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Lets get the obvious out of the way – El Nido is a very beautiful place, breathtaking even. Going there is one of those no-brainer trips you don’t have to think about. When you get the chance to go, you just go.

The moment I knew I was going to El Nido, and heck in El Nido Resorts to be exact, my tummy twirled upside down and my head spun a little. It’s going to be classy! That’s for sure. Much has been said about the place: Its limestone cliffs, the hidden lagoons, the secret falls – all reasons enough for the place to be dubbed as “The Last Frontier” (I start to wonder what’s the first, though). The buildup was too much so I started having this expectation versus reality scenario in my head of what that trip would be like. I’m pretty much sure that the former won’t fall short. So we dropped everything and went.

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What keeps the island’s novelty is being remote – equal parts secluded and private. It’s a recipe for a great getaway. The usual route to El Nido, Palawan is via Puerto Princesa, plus 220 km of road trip to cover. Sounds like a long trip, but whatever’s worth having is worth waiting for. Lucky for us though, the resort package offers a chartered flight that flies directly to El Nido. It was when I knew this trip would be such a treat!

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Upon landing, we had to take a boat ride to the island. It was when it hit me that I really am in El Nido. What I expected was little mountains of limestone cliffs here and there but what was in reality was an ocean full of tiny island-looking karst formations, which are surrounded by pristine turquoise water. It was like one of those Windows screensavers we used to have but now they lay right in front of me. What the place was missing was singing mermaids just to complete how surreal it was.

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I could end our trip right then and there for I was already sold. My trip had been fulfilled already. Or so I thought. Then, we got to our first island, Pangulasian. El Nido Resorts cover three different islands, Lagen, Miniloc and the biggest and most recent one, Pangulasian. Maybe a few hundred meters away from the shore, I kind of cried. It looked beautiful from afar: the crazy white shore, the super blue water around it, the sky-high coconut trees. I could have taken a photo with my eyes and posted it on a Pinterest board in my mind.

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Beautiful as it is, one begs to ask the value of luxury. Is it the grade A feeling and service that you get or maybe just the price tag that comes along with it? Whatever it is, I feel like it’s the value for your money that you get. The villa says it all. The personal, miniature infinity pool that overlooks the sea – luxe! The universe of a bathroom that’s almost half the size of the whole villa – luxe! The feeling that you own the island – luxe! It’s kind of a steep price to pay for that “luxe” treatment but when you get your money’s worth, who is to complain?

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The rest of the island’s a dream. Now it makes sense why the “Best Beaches in…” polls always end up having this place somehow. It’s not just how beautiful it is, it’s also what you feel when you’re actually in it. We’re not on the trip for a crazy adventure but for a peaceful and relaxing staycation, to idle the mind from worries and to drown in our own thoughts. It was a good choice for a resort to do just that. We snorkeled, rode a kayak to see the Big and Small Lagoon (which are insanely breathtaking by the way), and island hopped to see the pawikans (you know, things the not-so-adrenaline junkies choose to do). And there was lots of lounging by the pool.

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One more thing about El Nido Resorts is that you get to hop among the three islands in a heartbeat. After Pangulasian, we got to visit Lagen Island. Unlike the former wherein it’s beach-like and open, Lagen is a quaint version of a cove. It looks like a secret hideaway with limestone cliffs as boundaries. If it were a prison cell, jail me forever on this island.

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The expectation versus reality scenario in my head came to mind. I had high expectations for the island it was so easy to get disappointed right off the bat. Well, shame to my thoughts, because this is one of those instances wherein reality trumps everything else. No such place can be as beautiful as this that all you can expect is just half of what you’re actually in for. They can rank and rate this place all they want but they’re not lying. It’s as stunning as how they claim this place to be.

The beauty of El Nido is that you can choose to enjoy it any way you want: choose the little, cheap thrills of adventures on one hand, or with utter luxury and recreation on the other. It’s the same place, same breeze, just little different ways of basking in it. So stop building up expectations. Just see it for real.

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randz RANDZ MANUCOM

Randz Manucom is the current fashion assistant of a leading fashion and lifestyle magazine in the Philippines. Apart from that, he is a freelance fashion stylist and writer. At 22, he doesn’t take himself seriously, but takes his work seriously. Right now he’s finding this hole in the world in the shape of him to just fill it all up.

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Email: randz.manucom@gmail.com

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