ties, finances, etc.) and you were free to pick any where in the world, where would you live?

I was half way through writing this post when Paris was attacked. It was afternoon and ‘The Chef’ was playing an online game on his tablet. A player from England typed, “France just closed its borders and it can’t be good.” I asked what that meant and he said something bad must be happening in Paris. I immediately googled ‘Paris’ and there on the screen were the words ‘Paris Attacks.’ It’s hard not to think about what’s happened when I think about the question now.

Over the years I’ve dreamt about living in a little farmhouse in the countryside of France. I could imagine myself gorging on local cheese and fresh bread and washing it all down with a bottle of red. It’s a romantic notion and I laugh at how cliché it sounds but we’re just musing, right?

When I was younger, wilder, more energetic and single the city life had everything I wanted. New York City in the 80s and its gritty East Village appealed to my anti-establishment, artist sensibilities. At the time I could picture myself in some loft splattering paint on some canvas.

I once gave serious consideration to moving to Bali, Indonesia. I love their deep culture, smiling people and beautiful landscape. But after ‘the Chef’ and I visited Palawan I fell in love with Coron. Palawan is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. There’s something about the easy-going nature and honesty of the people that makes me feel like my true self. In Coron I feel like life is not dictated by time, fashion or trend. It suits us well.

So, if you had your choice where would you live?

Trust. Love. Hope. Believe.

Hope

Our life has been on hold ever since we put our house up for sale. We naively thought it would only take a month before we would pack everything up and start our new life in Palawan. Now it’s been almost three months and the stagnation is driving us stir crazy. As the world continues to spin we feel more and more out of synch with our life here in Canada and our future in Coron seems so far away. Our journey has never felt so lonely and doubt and fear keep trying to muscle their way in.

But every day is a new beginning and it’s a chance to replace doubt with trust, fear with belief. The real estate market is showing some signs of life again and we’re starting to get some nibbles on the house. It feels good enough that we’re allowing ourselves to talk about the farm again. How many pineapples will we grow? How many crops will we have in a year? Where will we get our sausage casings?

I opened my eyes from a deep slumber and took in the morning light. I turned my face towards ‘the Chef.’ He was awake and smiling. He squeezed my hand. I knew then he felt it too. It starts with a feeling deep inside, an effervescence that works its way up through flesh and bone before releasing itself as a smile. This is what hope feels like and it’s amazing what a little can do in an uncertain time.

“Turn your face to the sun and let the shadows fall behind you.” Maori Proverb

I’m Canadian, Eh? 021

Photos and thoughts about Canada.

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for images about Canada, the country I grew up in.

Maple Syrup Lines, Wyebridge, Ontario

Maple Syrup Lines (photo: David Allan Barker)

Figgy duff, Saskatoon berry pie, and split pea soup are just a few of our tasty exports. ~ 12 foods Canada has given the world (besides poutine), Maclean’s, August 3, 2012

Ooh All Dressed Chips

Ooh All Dressed Chips (photo: Chinkerfly)

There seems to be some sort of confusion surrounding one of our most delicious, addictive chip flavours; Canadians know All Dressed Ruffles chips have a unique taste all their own, keeping us coming back for more (and more and more and more). ~ Americans are finally getting All Dressed Chips, but they don’t understand them…yet, The Loop, September 21, 2015

McBarge

McBarge (photo: Taz)

Whatever you eat here is one sad, sad meal. This boat was once home to a rare floating McDonald’s, which was built as a shining beacon of innovation for Canada’s 1986 World Expo. Conveyer belts delivered shakes and fries, glass windows offered panoramic views, and a tiny tugboat pulled up alongside the barge to collect Big Mac wrappers and cups. ~ Abandoned Floating McDonald’s Does NOT Serve Happy Meals, Huffpost Travel, March 17, 2015

The Land Where I Was Born 020

Photos and thoughts about the Philippines.

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for images about the Philippines, the country I was born in and which I am now rediscovering.

Halo halo especial

Halo halo especial (photo credit Jeff Younstrom)

Summer isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and the best way to beat this unbearable heat is with every Filipino’s undisputed favorite shaved ice dessert: the halo-halo! A medley of sweetened jewels, a gracious layer of icy granules, a heaping scoop of ube ice cream, all drowned in creamy milky goodness-it’s a sweet tooth’s dream. ~ Top 10 Halo-halo in Manila (2014 Edition), spot.PH, April 24, 2014

Power Breakfast Pinoy Style

Power Breakfast Pinoy Style (photo credit weye)

Magandang umaga! ~ 21 Delicious Filipino Breakfasts That Are Actually Hangover Cures, Buzzfeed, August 21, 2015

LECHON ON THE TABLE

Lechon on the table (photo credit whologwhy)

In restaurant circles, the dreaded F-word—fusion—is usually reserved to describe some sort of disparate multi-culti combination, like sauce soubise on top of tamales. But in the case of Filipino food, there’s no stronger term to capture the essence of Asia’s most unique, idiosyncratic, and underrated culinary tradition. ~ Coconut, Vinegar, and a Whole Lotta Pork: An Introduction to Filipino Cuisine, Serious Eats, June 14, 2014

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