Tao Philippines – Getting It Right!

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Tao Sailing is leading the way in Philippino sustainable tourism

Tao Philippines. I've been trying to put into words the amazing Tao for weeks now and while I inherently feel like I'm going to give you a less than perfect insight, I'm going to try…

Tao Philippines is a small company based in El Nido, that can show you the northern remote islands and bays of the Palawan Archipelago sustain-ably and truthfully from your own traditional Philippino sail boat – A Paraw. Warts and all. Grass roots. Sailing, snorkelling, supporting local communities.

How Tao began

It's not a complicated story actually.

  • Jack an English guy met Eddie at University in the UK.
  • Jack and Eddie came to Palawan, found an old junker, fixed her up and spent 3 months sailing her around northern Palawan.
  • Jack and Eddie wondered how they could make this experience available to other like minded travellers.
  • Tao was born.

Tao means human in Tagalog (the Philippino language) and is a fitting name for their company. Tao has been formed based around inspiring and innovative principles and policies. Primarily their trips have to be sustainable. Everything you eat is produced via The Farm – their home base in the area. or caught fresh via hand lines off the boat. Veggies, meat etc come from The Farm and the seafood is caught as needed and only as much as needed.

Tao started with a boat, then two and now have 6 bangka's I believe. Bangka's are the boats you see all over the Philippines. A motorized hull with two outriggers for stability and they are usually white with blue outriggers. Not sure where the colour comes from but they all seem to be variations of those colours.

And then comes the Paraw

A few ears ago Gener (pronounced Han-Air) came to Jack with the idea to build a traditional paraw (pronounced Parah).

Paraw are the original sail boats the Philippines was known for and which the modern day Banka's were built around. To the best of their knowledge there hadn't been a Paraw built in Palawan for close to 100 years. We chose the Paraw “Expedition” primarily because we wanted the traditional sailing experience, but also because we love the “dirt and all ” kind of travel. I'm sure the other boats are equally as amazing a trip, but those moments where we were sailing, at peace, in one of the most amazing places on earth will be something we never forget.

Anyway… I digress…

So Jack, Gener and some amazing crew built the Paraw (the Rosa Bussana) and what an amazing vessel she is. 72 foot long, timber constructed sailing vessel adorned with amazing carvings and run by a crew that are truly incredible.

All the food you eat on the trip comes from the Tao organic farm. Local teens are taken on, trained and trained well, and when they are ready they take their place on the boats in varying roles. Cooks, crew and the most fun young lads you will ever meet. Jack made a statement that I think really reflects the Paraw crew – “you would think that you are their first guests“. And that's exactly how it feels. Actually that's not really true because everything runs so smoothly you don't even see it, so while their genuine enthusiasm has definitely not abated, it is without a doubt a well oiled machine.

I don't want to get this wrong but my crap memory means that I'm sure I will remember something different to how it actually is so please Tao crew – I mean no harm!

Tao has grown fast for sure however that growth has been handled with attention and commitment. Commitment to their ideals and attention to any and all changes that may affect more than just guests or crew. As Tao have grown they have been able to grow their community based endevours and there is more than one family today that only exist as well as they do thanks to Tao.

The foundation

Simply explained:

Tao as a company set up Tao the foundation. Springing from that foundation are things like the Womens Co-op. An example of the system is their coconut oil range. Soaps, oil and moisturisers are available for purchase from The Farm.

Once the company realised the opportunity to give their guests an extra service (and I wouldn't mind betting this was based around some curly haired girl like myself having dreadlocks in a few days and needing some kind of oil to comb them out), they immediately outsource this service/product development to the Foundation. So Tao company goes to the foundation and says: We need some organic sustainable coconut products what can you do.

The foundation then does the research, trains the locals to produce the products and then sells those products/services to the company. Now here is the really cool part: the company limits supply. They might say OK we will buy coconut oil from the women, BUT we will only buy one bottle every month. This ensures that while the locals help to support their families from Tao's initiatives, they don't earn enough to purchase equipment that would take away the human skill required to produce their product. So they can't sell enough coconut oil to buy a mechanical press – they don't have the return so they have to do it manually. This keeps the village sustainable, the product sustainable and the local skills current. Cool hey?

I could ramble on forever about Tao and their inspiring way of living in this very self gratifying world we have today, but I'm not going to. Go on a Tao trip yourself. Spend the afternoon sailing into the sunset and the evening panicking that the monkey you can hear might actually get into your hut – trust me the lack of sleep from the one monkey incident only added to the amazing stories we have from Tao.

I remain inspired, rejuvenated, reinvigorated and in awe at what one group of people can accomplish. While I strive every day to live the most sustainable life I can – we all need that kick up the arse on occasion and Tao booted me with their steel caps on and with a wind up from Siberia. Always grateful for our week and we will go back for sure.

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