El Nido to Coron

by Phantazein Studio

CHILD BOAT EL NIDO CORON PHILIPPINESCAPTAIN EL NIDO CORON BOAT PHILIPPINESApril 2014

An eight hour boat trip starting at El Nido and heading to Coron. After a shoddy security check comprised of an officer half heartedly poking around my bag with a wooden stick, I stand in line for the boat, already sweating bullets. We’re seated shoulder to shoulder in the tiny cabin as a coast guard officer surveys the crowd and films everyone’s faces with a camcorder. I presume this is either to ensure that no one traverses the sea illegally or for identification purposes should the boat sink, resulting in some of our deaths. I opt for the second option. Unfortunately, I was one of the last members to enter the boat as I didn’t understand the loading announcement in Tagalog, so I’m way in the back next to the toilet with the crew and an equally slow nun. She’ll pray for us when this thing goes down.

There’s some serious chop today due to the winds. Several minutes into the trip I’m already feeling queasy and I make my way to the front of the boat, clumsily bracing my hand against the rail. All the Philippinos on board are either asleep or calmly staring out the window, and the few foreigners present aren’t doing so well. One backpacker  has his head between his knees like he’s about to spill his pork adobo onto his Afro print Toms. The captain turns around and makes several attempts to communicate to me but I don’t understand what he’s saying. He points insistently to the ceiling. Finally, I get that he’s asking me if I want to go sleep on the deck. I nod, and he barks out a command to another boatman who guides me out and hoists me up onto the deck where a big man is already sleeping under a tarp. I awkwardly sidle up to him and lay down. It’s true that the broader view from up here helps with the seasickness. I eventually fall asleep but not for long, each time being jolted awake from a new crew member jumping onto the deck for a nap.

It was the longest eight hours of my life and my time at sea didn’t end there. I spent the better part of my trip in the Philippines on a boat of some sort and I still feel like puking at the sight of moving water.