The island life is such a sweet life

Published December 12, 2021, 3:04 AM

by MB Lifestyle

Traveling to the beach is made sweeter as this airline company now offers direct flights to El Nido

By Isabel Lerma

A trip to El Nido, Palawan had always been on my bucket list. The exclusivity of it is what enticed me the most. When I was younger, I would often catch myself wondering what about the place made it worthy for travelers to first fly to Puerto Princesa, and then proceed to take a four-to-six-hour van ride just to get to the destination. I was yet to find out for myself.

Finally, in my early 20s, I was able to travel to this famous tourist spot on the upper tip of the island. Lucky for me, flying from Manila directly to El Nido is possible nowadays. Thanks to AirSWIFT Airlines, I was given the opportunity to pack my bags and get away from the city for a little while, without having to tire myself out from the journey.

view from aircraft approaching destination

Checking in at NAIA Terminal 3 was, to my pleasant surprise, a really quick process. The staff were friendly and accommodating, always ensuring that the passengers were well taken care of from departure to arrival. The flight itself went smoothly, though, dressed in summer clothes, I found the air-conditioning to be a bit too cold. Either way, it was seamless and hassle-free, as the hour-and-a-half trip took me straight from the heart of the city to the heart of Lio Beach.

‘The experience felt surreal, fleeting, like a dream. The food, the company, the scenic panorama—everything is just better when at the beach. Island life is everything people paint it out to be, and more.’

Upon arrival, I was taken straight to Seda Lio Resort which, conveniently, is only a five-minute drive from the local airport. I indulged in their lunch buffet and went around the place to take in the beach views. Later on, I got the opportunity to sit down with Alfie Reyes, AirSWIFT CEO, to ask him a few questions about the current situation of the airline company and the industry in general.

“Global recovery is probably closer to about 60 percent on average [compared] to 2019 levels,” explained Alfie, highlighting that commercial flight activity has dropped drastically since the pandemic hit. “In the Philippines, we’re probably still below 30 percent, but things are picking up.” 

Optimistically, he pointed out that the increase in vaccination rates within the country has gradually allowed the local industry to prosper once again. With the current state of COVID cases being at a low, it is important to note that registering for an S-PaSS is essential for domestic travel, replacing the need for negative antigen and/or PCR test results to get across borders.

Given these unforeseen circumstances, the main goal of Filipino-owned regional boutique airline company these days is to get back on its feet by opening and reopening flight routes from destination to destination, locally. As of the moment, its services include domestic flights to and from Manila (MNL), El Nido (ENI), Cebu (CEB), and Boracay [Caticlan] (MPH). Though the company’s top priority is to regain the momentum it once thrived on during pre-pandemic days, expanding to other tourist hotspots in the Philippines such as Siargao (IAO) is already in the works.

To end our discussion on a lighter note, I asked Alfie what his top travel tips for our readers were. With a slight chuckle, he listed down the following.

Be fully vaccinated if you aren’t yet—not only does it keep you healthy, but it makes the traveling process a lot easier.

Be a bit more patient—the travel experience is not what it used to be and the pandemic has fundamentally changed how we move around, so try not to let the little inconveniences ruin your trip!

At 4 p.m., I took a trip back to the Lio Airport to witness and welcome the first flight from Cebu. To commemorate the maiden flight, a ribbon-cutting and cake-cutting ceremony was held before we headed back to Seda Lio for an intimate dinner accompanied by an acoustic set.

For my next few days on the island, I was accommodated at Angkla El Nido, a dainty boutique resort and beach club located along Nacpan Beach. Though around half an hour away from the airport with undeveloped roads that lead us there, to say it was rewarding is an understatement. Just like my new friend from SunStar Cebu said to me in the car ride along the dark, rugged path, (non-verbatim) “Roads like this are often telltale signs that the destination is worth it,” and trust me when I say that it was.

As someone who is heavily into aesthetics, I was fascinated by the tropical design of both the exterior and interior facets of the beach cottages and other facilities. The vernacular architecture of each structure was juxtaposed against modern features that created a sense of both culture and newness. Aside from the design elements, a good example of this was how technologically advanced the rooms were, as everything from the lights to the curtains was powered by a smart controller.

The room was spotless, the service was excellent, and the meals tasted as good as they looked. I spent most of my time in and within the vicinity of the resort, as there wasn’t any dire need to go elsewhere. Everything I needed was already there. Needless to say, I truly did enjoy my stay at Angkla and would definitely come back.

By the time I awoke on my last day, I was overcome by a sense of melancholy knowing that I was going to be leaving in a few hours. I made sure to make the most of my last moments there, soaking up the sun, basking in the sand, and breathing in the gentle vitality that nature so effortlessly had to offer.

Though I was, unfortunately, unable to make it to island hopping courtesy of El Nido Yachting Club, I can still say I had the opportunity to experience the splendor of the area. I can only imagine that the sunset was breathtaking from Maremegmeg Beach Club, as my companions gathered there for the final dinner of the trip on the evening of the day I flew out. Nonetheless, as saccharine as it may sound, the sound of the waves and the feel of the ocean breeze against my skin was enough to make the trip worth my while. It was exactly the private escape I needed in the midst of all the city flurry back in Metro Manila.

There is something about small-scale, provincial airports that strikes a chord with me, if not most people. It must be the bittersweet reminder, the final taste of what my life had been for the past couple of days or so. This might be why checking in, this time at the Lio Airport, was even easier than it was at NAIA. And, though the flight was delayed for a few minutes, I had absolutely no complaints as I was able to savor the nature that surrounded me. Moreover, having unexpectedly bumped into familiar faces and sharing stories of our trips, I believe, allowed us all to cheerfully pass the time until boarding.

Overall, the experience felt surreal, fleeting, like a dream. The food, the company, the scenic panorama—everything is just better when at the beach. Island life is everything people paint it out to be, and more. If given the chance, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.