Tagged: scuba

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Due to Hurricane Irma our annual family holiday vacation landed us in Playa del Carmen this year. We flew into Cancun and took a private transfer ($50) one hour south to our resort, The Royal Playa del Carmen. The perfect resort if you want luxury, party and relaxation right on the beach, in the middle of the tourist strip. For most of us it was not our ideal location, and certainly not our ideal beach setting, but for one year it was a nice change. We were able to explore the town, dive into the backpacker scene a few nights, and had our price option for scuba companies- I paid about half the price I usually pay within a remote resort.

The resort is luxurious. White columns line the entire facade. Each room is a mini suite with a hot tub in the living room, a hammock on the balcony, and 24-hour room service. The hotel has a spa on site and guests are encouraged to use the male/female only facilities- sauna, steam room, blue tiled jacuzzi. Our in-room couples massage was extra but well worth it! There are pilates and TRX classes in the mornings, followed by the typical (and fun) water aerobics in the pool. There are plenty of restaurant options, both buffet and a la carte throughout the resort. La Mediterranean for lunch (pasta made-to-order) and Marie Marie for dinner (those lamb chops!) were out two favorites. Snacks are always out, and bars are open until 1am. The nightly shows performed by incredibly talented local dancers and gymnasts were surprisingly entertaining. But the best part about this hotel is the staff- Maria at the front desk, is our go-to gal.

Our first night we went out with some of the other hotel guests. We brought them to Zenzi, a beach bar with live salsa music. The next evening we met-up with a friend of mine from NYC, who was also in Playa with her family. We ended up at Bar Ranita, a charming international-locals bar off the main road on Calle 10.

The next day we walked around and quoted a few dive shops in town. Phantom Divers was incredibly overpriced, and we ended up going with Scuba Playa Dive Shop on Calle 10 Norte. Nick signed up for the Open Water PADI course, 1-day video, 2-days of dives. His instructor was Rafa. I signed-up for a cenote cavern dive and to also joined Nick’s last day ocean dives. I officially have a certified dive buddy!

Dos Ojos Cenote is made up of both caverns and caves. Fresh water, technical dives. My private dive master for the day was Juan Reynaud, who freelances through Scuba Playa but owns Yucatan Cenotes Mexico in Dos Ojos. He’s French/Mexican, prefers technical dives, has been an instructor all over the world. Our first dive was Barbie Line, a cavern with an open surface, and the second dive was Bat Cave, where there was no open surface. Both dives were dark and required a flashlight for the entirely of the dive. No sea-life, just rock stagmite.

Half-way through the week we decided to day trip. We rented a car from GoCarrito for $65. Terrible customer service but less than half the price of the bigger companies, like Hertz. We drove to the Coba ruins, an ancient Mayan city west of Tulum. We climbed to the top of the tallest pyramid and took in the breathtaking view of the untouched forest around us. Nothing but trees in sight.

On the road back east we stopped at Grand Cenote Tulum, the largest cenote in the area. Essentially a turquoise watering hole in the caves. We checked-in, locked up our stuff, and swam through the cenote. Dave attempted to swim into one of the caves.

We drove through the town of Tulum, which appeared to be a more rundown version of Playa del Carmen. Tulum is known for its posh boutique hotels but those are mostly located on the beach side. We attempted to drive down that way but after waiting in 15 minutes of traffic we turned around. Next time, when it’s not a holiday weekend, we want hang out at Papaya Playa. Or if we’re back in town have lunch at El Camello Jr.

We headed north along highway 307 for 15 minutes and got off right after passing the town of Tulsayab. There were not any highway exits or signs, we just followed google maps. We ended up on a back road along the beach that took us past one private villa after another. Ten minutes of bumpy travel later the road ended at a local restaurant, our destination, Chamico’s.

The best meal we ate on the trip. Yellow plastic tables and chairs scattered throughout bunches of palm trees located directly on the beach. The kitchen was some woks behind the outdoor beach bar. There was a coconut man next to the kitchen, and two ceviche men next to him- one juicing limes and one shelling seafood. Very local, very authentic, very delicious. For 3 of us we got the mixed ceviche with lobster ($15), guacamole ($2.50), shrimp quesadillas ($6) and CocoLoco’s, coconuts with coconut rum added. The portions were huge, the fish was fresh, and the scene was peaceful. Definitely will end up back here.

