Wake up, stretch in bed, swim, eat fruit, drink coffee, read, collect shells, swim, nap, stretch, beer, eat fish, rum, swim, shower, relax, repeat. A tough regimen of chilling is required when visiting The Philippines. Which is appropriate considering the breathtaking environment all around you. In fact, the experience of being a tourist in The Philippines is a bit like being in a real life reggae song. It’s all good vibes, sun, and steel drums, man. They have beaches so beautiful the sight of them makes you want to break shit with your bare hands. To be clear, I say ‘tourist’ because once you understand the politics of any place or the issues the local people face, you can no longer pretend that it is paradise for everyone. So, while we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, we were not blind reality either. Besides the glorious beauty of this place, it is the vibrancy of the Filipino people which stands out the most. Never have we encountered more people who’s positive energy is so palpable. And with English being a language utilized by these immensely diversified islands, it makes communication easy for visitors like us, which is no small thing when traveling.
We touched down without much of a plan and only one goal in mind: to find a little slice of paradise and let the rest be what it will be. This story is a testament to the randomness of life. That sometimes it is as simple as being in the right place with the right attitude.
Waiting in a van that would be driving us from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton, Palawan, we were already sweating into our vinyl seats and scarfing on road snacks when the remaining seats on the van were filled with new arrivals. A tall, blue-eyed man and a couple of Israeli backpackers piled into the seats behind us. As we hit the dirt road I soon heard the Australian man mention something about the perfect beach and turned around to see him showing video footage of the island property he had recently purchased and was now calling home. I slapped Udi on the arm so he would turn around and we drooled while a man named Paul held his laptop in the air so we could see the images of crystal clear water, coral reefs, and jungle scenery. Without skipping a beat, and as if compelled by an inner voice not entirely my own, I let Paul know that were looking for exactly that kind of place to spend some time. Sounding desperate for a chance to see this paradise, I reassured him that we were super low maintenance, that he wouldn’t even know we were there. But, the cool thing about Paul (and there is a lot to say about that), is he was totally un-phased by our pushy enthusiasm. In fact, he welcomed it.
We had already booked a place for the next few nights on a beach about an hours boat ride away from his (apparently). But Paul made it clear that if we wanted to come to his, he would be happy to have us (weeeeee!). The van bumped it’s way thru unpaved terrain for a while when we finally arrived at our destination at which point Paul handed us a scrap of paper containing only this this information scrawled on it:
Apparently in The Philippines, this is all you need in order to track someone down.
We were giddy with excitement as we unloaded our stuff. “Adventure!” we thought. Now, we had only to wait a couple of days and hope that we would be able to reach/find Paul again, albeit with little to no internet or phone access.
First, we had to convince someone to take us there by boat. We asked around, but everyone said we needed a big boat to get there, saying that we would have to pass thru what they called, ‘big wave’. This concept didn’t even make sense to us, as we looked out to sea. The water was completely flat, so glassy you could see the shadows of the palm trees that were bending overhead. Hiring a big boat seemed like a scam, and would cost us more than we wanted to spend. We wanted a little boat, so we asked June, a guy who worked at the resort where we were staying. The next day we packed our stuff, got some provisions and told June, “Take us to Koleman’s Beach, please!”.
This beach was not something you can google maps. In fact, once we set out on this magical sunset ocean ride, past mountainous islands and teeny tiny secret beach coves, it became apparent that this beach was just some guys land, somewhere, in a chain of islands that stretched on for awhile. We had to slow down near kids fishing several times to ask which direction to go. “That way”, they would point. Fine. This was island life, we would have to find it without google, instead we had to let the ocean gods get us there, following the sun and the wind and the current.
When we finally slowed down and approached the shore it was a miracle to see Paul waving back, tall, tan and blue eyed as if he expected us at that exact moment. We clamored onto the beach and began from that very moment to have what would become an awesome life changing experience.
