Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hotel Maya in Culion: A Home Away from Home

Culion - Hotel Maya Front Door View
The facade of Hotel Maya looks out to the sea
As our big banca approached the Culion port in Palawan, there were three things that caught my eye -- the statue of the Christ the Redeemer standing on a hill to the west, the red roof of the Culion Cathedral to the east, and the big signage of Hotel Maya on a riffraff wall close to the church.  It is impossible to miss and easy to reach, barely five minutes by tricycle from the pier and just double that by foot if you're traveling light, unburdened by extra luggage.

Summer was still in full force when we visited a few months back and seeing a hammock right under the trees by the side entrance was a welcome sight -- something I could put to good use right away.  The sea breezes were temperamental at best, blowing meekly one moment, then gone the next, not to come back until I'm dripping in sweat.   The new generator was yet awaiting transport from Coron or if rumors were to be believed, was already on the island but awaiting a technician to run it so power is available only for four hours daily, from 4 to 8pm and thru the hotel's own genset come night-time so the hammock is indeed a welcome treat from the heat.
Culion - Hotel Maya Side Entrance
A welcome sight -- hammock by the entrance
Originally established as a teaching hotel through the Ateneo-Loyola Hostel Project, the place used to be a home/dormitory for underprivileged, orphaned and neglected girls afflicted with leprosy on the ground floor run by the Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres and Department of Health (Hijas de Maria Dormitory) and a school on the second (forerunner of the Loyola College).  Envisioning a promising tourism potential, the Loyola College of Culion offers tourism-related college and vocational courses.  In an effort to help the school survive, the Ateneo Loyola Hostel-Hotel for the Study of Ecotourism and Livelihood (later renamed as Hotel Maya) as it was formally named was built, a training facility oriented towards responsible ecotourism.

Students from the school man the front desk along with the friendly regular staff.  They were eager to please and easy to share banter with, it's easy to feel at home right from the get-go.  I'm admittedly in my best element in small towns where I find it easier to make friends, catch the latest news right from the townsfolk, and chit-chat with people as if you've known each other for a long time.
Culion - Hotel Maya Signage from the Road
Hotel Maya signage visible from the sea
Location. Very strategically-located, Hotel Maya sits right beside the Culion Cathedral overlooking the sea.  It's also just a few steps from the Culion Hospital compound where the wonderful Culion Museum can be found.  The high vantage point gives the guest a calming view of the sea and the nearby islands (wonderful especially at sunrise when the sun emerges from the islands; also picturesque at sunset when the waning light bathes the islands in gold).  Come nighttime while waiting for the generator to come on, it's tempting to sneak into the parola (lighthouse) at the side of the church and watch the night sky, cliche-aside, littered with stars.
Culion - Hotel Maya Room
Lone aircon room is no-frills but very liveable
Room and rates.  There are eight rooms available.  Two family rooms and big groups, one with air conditioning, five fan rooms with double beds.   Fan rooms are P1,100 (about US$25)  per night, A/C room is P1,300 (roughly US$27).  We got the lone air conditioned room (a relief especially during summer) but according to Toto, one of the hotel's friendly staff assigned to the night shift, the fan rooms on the eastern side are rather breezy in the evenings so it's wise to book these rooms if you want to catch the sea breeze.  The room we got had a trundle bed that accommodates 2-4 people.  With the summer heat, I would've preferred a banig (straw) mat on the floor but once the generator power comes on at 11:30, the mattress makes for comfy sleeping.

Culion - Hotel Maya T&B
Clean toilet and bath
Amenities.  Hotel Maya has a spacious dining cum bar area (very convenient especially if you're coming back late famished from trips elsewhere on the island; just remember to order in advance or call early enough to have your dinner prepared early).  Meals are available from P125 up; menu is subject to availability of ingredients.  The large windows open up to the view of the sea which makes eating a pleasure especially during the early mornings and early afternoons when you can see the boats crossing to the nearby islands.  On our first night on the island, we forgot the time, shooting the sunset and starry sky at the Christ the Redeemer vantage point.  By the time we went back to the hotel, it was a relief that we got to order dinner via text as the town was dark and at 8pm, there's not a lot of eating places open.

The hotel has its own generator set so after the town's power shuts off, there's electricity for fans/lights/aircon from 11:30pm to 5:30am.   A rather green thing they have:  solar panels and inverters for all the rooms.  It's a nifty idea for juicing up small devices (mobile phones, mp3 players) as well as ensuring there are lights all day and night.  

Oh, the toilet and bath merit mentioning as ours was a bit roomy and very clean.  Just a reminder: water is scarce and rather precious (read: expensive) in these parts so guests are encouraged to conserve.  The ubiquitous timba (pail) and tabo (dipper) are fixtures in the bathroom for good reason -- at times, the faucet runs dry so best to fill up the pail for emergencies.   The staff were accommodating to our requests of extra pails for storing up water.

Reservations and inquiries.  Call/text 0921 3004004

Getting to Culion.   As of this writing, there are two 32-passenger boats, Barbara and Olympia, alternating in plying the Coron-Culion/Culion-Coron route daily.  Terminal fee: P20 (US$50 cents); boat fare: P180 (US$6) one way.  Boat sked:  leaves Coron at 1:30pm, Culion at 8am.  Best to go to the pier about two hours ahead of schedule to secure your seat by having your name listed.

Culion - Immaculada Concepcion at NightRead my related Culion posts:
Like Seeing the Night Sky With a New Set of Eyes


Culion - Lele Beach Boy  

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