We celebrated Christmas and NYE at the resort. Not nearly as spectacular as expected, but the special ordered bubbly made it better.

Next time in Playa del Carmen

Visit: Garden of Eden Cenote

Dive: Cozumel

Eat: Dona Paula- The Pozole Place (VERY local), Los Taracos (taco pastor), La Conchinita Food Cart, La Floresta (fish tacos)

See: Coco Bongo – just to know

Dumaguete, Negros, Philippines


I arrived in the Dumaguete pier from Bohol and took a tricycle ride to Kav’s Beach Resort. The hotel was much farther from Dumaguete than I expected. It was a forty minute ride and cost 300 pesos. I stayed in the dorm for $8 not including breakfast. Kav’s is a hotel on the beach with a pool. It got great reviews on TripAdvisor for the beach so I came for that, but it turns out the beach is gray sand and dirty.  I was the only person in the 8-bed dorm, and in the hotel there was a couple and a Chinese family. There’s a restaurant with wifi and a tv right next to the pool so that is where I spent most of my time. [I attempted to do a beach walk and it was too dirty so I went back.]

My first afternoon I lounged by the pool and in the restaurant. Before dinner we watched The Truman Show on TV and the locals found the entire concept very amusing, but they really liked it. For dinner I had halang halang, a Filipino chicken soup made from coconut milk. I then sat there and watched tv/ chatted with the workers.
At the restaurant there was the couple, an American guy around my age and a Filipino girl whose maybe eighteen. He asked if he can call her sexy mama and she said yes- I don’t think she knew what he was asking.
The Chinese family sat at another table. One of the boys brought a pineapple and asked for a knife. He then sat there and attempted to cut the pineapple with a butter knife. The locals and I couldn’t stop laughing.
The next morning I had breakfast then the chef drove me on his motorbike to Acqua Divers, a hotel and dive shop owned and run by a Korean woman and her Australian husband. Diving here was 5,150 pesos ($115) for 3 dives, equipment, lunch and the park fee. This was the most expensive spot I’ve been to but it was worth it.
My dive that day was with my dive master KF, a Thai couple and the owners. Except for me all the divers had massive underwater cameras and were there solely to take photos. 


Apo Island is famous for it’s coral formations and it did not disappoint. The coral at all the dives looked like a beautiful underwater secret garden. Our first dive was at Rock Point West and it was my favorite. 
Second we went to Coconut, which is the most famous site but also the most dangerous. There was a drift and I went flying over a wall. Luckily I found coral I could grab onto, and one by one people started to fly by me and grabbed whatever they could too. To top it off I had mask problems so I really didn’t enjoy this dive that much.
We then docked on Apo Island shore for lunch. After eating my boxed lunch I walked down the beach and collected a handful of beach glass. 


Our last dive was at Katipanan. This dive we stayed shallow to admire the garden and turtles. We saw five turtles and I took a photoshoot with one.
After diving I relaxed at Acqua Dive for a while. I swam in the big pool and took full advantage of their wifi. The owners are really nice and took great care of me; they even had a worker drive me home for free. Mark, my chauffeur driving a motocross bike, pulled over because there was a checkpoint. The cops randomly put up check points checking for vehicle licenses. Within ten minutes there were about a hundred motorbikes on the side of the road waiting for the cops to leave. It took about thirty minutes but eventually we made our way. In he meantime I watched the sunset and did a photoshoot with a cow. 


The next morning I woke up early to enjoy my last morning at my hotel. I had a muesli and mango breakfast and lounged by the pool. At noon I walked to the main road and flagged down a jeepny. It cost 20 pesos to get back to Dumaguete. 


I got off the jeepny in the middle of the city near the park. I then walked to Harold’s Mansion, the backpacker hostel on the other side of the university. The hostel is the only backpacker spot in town. I paid 250 pesos for the girls dorm with ensuite bathroom. There’s a restaurant/common space on the roof.
I really wanted to go trekking again before leaving the Philippines, and before throwing away my sneakers. One of the draws to staying at Harold’s was that they organize day tours; however, when I checked in they said no one ever signs up for them, and it’s too expensive to pay for it alone.
So I then walked into the city to the Tourism Office. I asked there if there are any tour organizers in the city and she just stared at me, apparently there aren’t any. It’s very bizarre since there’s a massive mountain behind the city with a bunch of trekking opportunities. She called the park department for me and it’s possible for me to hire a guide for the day for $23 plus I have to pay a park fee. So I decided to walk around a bit more and see if there really aren’t any companies. I checked with a few hotels and guesthouses and they also arrange tours but no one is signed up to go. 


