From a distance, Coron Island is a massive and unbroken limestone wall of sheer precipices that juts out from the sea. Up close, lush stunted forest vegetation, so resilient that they are able to grow on pure rock, cover the craggy cliffs of the island.
On a cloudy morning, we traveled to Coron Island to see the famous Kayangan Lake, one of the seven mountain lakes in the island. Out of the seven lakes, only Kayangan and Barracuda lakes are open to the public. It took our outrigger boat less than 30 minutes to reach the island from Coron town harbor in the nearby Busuanga Island.
Coron Island is an ancestral territory of the Tagbanua, one of the oldest tribes in the Philippines. Visitors must pay an entrance fee of P200 (or less than $5) per person. Funds go to the Tagbanua Foundation that supports community projects such as medical assistance for the elderly and scholarship for Tagbanua children.
This was the outrigger boat that brought us to the island.
We stopped to read the sign---the rules are listed here.
The steep ascent and descent to the lake are ideal for trail hikers---I'm not one of them though. So imagine me almost running out of oxygen on the way up and down the steps. This was my --th stop in the guise of taking photos.
It had been raining and the rocks that formed the steps were slippery, the wood railings helped me a lot. After an arduous climb, we were rewarded with this spectacular view of Coron Bay and the most photographed channel entrance to Coron Island.
From this viewpoint of 250 feet above sea level, we started our descent to Kayangan Lake. The lake is a Hall of Fame awardee for the "cleanest and greenest inland body of water".
Enclosed by high limestone karsts, this splendid awuyuk (lake) is held sacred by tribal folks. The Tagbanua believe the panya'in (hostile spirits) dwell in the lakes so they seek the advice of a babailan (shaman) before they go to the limestone walls of the lake to search for balinsasayao (Collocalia troglodytes) nests.
The water was warm and a bit salty, according to my sister. And the emerald water was so clear that breathtaking stalagmite formations underwater and schools of fish were visible from where I sat. There were no corals underwater, only rock formations.
I only soaked for a little while then stayed on a shady spot under the overhanging branches. This place is undeniably beautiful, but lakes spook me...images of Loch Ness monster and undiscovered life forms crossed my mind. Lakes are mysterious--I wonder what forces of nature created them.
I admire this boy's courage--the dark crevices under the rocks creep me out.
Swimming with the fishes...some even bit my legs! They probably wanted me to swim with them, too. Sorry, guys. Our guide assured me there were no big fish in this lake, only the greenish elongated fish that resembles dilis (anchovies) were found here.
And here's my little sister---she's fearless and tireless! She snorkeled all over the lake, even attempted to get into a cave on the other side.
We stayed the whole blissful morning in Kayangan Lake...it was serene, an amazing experience. Thanks to the Tagbanua for taking care of this place and sharing a piece of paradise with us.