We were supposed to climb a mountain. We brought our backpacks, hiking shoes, trekking pants, the works. We even had IDs made for the climb. And then we woke up to the most enchanting beach and the mountain was instantly forgotten.
Sir Mayo, a Puerto Princesa-based mountaineer, invited me to their Freedom Climb which was set on the weekend before Philippine Independence Day. Having nothing else to do in Palawan, I was only too glad to tag along. We were supposed to do a traverse of a mountain in Sabang, the site of the world-famous Underground River.
We took a two-hour bus ride on Friday night and arrived in a quiet village where Kuya Roy, our guide, was waiting for us. After dinner, we started with the night trek that we thought would last for only one and a half hours. The terrain was flat and the trail was well-established but very muddy and slippery. A lot of us had sore asses that night after one too many butt falls. The hike stretched into nearly three hours; it was almost midnight by the time we got to the campsite.
This campsite happened to be a deserted beach, which is the jump-off of the climb. Even under the faint glow of moonlight, we could see that it was a beautiful place; the water was calm and the sand felt like talcum powder under our feet. Little did we know that come sunrise, we would be spellbound by this piece of paradise and it would be impossible to leave.
After seeing the beach in its full glory, we lost interest in the climb and decided to stay there for another night. The day was long, the sun was out, and there was nothing to do but stare at the sea, drink our stash of Tanduay and doze off in a hammock.
Towards midday, I was getting bored and antsy with all the idle time. Kuya Roy must’ve sensed my restlessness; he took me to the rocky parts of the beach and made me climb a cliff for photo ops.
Beach sunsets have long been a scenery cliché. Good thing I happen to love scenery clichés. After taking a dip in the water, I waited patiently to get my sunset view.
Since we’re in the turf of great clichés now, let’s have another one.
We had a delicious dinner of octopus cooked in soy sauce and all things awesome. It was that good. As we were later swigging Tanduay and Red Horse by the bonfire, a couple of fishermen came by and shared some of their catch with us in exchange for rounds of shots. This is a place where the beach looks heavenly and fresh fish are sold for gulps of cheap rum and drunken conversations.
I rarely pass up the chance to climb a mountain. But for this beach, the summit would have to wait for another day.