After trekking around the city I went to Bristol Massage & Spa (past the police station) for a massage. The place feels like a five star spa and costs the same as one of the dingier place, 300 pesos for an hour Swedish massage. I had that plus a 30 minute foot massage. My masseuse was a male and he was incredible. It felt like he was designing pottery on my skin; I was a piece of artwork.
Later on I walked to Hayahay, a restaurant/bar complex on the waterfront. I met up with a girl that I met in Borneo. For dinner we had steamed grouper with onions and ginger, sautéed spinach with seafood, and fried rice. The fish melted in my mouth.
After dinner I went to the rooftop of my hostel and chatted with the few people sitting up there. I met one girl whose my age from Binghamton. Like everyone else she thought I was from Southern Cali. 
The next morning I woke up and walked across the city to Robinson’s Mall. I saw Avengers 2 for $3.80. I’m going to miss going to the movies when I get home. I then ate lunch in the promenade.
For dinner I went to Mooon Cafe with the Binghamton girl and two boys from the hostel. We split loaded nachos and feasted on the fake cheese. 
The next morning I took a flight to Manila from the Dumaguete airport. 

Coron, Busuanga Island, Philippines

  In Coron town I stayed at SeaDive on the waterfront. I got one of the budget rooms for 450 pesos ($10) a night but since I dived there I got 10% off the room. My room was behind the dive shop. A basic double with a shared bathroom. The hotel complex is directly on the water and I could see the sea through my bedroom floorboards.  

I came to Coron to dive the Japanese shipwrecks so right away I headed to the dive shop. Switzerland and I signed up for 2 days of diving. We then walked into town to Big Mama’s restaurant for dinner. After ordering the power in the whole town went out but our restaurant seemed to be the only place with a generator. 


The next morning we woke-up and had breakfast at the hotel overlooking the water. We ordered and forty minutes later we got our food. The chef forgot and then I ended up getting my eggs cooked wrong. A bit annoying. I had an egg with the homemade pork sausage which was delicious but a greasy fatty mess.
Our first dive of the day was at Lake Barracuda, a fresh and saltwater lake in an old crater. It’s thermocline ranges from 28C at the top to 38C at the very bottom. There are three layers of climate.
The boat parked and we had to swim to shore with our gear on, and walk up and down stairs to get to the lake in the island. Luckily I didn’t slip because it would have hurt a lot.
The dive was interesting. There wasn’t much sea-life except for a bunch of small catfish, and colors were non-existent. There were massive rock formations and a few underwater trees. Although the dive was visually boring the temperature changing was very cool. At 38C it felt like an insanely hot jacuzzi and the water looked like oil in between levels. 


Our second dive was at Tangat wreck. I was having mask issues with this dive but we penetrated the boat and saw a jail cell and a family of lion fish. 


The third dive we went to Olympia Maru wreck. Here we went through the cargo door and small passages. I really liked the coral garden on the top deck of this wreck. 


That night we ate dinner at the local street food spot right next to our hotel. There’s a chicken man selling whole roasted chickens. Then there’s the guy who grills everything- meat skewers, calamari, fish, pork slabs, minced pork, corn on the cob, etc. There’s the convenience stand lady in the back with the cheap mango shakes. That night we got a whole chicken, a whole calamari, 2 corn on the cobs and a mango shake each. There were 3 of us and we paid 160 pesos each, which is not even $4. 


The next day we went out for our full day of shipwrecks. Our first site was Akitsushima wreck, the only battleship in the area. This is my favorite wreck to date. The lighting inside this ship was incredible with tall windows throughout. There is a ton of moss and sea life on the walls. 


Next we went to Taiei Maru wreck, the longest ship at approximately 200 meters. This boat was huge and very dark. There is a Japanese jaw bone left for divers to see.
Last we went to East Tangat wreck, the smallest wreck I’ve seen. There were a lot of divers around and not enough wreck to go around. It was not a great last dive, except that the boat was shallow enough that photos show the true color. [I still can't find a GoPro red filter in any stores.]


