The Great Escape

Rediscovering life in Palawan Philippines

The Price of Living in Paradise


The island of Busuanga is beautiful.

The island of Busuanga is beautiful. It’s also challenging, primitive and harsh. Living here is so much different from being on holiday. The reality is unless you have deep pockets life is hard. Infrastructure is poor in the Philippines and resources scarce. You are constantly battling the environment – sun, heat, dust, insects, animals.

Water Tank

Our empty water tank.

The heat is beating me down, making me so lethargic I don’t really want to move. Well, we did arrive in summer, hot season and it’s just beginning. It’s been four days without a refill on our water tank. The town’s water reserves are low, very low. We can’t do the laundry and ‘the Chef’ is running out of clothes. We try and conserve the best we can but it doesn’t help that the people next door syphon off our water. The kicker is we also pay for it.


Bat in our water tank. Eww.

As a last insult our remaining 20 litres of water got contaminated when a bat decided to go for a bath in our drum and couldn’t get out. At first I wanted to wait until ‘The Chef’ got back to deal with it. He was down the street at the neighbour’s doing laundry but I said the hell with it. What was I so afraid of? It took two tries but I managed to scoop out the bat and dump it unceremoniously in the yard. Despite all the hardship our neighbour sent his niece and nephew over and filled 5 water containers for us from an alternative water supply.

34 degrees in the shade

59 degrees in the sun. Insane.

We’ve had seven brown-outs in the last two weeks. Life is getting harsher. A transformer blew up so we were without power for almost three days. A second year of El Nino has brought drought and high temperatures. The first night without air-conditioning or even a fan was brutal but our bodies are slowly began to adapt.


Taking care of our own water.

We take so much for granted in western society. If you’re thirsty just turn in the tap a fill your glass. Here we need to plan our drinking water. We bought five 25? litre jugs that we need to fill in Coron town 15 kilometres away.


Supply run. Beer, pop and water.

When we moved out of Coron town to the village of San Nicolas we also had to hire a tricycle to get our supplies home. I made the mistake of riding in the tricycle instead of on the motorbike on one of our runs and it was a bone jarring, wet experience (the lids on the water containers came loose and I ended up sitting in water). Seven of those fifteen kilometres are on a crappy, dusty dirt road.


Cooking squid adobo.

Cooking in our simple kitchen is a challenge. We have a basic cooktop (with only one of the two burners working, some kitchen tools we brought with us and our determination. The biggest challenge has been the ants. They are everywhere and they love seafood. On night we bought some squid from the little market down the road and the little buggers went on full attack mode. Our strategy was for ‘the Chef’ to clean them, then for me to take out all the trimmings and clean immediately. We had a nice squid adobo for dinner.

This isn’t Disney World. This is reality. We did sign-up for this ‘adventure.’ By renting a house outside of town we get to experience what normal living is like for the average person. Let’s see if we can hack it.

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20 thoughts on “The Price of Living in Paradise

  1. Brenda on said:

    Great blog about Busuanga island. Not al lot of good blogs about our beautiful island and I can definitely relate to this. I am a local in Barangay San Jose, 32 kms. northeast of Coron town. We definitely encourage conservation of water supply especially the hot summer months. My only comment is regarding the “59” degree Celsius temperature reading, I find unbelievable. The highest temperature we get on summer months here is between 38-40 degree Celsius – that’s even harsh, almost fatal. 60 degree Celsius would all living things outside if what you posted is true, maybe you need to double check that…

    • Hi Brenda! How is San Jose? Don’t be alarmed. The temperature reading we got was when we took the thermometer and laid it on a concrete walkway in the sun. It’s like the expression ‘hot enough to fry an egg on.’ I don’t know what it’s like in Busuanga now but it’s really hot here in Puerto Princesa!

  2. Like they say, ‘One man’s paradise is another man’s prison’ and you definitely know what that expression means now. The heat would be the worst thing for me, it’s why I was happy to leave Spain, even after 8 years – I just never really acclimatized (must be my Irish blood, lol). Bread soda is very good at deterring ants, including other insects like cockroaches. We used a lot of it in Spain in the hot weather to protect our food and sleeping areas – and it’s not poisonous. Hope you get some rain soon.

  3. This is a very honest post. I hope things gets easier for you. I can relate to some of the struggles you’re talking about, being stranded on an isolated ranch in Northern California, without a vehicle, while being pregnant. This was four years ago now, and I’m out on the other side, you will get there too. Hang in there.

  4. I hope you get some rain soon to refresh everything and refill your water tank.

  5. that traveling nurse on said:

    Wow, I couldn’t even do what you are doing! Kudos to that. I remember that summer heat all too fondly as well. Beginnings are always hard. Good luck and keep on persevering.

  6. This account certainly sounds like it is a challenging one. I enjoy hard work and the good night’s sleep that results, but I have gotten use to water and electricity. I hope this adventure turns out to be everything you envisioned, and if not, that you realize that most people don’t even try to achieve their dreams so if you try and it doesn’t work out, you will still be ahead of most of us. 🙂

    • We knew it would be challenging but it’s much more than we thought it would be. Good thing we are both outdoor enthusiasts and are used to camping in the backcountry with no electricity or water back in Canada. We just need to persevere until we can get our project going.

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