An island adventure of discovery and the power of empowerment
With its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters Palawan’s appeal doesn’t require introduction. Take Tao to a voyage of inspiration and adventure and experience the beauty of Palawan in a new perspective.
MEET BONG AND THE LOST BOYS
When the leader of the expedition Bong announces a directive the crew members jump into action, driving through our bangka(a commonly used term for vessels that are used in the Philippines) with the utmost skill and efficiency.
It’s not is it the Lost Boys of Peter Pan The crew is referred to as which is a reference to their humble origins. Originating from the various islands that comprise Palawan They were young people who had just graduated from school, desperate for an objective and a livelihood.
There was Tao The company, Tao, sought to provide tourists with the opportunity to experience the unspoiled side of Palawan, and realized that it could offer opportunities for the disadvantaged communities who call these islands home.
Bong For instance, Bong was a young man of 24 and employed as a farmer and fisherman on the island of Puerto Princesa, when he was approached by a friend to be a part of Tao. As a runner, and later a cook, he was eventually the captain of his own vessel and brought the values he was taught as a young neophyte.
“I learnt a lot here, especially in handling guests that I never knew before,” Bong says. Bong 30, who is now thirty. “My life was a lot more difficult than it was prior to. Tao offered me a long-term source of income. They offered me health and other benefits to work, for which I am thankful for.”
WILD CHARMS, WARM HEARTS
Palawan’s beauty on the island is famous and, from the beginning, Tao wanted to give guests a distinct experience from the usual resorts that are found in tourist areas such as Coron or El Nido.
The founders, influenced by an adventurous trip they took around Palawan and guided by nature and intuitions — “with mosquito nets for walls, stars for a roof” They set out to recreate the same adventure for others by establishing Tao in 2006.
The guests could sign up for sailing excursions to Palawan’s most remote islands, and stay in specially-designed camps along the beach. The simple, fun adventure was a roaring success, and Tao’s name became a raging success starting with a small group of guests to hundreds every week.
As we would find out, a different reason Tao has been able to prevail for more than 13 years is the connection to the local communities they collaborate with.
Being of the belief that a business succeeds when it benefits the people living on the islands it visits, Tao channels part of its profits to community development programs.
It develops relationships with each community by involving the community to discover what their requirements are.
WANDER WITH PURPOSE
Our journey would begin in Coron and would end with El Nido. When I stepped aboard, I instantly felt like that I had the experience of an pirate (minus the taking of the bank). It is a great experience living in the moment and with what is around — what the vessel has to offer, what the ocean offers for food, and wherever the weather will take you. As opposed to resorts and hotels you have a close relationship with the crew daily while they do their job.
One of the most impressive is one of the highlights is Tuka Huts, which are simple but beautiful bamboo structures which have become Tao’s most coveted accommodation. Tuka is Tagalog meaning “beak”, and as its name implies, Tuka structures have roofs that are shaped like the beak of a bird, gently soaring into the sky.
It is not everyone’s desire to sacrifice the comforts of air conditioning however for us, settling down in the open, airy Tukas that were sucked away by the sounds of waves, and then waking up to the view of the ocean, was a dream.
Behind the Tukas their rustic warmth is a fascinating story. Every island that we stayed on has at least 10 Tukas. Each Tuka is constructed by a group of three to five locals with three different materials: Nipa palm leaves nylon, bamboo and specifically, a particular species of bamboo known as bayogbecause because of its strength and abundant in Palawan.
“It is ready for a typhoon. Bamboos are bent due to the more force it puts against one another and the more durable it becomes. It’s going to tumble on powerful winds, but the structure will be there,” Bong explains.
The Tukas offer unique accommodations for guests and also support local business and employment. The furniture in every Tuka (bed towels and bags for guestsare made locally, and the women’s group that makes these items has created an association to oversee the business’s earnings.