After diving we headed to Le Bistro Coron to play pool and have dinner. A few locals raved about this place but we were disappointed. There were children running around the pool table while we tried to play, and at one point they were playing soccer with a dead cockroach. We also encountered the male western owner scolding his local femal employees. As for dinner the portions were small and the food was mediocre. I ordered the kinilaw and it was covered in mayo.
The next day we went island hoping. We did Tour A with JG Travel. We first boarded a boat and realized we were the only non-Filipino. There was a long bench on either side of the boat- one had four people and the other had two. Before we even had a chance to sit the two people switched to the other side leaving us alone on one side, and doc people on the other. We told them to come back but they wouldn’t. 
About five minutes later we were switched to another boat with other westerners. There was us, two Polish boys, a Peru/Japan couple, an African/Thai couple, and a Danish/Filipino couple. Very multicultural. In general people were antisocial even though I attempted to talk to everyone, and the two Polish boys were especially unfriendly when I guessed they were Russian- one of them looked incredibly Russian.
On the tour we went to five islands. First we went to a tiny dot of an island with a small beach. I snorkeled but the only thing to see were Black Sea urchins.      
Next we went to a snorkel spot. Then a hidden beach where we had lunch. 


Then we went to Coron Island for the famous Kayangan Lake, the clearest freshwater lake in Asia. Personally I loved the freshwater but it didn’t seem any clearer than the other lakes we went to. 


There were two bamboo rafts in the lake and I hoped on one of them with a local boy and two British girls. The boy paddled us around the far corner of the lake and I got a chance to see how big it is. When we got pretty far out I could see that he regretted bringing us there. He was exhausted and struggled getting us back. We offered to help but we were pretty useless.
When we got back Switzerland and I walked home from the boat port through the local tourist market area which sits in a massive empty sand lot. 


That night we went to Coffee Kong for the wifi, then had street food for dinner. I then got a mani/pedi across the street. The woman who did my pedi asked me what was wrong with my voice and I told her it was my normal voice. 
After we went to HellDiver, the bar at our hotel. At first it was almost empty but by midnight it was crowded and we were drinking with the local hotel employees. One was obsessed with me so I made a quick exit when I was ready to leave.
The next morning I took the shuttle to the airport. I had a flight to Cebu at 10:40am. I had a slight fiasco with my backpack because it was overweight at 12kg but eventually I got it through as carry on; this was the first time I’ve ever had an issue this whole trip.
The one airport waiting room was packed as we waited for our plane to arrive. When it finally did there was a drum percussion for the entering passengers. It felt just like I was back in the Caribbean.
More dive photos: 


Sipidan + Mabul Island, Sabah, Borneo


I arrived in Semporna at 2pm. I only had one night there before heading out to Mabul Island in the morning, and after 2 early mornings of sunrise river cruises I needed somewhere to really relax. I checked into Best Bunk Beds, which is newish but had great reviews online. The hostel is one of the nicest I’ve stayed in. The girls dorm is spacious with 8 bunkbeds in a massive room. The attached communal bathroom is modern, and the dorm has floor to ceiling windows facing the water. There’s a communal space and big kitchen with a lot of Asian condiments to choose from, although I didn’t cook there. It cost $13, which is a lot, but other than a really crappy hostel this was the next cheapest. I was the only non-Chinese backpacker staying there but for my night of relaxing that was perfect.

I walked around the town, grabbed lunch at Restoran Bismillah, an Indian spot. I had a roti and a vegetable soup, which were both tasteless. I ended up pouring the roti dipping curry into the soup. 

I then went to my dive shop to pay. I signed up for Sipidan two months ago. Only 120 divers are allowed per day and there’s a long wait list to be able to dive there. I signed up with Billabong, the cheapest company to dive with. I paid $330 total for 3 days/ 2 nights, which included diving, equipment, accommodation and meals. I got 6 dives: 3 Sipidan, 2 Mabul, 1 Kapelai. Billabong was far from horrific; however, it’s definitely a backpacker place and not somewhere I would stay if I was on holiday. It was also full of big groups or Chinese tourists who were loud, and Muslim Malay’s; so that put a damper on the mood.
The one terrible thing about diving in South East Asia is all the Chinese divers. Every single one I came across should never have been given a license. They’re incredibly disrespectful of the nature and of other divers around. I got kicked and pushed repeatedly and more often than not it was so they could take a picture. They also touched and kicked all the coral and sea life, which is a no-no. It’s not safe to have divers like that around and I actually had my first under water panic attack because of it.  
In the morning I had breakfast in my hostel then headed to the dive shop and then the shuttle ferry. The ride to Mabul Island took an hour. As we approached be island we slowed down and took a mandatory scenic route along the water hotels until we got to ours. Almost all the dive resorts are housed on stilts on the water. The fancy resorts look just like the glamorous pictures we see back home, and the cheap resorts look run down but still pretty incredible in the sense that they’re on the water. Billabong is a lilac color towards one end of the resorts; it was actually a great spot. 

