El Nido, Palawan: All About The Idyllic Destination And What Awaits When You Visit This 2021
Even before the pandemic, I was already beginning to see a great shift in the mindset of my generation—a shift from collecting material objects to collecting meaningful experiences. Companies like Airbnb were fast to introduce platforms to not only help connect travellers with their destinations but offer immersive experiences that helped create an awareness of and connection to a sense of place. To some capacity, this made a lot of locals and business owners in booming tourism destinations take an inward look and re-evaluate what they were selling to visitors and how they could authentically promote their cultures and heritage.
For the better part of four years I have made it my work and purpose to do just that—create meaningful and authentic experiences that promote and preserve Filipino culture. Although this is something that was heavily ingrained in me by my mother from a young age, my travels around the Philippines over the last few years have only solidified my love for this country. We have such deep roots of great cultural importance which sadly get covered up all too often and hidden from the purview of tourists. Filipinos have a mindset that western culture is better and more attractive and while this may have had a hand in making us more adaptable, approachable and relatable to tourists, it’s also caused us to shy away from promoting our own culture. This, in a way, was the inspiration behind Kalye Artisano in Lio Beach, El Nido, Palawan.
Kalye Artisano is a cultural retail and hospitality hub that celebrates all things Filipino. It is home to artist workshops and stores, a gallery space, a Filipino bar, restaurant and bakery. It also organises events to engage the local community in sharing experiences with tourists. In short, its mission is to create a sense of place by using the local culture and the local community as an anchor. Interestingly, as soon as the small local businesses and artists were given this platform and venue, the whole community began interacting and, most importantly, collaborating. Local business owners of restaurants and resorts around the area began commissioning the artists to help design and decorate their establishments, helping them learn about and showcase local culture and in turn giving their customers and visitors authentic experiences.
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While Kalye Artisano is still in its infancy, it is lucky to be a part of a larger development that shares in its vision and is setting a precedent for sustainable development in tourism. Lio Beach, a part of Ayala Land’s footprint in Palawan which include the El Nido Resorts, was master planned as an integrated resort community with hotels and resorts, commercial establishments, residential communities, amenities and facilities for eco-adventure and leisure travellers. The 325-hectare development is guided by the principles of sustainability and inclusive growth, ensuring the least impact to the environment while benefiting the local community. While the whole world came to a standstill, Lio Beach and the El Nido Resorts got to work on planning how to continue offering safe and meaningful experiences and embraced the heightened protocols for health and safety in preparation for travel in the new normal.
Lio Beach and the El Nido Resorts have successfully created a travel bubble system. Each resort may only operate at a 50 per cent capacity servicing guests on AirSwift scheduled flights out of a private hangar in Manila. Stringent protocols are followed which include the mandatory requirement of taking a RT-PCR test 72 hours prior to travel and with all establishments introducing low to no contact processes for check in, payments as well as other activities that require guest and staff interaction.
While the new protocols in place might add an extra layer of complexity for travelling, it can also be an opportunity to have the most coveted and visited destinations all to ourselves. It’s a chance to visit and learn about the incredible gems this country has to offer as Filipinos, as in a few months they might be packed full again with international tourists, and may never get to be admired in such a peaceful state. There is something for everyone in Palawan and it will always welcome you with open arms, as long as you respect its people and surroundings. While Palawan’s beautiful beaches and crystal blue waters are always the main attraction, it also has some of the most stunning and interesting inland landscapes and cultural experiences too. Travel safely, support local, make it meaningful and have fun!
This story was originally published in the Tatler Traveller Philippines Vol. 18. Download it on your digital device via Zinio, Magzter, and Pressreader.
- Photography Paloma Urquijo Zobel