Enough has been said about the natural beauty of Palawan---it is said to be the Philippines’ last frontier and has been declared as a nature sanctuary of the world. Who has never heard or seen the astounding natural beauty of El Nido, Calauit, Coron, Tubbattaha Reefs, the outstanding dive sites, rainforests, primeval caves, and pristine beaches? I’ve been saving for an El Nido vacation but blame it on the never-ending ‘Sale’ at the malls, food trips, and other pocket-draining activities, I still couldn’t afford a trip to El Nido. To satisfy a long-time dream of setting foot in Palawan, I spent my 6-day vacation in Puerto Princesa with my friend Cecille last summer.
Luli Island (lulubog-lilitaw)
Framing the intriguing and rugged coastline of Puerto Princesa is Honda Bay. Islets with white sand beaches dot the crystalline blue waters. Snorkeled in Snake island and fed the fish---I've never seen such explosion of colors underwater before in my life! Schools of fish are everywhere...in various shapes and colors. I can say now that I've swum with the fishes. :D We island-hopped to 2 other islets, the Starfish Island and the Lu-Li Island (as in lulubog-lilitaw...the island disappears at high tide during the rainy months of June to September).cecille with our tour group
The best part of my Palawan vacation is the food! Fresh seafoods were so inexpensive. We tried the best restaurants in town--Kalui, Bilao at Palayok, Kinabuchs...they are all value for money. But we missed having dinner at Badjao Seafront Restaurant---we fell asleep after a whole day at Honda Bay and woke up around 10pm. Badjao was already close when we got there.
A two and a half-hour drive from Puerto Princesa and a 20-minute boat ride from Sabang brought us to the Subterranean River National Park in Bahile. It takes the first time visitor like me into the breathtakingly rugged beauty of Ulugan Bay. Limestone cliffs standing guard over crystal waters, most of them uninhabited. Millions of years of wave action have carved and shaped these rocks into something awesome and majestic.
Canoeing into the subterranean river was a mixture of excitement and fear of the unknown. With only a small spotlight lighting our way, our boatman/guide told us that the underground river has a total length of 8.2 km but we're only allowed to navigate 2.3 km. It’s one of the world's wonders and reputed to be the world's longest underground river. Inside the cave are various shapes of stalagmite and stalactite pillars---some in shapes of corn, puso ng saging, mushroom, a melted candle ( a guy in front of me said it looks like a rotten tooth ); there are even formations that resemble the Holy Family and Jesus' face! There were bats, a shy snake, marble cliffs and the highest cavern reaches up to the 65 meters. There were some marks on the walls of the cave...one was "1937", perhaps made by some explorer.
At the camp site, the monitor lizards were walking around, curious of visitors invading their neighborhood. The monkeys were also quite sociable...they even grabbed some bananas and watermelon from the picnic table!
Somebody said that like clouds, the limestone formations in Palawan are subject to interpretation---like these jagged marble pillars pointing to the heavens.
cecille at the butterfly farm
We hired a tricycle and visited Iwahig Penal Colony, the butterfly farm, Mitra's Farm and the WW II American cuartel near the cathedral. We walked the streets after dinner, had coffee at Itoy's (Puerto's version of Starbucks), cooled down at the fountain in front of of the capitol. We ate halo-halo at Chowking every afternoon and had a massage. Life's great! I wished I'd never go back to Manila!iwahig penal colony
cecille at the butterfly farm
It was Holy Week so on Viernes Santo, I followed the faithful climb the Calvary Mountain. The innkeeper told me that there's a Sinakulo with 'real' crucifixion. We waited and waited---no crucifixion. The Dutch guy, the German with his Filipina girlfriend, the married couple from England, the two Filipino guys from Singapore and myself walked back to the city, disappointed. Good thing the German guy bought mango shake for everybody! :D
The Plaza Cuartel was a Japanese garrison during World War II where 143 American soldiers were burned alive.