When we arrived at the resort there were local gypsies selling crabs and shrimps on the deck. The crabs came in a chain, 4 for 20 rm (approx. $6,) and the shrimps were extra large in plastic bottles. I got crab with a Malaysian brother and sister who I shared the ferry with. 

I checked into my own private room which had an attached bathroom. The toilet didn’t have a seat and the shower was a mandy shower- a bucket and ladle. I actually like this method because it’s better than a shower than slowly drips water. There were two twin beds and a fan. The electricity on the whole island only works from 6pm-6am so each morning at 6am I woke up sweating from the heat. 

I settled in then headed out for my first dive of the day, which was at Kapelai House Reef off Kapelai Island. The site had bunches of man-made structures that looked like skeletons of houses. They were covered in moss and full of fish. On the dive I saw big turtles, the face of a moray eel hiding under a structure, trumpet fish, hornet fish, lion fish and stone fish, which look like a rock. The dive was 21 meters deep. 

Sometime when I’m diving I kick with my fins together, like a fish, because I can get places faster. During this dive I lost my hair tie and apparently when I did my fish kick I looked like a mermaid. I was then nicknamed the mermaid.
The second dive that day was Panglima Reef off Mabul Island. There was a slight current at the end of the dive and the visibility throughout was bad. Here I saw lion fish, nudibranch, stone fish, trigger fish, and big colorful cuttlefish. The cuttlefish looked like massive colorful caterpillars with black tentacles coming out of one end. The dive was 22 meters deep.
After diving I walked around the island with a few girls who were on holiday from Kuala Lumpur. The entire walk took us about 45 minutes but that’s only because we stopped a few times. There are two really nice resorts, one of which we stopped at for Magnum’s. Then there are some local shops and a big local village area before the cheaper dive resorts start-up again. 

When we got back to the resort I did the initiation and jumped off the resort bridge into the water. For over an hour guests (the non-Chinese,) dive masters and locals jumped and swam around our area. The sun set in the clouds but the colors were still incredible with the water village setting. 

That night was a bunch of people’s last night and we all drank local rum and listened to music on the bridge. I called it an early night because I wanted to be fresh for Sipadan; however, I ended up being wide awake for a few hours in the middle of the night listening to the rats on the ceiling.
In the morning I had breakfast then we left for Sipadan for the day. The boat was me, an English boy, a young unfriendly Russian couple, two Chinese men, and Otto and Oneal, the two dive masters. Since the British boy was only open water Otto was my dive buddy, which was awesome because he regularly took my GoPro and filmed for me.
First we went onto Sipadan Island to register for our permits. The island is incredibly small and while it used to have two resorts now those are gone and all that is there is a registration shack and a wooden shelter with a picnic table for each dive resort. When we arrived there was a big group of Chinese divers ahead of us. They had two flags and were doing karate poses and large group pictures in the check-in area.
Our first dive was at South Point. I saw an eagle ray, barracuda, white tip shark, black tip shark, gray reef shark, and turtles. We went 40 meters here. I had my first panic attack ever on this dive. I had been having trouble with my mask and it was continuously fogged even after cleaning it. We were in the blue at 40 meters and working with a slight current that was pushing me down and out. I was exhausted from continuously kicking, I couldn’t see a thing and all of a sudden one of the Chinese guys kicked me in the head because he wasn’t paying attention. Luckily I have my rescue training and did not completely panic but I did grab my dive master and we went up to 10 meters where I was able to breath again. I knew I’d be fine since I know what to do but it was terrifying being in darkness and not being able to breath in the moment.
I came up from the dive with a terrible headache from the depth and lack of oxygen. I’ve done that depth before but not in years. We relaxed for an hour in between dives and I put myself back together. 

