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Philippines & Japan 2023, Part One: DC to Coron

In June and July my family (including my parents, and my brother Joseph’s family) took a long-awaited trip to the Philippines and Japan. How long-awaited? It had been 25 years since my brother and I last traveled to the Philippines, and for everyone except for my parents and my brother it would be their first visit. My parents had been planning this for a while—we had thought it would happen a couple of years ago and had been looking at the summer of 2020, but…the Coronavirus pandemic obviously set things back quite a bit. I think it worked out in the end—the trip acted as an early 50th anniversary celebration for my parents, and our kids were older and better able to handle the travel.

Our itinerary was fairly ambitious, a big triangle-shaped circuit from Manila through various stops in the Visayas.

A map of the Philippines with red arrows denoting an itinerary

Just poring over the sheer number of notes and photos from our trip, I’ve decided to write about it in chunks:

Ready, set…wait. #

We met up with my brother and his family to fly out of Dulles, and our itinerary was blown from the start. We had a 4+ hour delay due to mechanical issues, with United flying parts from [checks notes] San Francisco. That meant we would miss our connecting flights in Denver and Tokyo on the way to Manila. There were seven of us traveling, so rebooking us was a challenge, but eventually we managed to get a United agent to figure out an alternative route. We ended up getting redirected through San Francisco, where we would stay overnight and catch an early flight to Tokyo. The silver lining was we got to see our good friend Jill, who hung out with us that evening and the next morning.

A man and a woman sit in a dining area booth, with the woman resting her head on the man’s shoulder
A view of San Francisco from an airplane window, with clouds above the ground and ocean.
Looking down on SF

Coron #

After our long flight to Tokyo we transferred to an ANA flight to Manila.1 We met up with my parents, spent a quick night there and the next day got on a flight to Coron in Busuanga, Palawan. We had never been to Palawan before, so this was a first for everyone in the family. Coron struck me as being on the upswing in terms of building out its tourist attractions, for better or worse. I imagine within five years it’ll look very different.

We got in midday and were fairly tired, but Joseph and I decided to hike the 700 steps up Mt. Tapyas to see the bay:

Sunset through multiple layers of clouds
I like to think that’s a dog emerging from the clouds

The next day we got to squeeze in a tour that brought us to to a couple of island spots like Kayangan Lake and Twin Lagoon. Outrigger boats were our primary way of getting from island to island—it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden in a bangka. We had lunch cooked on the boat and served on the beach: grilled tuna, eggplant, seaweed, and veggies.

Outrigger boats tethered to a wooden walkway
Bay leading to Kayangan Lake

Some other shots from this leg (click to enlarge):

Coron was one of the big highlights of the trip for me—partly because I had never been there before, but also because we all got the sense that these spots would likely be too busy in the near future, overrun by tourists like myself. It was also fun to finally show my kids what Philippine beaches were like, justifying the snobbery I display whenever we are at the Jersey Shore.

More photos on Flickr.

  1. Might I still have the ANA instrumental theme buried in my brain? Perhaps. ↩︎