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"But six years ago I found this island. When I first saw it I knew this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life."

Malapacau is one of 18 islands that make up the El Nido Marine Reserve. The Reserve covers 95,000 hectares and takes up most of the Bacuit Archipelago on the northwestern coast of Palawan. It is the last frontier province.

Lee Ann started a farm on three hectares of land on the northern coast of Malapacau. "I thought if I could produce food for the nearby resorts I would have a steady income and wouldn't have to rely on tourism," she recalls. "I started with 400 chickens, 200 ducks, and some Australian silver quail I got through the Bureau of Animal Industry in Manila. I had a hammer mill and ground corn and fish into fish meal. But I couldn't keep it. It went bad . . . mildewed . . . and everything stank of fish."

Undaunted, she bought eight sows and two boars. The sows produced about 80 piglets every six months, and with them new problems. "I couldn't keep the piglets - there was just no space - and I couldn't afford food for the animals. I just had to sell the pigs. I would walk up and down the streets of El Nido with a little trolley shouting 'piglets for sale, piglets for sale'. My friends were very embarrassed." She gets up, picks a hibiscus flower, and comes back misty-eyed. She looks away while she arranges the flower above her right ear.

"I was fighting a losing battle and I knew it, but it was three years before I gave in and turned my farm into a resort," she says. But the transition from farm to resort wasn't easy and Lee Ann went from selling pigs to selling space on the floor of her bungalow. "I had six mattresses on the floor," she says. "I would go to El Nido and beg for tourists. 'Come and have a look at my place' I would say. Some did, and I charged them 150 pesos a day for accommodation (a mattress) and food. It wasn't much, but it was a start."
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