I am willing to be accounted among those who praise El Nido’s stunning islands and friendly population. However, I also want to warn all visitors about my awful experience with the Fernandez family who owes several cottages and hostel on El Nido’s seafront.
A/ VAN SCAM
From overseas, in Nov., I asked Gloria and her daughter Magda to make sure a van could bring us from Puerto to El Nido, elsewhere the stay in her cottage would simply not happen at all.
All internet websites indicate van pickup price is PHP 600 or 700
The PHP 600 or 700 was confirmed by Gloria over the phone
When we arrived to Puerto Airport at 6.25pm on Dec. 25, all arrangements were good. Before we started, I asked Magda and her daughter Merle, twice and face-to-face, to reconfirm the PHP 600~700 price: they told me twice that “van shuttle is free of charge included in the price of the cottage”
Magda’s husband brought 2 big groceries cartons and travelled with us in the van until a small village 10km before El Nido.
Between Dec 27-29, Magda sent many SMS making new stories that now “van and cottage price should be separately paid” which of course I rejected
In the meantime, the car and driver were stationed in El Nido for several days for Gloria’s family needs only. Between Dec 25~30 (i.e. peak season), no traveler ever required the van… which raised my suspicion.
Dec 30, our last day in El Nido: Gloria Fernandez informed me for the very first time about the van price: PHP 14.000!!! (equiv. 240 EUR) Of course for such an extravagant price, anybody would stay in Puerto for the night and wait for the PHP 600 van.
B/ FAKE POLICEMAN
After our islands tour at 5pm, on Dec. 30, Magda came to the our bungalow flanked by Gloria and a relative named Merlie. Madga was aggressive, in denial of her previous promises. Within 5 minutes, she started making threats of calling the police. Threats she eventually executed:
I briefly went to buy some refreshment in the store across the road. Wishing Madga would quiet down a bit. When I came back to the cottage a man she called introduced himself as a policeman, showed me his badge and a police ID. Merlie was there during the entire conversation, as we were both trying to explain the situation to this “policeman”. I was scared for our safety.
Gloria joined our conversation after 2 minutes and she partakes in the explanation for about 5 minutes. After which, she put few bank notes in the palm of that “policeman”. I reacted, shocked by such obvious bribery. Now, Gloria, Merlie and the “policeman” all agree to say the man was actually a “policeman under cover” who works as a tricycle driver!!!
C/ SNOOPING IN MY LUGGAGE
Nobody in Palawan knew my surname except Philippine Airlines (office closes after 6pm). During the time we went away for dinner, our bedroom doors were opened and our luggage was searched. Cleaners never came inside the rooms during the 5 nights we stayed in the cottage. This intrusion was obvious when Madga wrote down properly my full name – that she had found in my passport deep in my backpack – in order to report to the police.
Back from dinner around 8pm, two new policemen were waiting in front of the bungalow when we came. A Lady from the Office of Tourism, and Gloria’s family members were strolling – encircling the bungalow
My mother (70 years old) and I were literally terrified by Magda and Merlie’s outbusts, in presence of the local Police.
While the three Ladies were shouting as us, a male relative of Merlie insulted me in English “you are so stupid!” and I was also clearly being cursed in Tagalog
The local Police has been used to force my 70 y.o. mother and me to pay.
The Philippines Police treated us as criminal instead of protecting us.
Philippines Immigration and Customs in Manila airport would not have left us go home – because of this PHP 14.000 scam.
We were so saddened the wonderful impression left by local people and environment was all tarnished by this malicious scam, where we were held as hostages. We had no choice but to pay … to be free to fly back home
Of course, my mother and I would confirm any of the above mentioned information in front of any Court or Tribunal.