Our next dive was at Barracuda Point, ranked one of the top dive sites in the world, and it did not disappoint. It was the best dive of my life. We saw huge Napolean fish, schools of humpheads (large fish,) massive schools of jack fish in tornado form (from the currents,) big turtles, and white tip sharks. Otto took my camera and filmed almost the whole time which gave me the chance to fully enjoy the dive. We went 21 meters but most of the dive was near the surface which also meant the light was amazing. I did the signature Sipadan move and swam inside the tornado of jackfish which was surreal. The fish move if you come near and they will reform around you. Otto shot a great five minute film which captures everything the dive offered. 


The most shocking and yet not so shocking part of the dive was seeing all the Chinese divers underwater with their massive cameras. I’m talking huge professional cameras with two large arms for flashing. The divers were standing on the sandy bottom of the water holding their cameras like walking sticks. It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in a long time. 

We were all all smiles after that dive. We had lunch and I rested on the beach and I still couldn’t stop smiling.  For the last dive we went to Hanging Garden, a wall dive. Here we saw gray reef sharks, white tip sharks, big turtles and most amazingly a leopard shark. Otto found it sleeping in an alcove and called me over to come next to it. I was almost there when all of a sudden one of the Chinese guys pushed past me with his huge camera knocking me into the coral. For the first time the dive master took charge and signaled at the Chinese guy to get back and let me through. We were about a foot away when it woke-up and swam around us to escape. Another incredible experience. 


I went 40 meters on this dive too and although my breathing was affected I practiced on controlling it. Halfway through the dive I was hit by jellyfish particles and got stung on my legs, arms and face. 

Almost all the guests had left while we were in Sipadan. The only westerners left were me, a British girl who I had become friendly with, and two Danish girls who I kept thinking were Spanish. The British girl and I took a walk around the island. We stopped for chocolate strawberry Magnum’s and ate them on the fancy resort porch. We then went to a local shop so that I could buy a seashell chandelier I had seen the day before- I hope it survives the journey. 


It was a quite night of staring at stars on the bridge and listening to a local play the guitar. The next morning I slept in and then went snorkeling at 10:30am with the Brit. I only lasted about five minutes in the water. I was stung by sea-lice and bored; it’s hard to snorkel the day after diving at Sipadan. I relaxed on the boat for the rest of the time and watched all the Chinese snorkel, which was like watching the tv show were Chinese do obstacles and people laugh when they get hurt. 
There were five snorkel boats in the area and me and the Brit were the only non-Chinese and the only ones not wearing bright orange life jackets, or matching striped snorkel wetsuits. They all can’t swim, or at least think they can’t, plus are terrified of the water. Two women on my boat refused to let go of the ladder, and one boy refused to let go of the safety ring even though he also had a jacket on. One family held onto two rings and ropes while they all kicked to the coral area where they then proceeded to stand and walk around on the coral. Some of the them were walking on the coral under the resorts in their snorkel gear. I’m not entirely sure why the workers don’t stop them from doing this but it’s terrible how they are ruining the natural habitat. To top it off on the boat ride back one of the Chinese reached into the water and grabbed a starfish and all of a sudden a bunch of cameras were out. A few of us started screaming for them to drop the fish and they did, however, they did not understand why.
When we got back to the resort I checked out of my room, had lunch, and chilled out until 3pm when the ferry came. Brit and I went down the road to pick-up pastries from a local bakery, a window in her home. We bought four pastries for 50 cent rm each, about $.15. 
The ferry back was an hour, then we took a shuttle to the airport which was another hour and cost 30 rm each. I then waited at the airport for 3 hours until my flight to Kota Kinabalu. The flight was 30 minutes. When I got to the terminal I found a money exchange place to covert my Malaysia ringgit to Philippine Pesos. The lady at the counter asked me what airline I was flying before doing the exchange. After it was done she informs me that the terminal my flight is leaving from is actually a 15 minute (30 ringgit) taxi ride away that is not walkable. Cebu now flys from Terminal 1. I then had to exchange back pesos for ringgit. She tricked me so that I would have to pay the exchange rate and agent fee twice.
When I got to Terminal 1 I went to check-in to my Manila flight and I was told that I needed to show proof of a flight leaving the Philippines. I had not yet booked my flight home and was waiting for early week for prices to drop but now I had no choice. I booked the cheapest flight home, which is a day later than I wanted and over $100 more than it will be in a few days. 
My flight to Palawan left at 7:25am, and landed at 8:30am. I then waited for almost an hour at a restaurant nearby the airport for a shuttle bus to leave for El Nido. It was a 6 hour roller coaster journey north, part of which the driver had a friend sitting on his lap.