Paul, a seasoned yoga and meditation instructor from Australia, had spent a couple of years searching for the perfect piece of land to build his dream retreat on. In fact, for much of his search he was scouring the jungles of Bali hoping to come across a property to call his own. Along the way he had the great fortune of meeting Theresa, a super multitasking doctor and an avid cook, who grew up and lived in The Philippines. As they searched together their good luck led them to meet Koleman and his wife on their white sand beach tucked lovingly into a private cove. For them, it fit the bill perfectly. This beach was pristine, remote, and most importantly had access to constantly running water from a creek that zigs up the mountain. Fresh running water is is akin to finding gold on an island so isolated as this.
Soon the property was handed over, at which point building their dream retreat became their full-time baby. When we arrived there, sticky and bright eyed, they were still in the thick of what has now been a very long and arduous journey of building the property according to vision. It was perfect. A couple of small mosquito netted bungalows had already been built but remained empty, and the original kitchen and main house of the property, although in a state of disrepair, was functional and homey. It didn’t take long for us to settle in, meet the gang of workers who are building and up-keeping the property and to start getting to know who this Paul is.
While this is no ordinary place to begin with, Paul and Theresa have the foresight to create a community hub for the many people that live on the surrounding stretches of beach and in the even more remote jungles above them. Their intentions are clear, noble and incredibly necessary. They are the ones with access to constantly flowing fresh water, with plenty to share – so share it they will. In exchange for this neighborly conduct, they receive the occasional bag full of freshly caught fish and the responsibility of placing them at the center of the region. A concept they intend to take full advantage of once they are up and running. In the works are plans for a clinic on one end of the property, which would allow the locals somewhere to go more easily for medicine and hopefully health education.
Paul’s holistic dream of bringing people to his beach in order to learn balance and to find inspiration is a major part of what drives this ship. This includes a large yoga platform just along the edge of the ocean, individual private bungalows, stone floored outdoor showers, a garden, several hiking trails and he’s already mapped out numerous perfect spots along the creek where he intends to build small meditation platforms. While he is holding mediation retreats already, his vision also includes that of artists and writers finding solace in isolated cabins he’s building along the more private sections of the land. These places, he hopes, will provide the quiet they need to be utterly inspired. While all this spiritual contemplation and thoughtfulness is going on, the outgoing energizer battery, Theresa, will man the kitchen. Her dream of building a space with a large Bali inspired roof and wood burning oven is slowly coming together. Together they are a team of seemingly infinite ideas and strength.
While we were staying with them, we tried our best to help where we could. We sanded and painted, cooked and cleaned. Udi even tried to help them set up an antenna at the tip of the beach to try and garner any kind of signal from the nearest port. It was never a dull moment around the property. With a gaggle of 5-10 workers at any time, Theresa was constantly cooking up family meals, and Paul trying to arrange when exactly the carpenters were planning on coming back to finish his yoga platform. This was island life at its best. A bit messy, with no schedule, and yet utterly blissful all the same. We spent many long evening hours chatting with Paul about his vision, the road that led him here and the ways that our minds were already churning with our own ideas of a future ‘paradise’ to call our own. To say we were inspired by the experience would be a serious understatement if ever there was one. When we left the strip of beach and headed to our next adventure, (we saw the big wave this time, and luckily we were in a much bigger boat), we had to laugh at the whole thing. It was all by chance. It was all so random.
Not knowing where you are going and going anyway is a learned skill. It goes against most of our daily lives and certainly is at odds with our immediate access to so much information. We are so accustomed to the idea of planning and scheduling our lives, our relaxation time, even our happiness. But in this case it was our ignorance that made it so special. I hope that was not the last time that I have absolutely no idea where I’m going but decide to go anyway, because the pay off was extra-ordinary.
Extra special Thank You to Paul and Theresa, who went out of their way to make us feel at home, with endless love and kindness. We hope you get internet soon so you can see this! For more info about them go to wilddharma.com and if you are lucky enough to visit them, tell them we say ‘hi’. Seriously.