Lessons I learned from my Grandfather

An article written for the British Womens Association of Manila‘s Newsletter 

Megan & her Gradnfather FredIs there some kind of quote about how you should always listen to your grandparents?  I am sure there is..but I can’t quite place it right now…instead let me get straight to the point.  If I had listened to my grandfather years ago, I would have known that paradise exists. I would have known that the Philippines should have been at the top of my travel list!  I should of taken him seriously when I saw the special twinkle in his eye that would only appear when he talked about the Philippines.  

My grandfather was a great story teller, mailman and nature lover. As a sailor in the American Navy in World War II, he had the unique opportunity to deploy to the Philippines.  I spent a lot of time with him growing up, not only did we have dinner together, as a family, every week, but we also shared vacations and holidays. When I was just old enough, he gave me my first job and I would spend hours along side him working and hearing his stories. 


Maybe some of those tales were a bit embellished, and maybe he only spent a few months in the country which he spoke about with such enthusiasm, but what matters is he got one thing right!  The Philippines is a country like no other! Before moving to Manila, my first time in the Philippines was on a trip with my sister. We took a flight from snowy Korea (where I was living at the time)  to Boracay and had the best experience exploring the blue waters and white sand beach island. We fell in love and soon after my parents and I returned! After a flight into Palawan and a long winding van drive, we made it to a tiny town that felt like it was only ours to explore.  El Nido is an amazing, magical paradise and even after a year of living in the Philippines and traveling to dozens of islands, it is still one of my favorite places on the planet!

For me this amazing Island makes me understand the glitter in my grandpa’s eyes.  With 7,641 islands to explore, no matter where I go, I am always partial to this little piece of Palawan Paradise.  It’s the days on a boat when I jump into the translucent blue water and find myself saying “WOW” as I snorkel along a stunning reef, only to pop my head up and be equally struck by the island views above the sea.  It’s the happy boat men that proudly tours you around their home to the thump thump thump of the pump boat and the fresh fish lunch that tastes so good, and is cooked right on board!  

limestone cliff islands

On my first trip to El Nido there was only hotels and guest houses scattered around the town proper, no banks or atms and the power was turned off from dawn till dusk.  We made our way there in the middle of the rainy season, and low and behold it just happened to be a week of brilliant blue skies and sunshine. My parents and I spent our days walking down Nacpan beach without another person in sight and cruising around the many little limestone cliffs to find sea snakes, sharks and turtles along the beautiful coral beds. The happy and curious locals were always ready to chat.  

Today there is definitely more tourists visiting El Nido and Coron, but with more tourism comes more comforts like 24 hour electricity, high end hotels, and even a new hospital.  Even with development, the town proper still has local children playing basketball, in the street, and the family bakery that everyone stops in for baon. Some may call this paradise “crowded” but I guarantee there isn’t even half the number of people on the beach as a sunny day in America or the U.K. The best things are still much the same.  As you cruise out of El Nido town by boat the world seems to slow down as the beautiful limestone cliffs surround you along the stunning sea. You are in the heart of {my} paradise.

As important it is to listen to our elders, we need to make our own traditions and memories to tell our grandkids too.  The Philippines continues to develop and change for what I hope is the better, but I think that no matter what, El Nido will preserve it’s one of a kind beauty and the many memories I’ve made there.  There are so many islands in the Philippines, as you make this magnificent country your home, get out and explore them. Tell your kids, and your grandkids and make sure they know about your own special paradise you’ve found.  As they grow, and realize how {old} and wise you are, they will listen!

The beach of a Coron island


I've been living abroad for a decade now! My travels have lead me to visit over 80 countries, marry a fellow globetrotter, and reside in 8 countries in four different continents. I am currently based in Brussels, Belgium! Join me as I focus on sustainable budget friendly travel and giving back while living abroad!