The summer that just passed has been to date my best so far. I know this statement has been so overused especially by me but still, forgive me for saying it once again. It is because this summer saw me literally riding the waves in Palawan, one of my dream places to be for as long as I remember and walking the sleek streets of Singapore, one of my favorite cities. This will be all about Palawan though, the Singapore thing will be in another blog. Like I said, I have always wanted to go to Palawan that is why when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it without thinking twice. We stayed for four glorious day there. Palawan is, what can I say, simply breathtaking.
We took the morning flight to Puerto Princesa via Cebu Pacific. That was my first time to ride Cebu Pac, I have always been a PAL rider. The flight was so smooth and “uneventful” that Cebu Pac will see more of me in my succeeding trips.
We stayed at Palawan Village Hotel, which I would say is pretty much okay to a tourist like us living on a budget.
First stop was Baker’s Hill for lunch. It is like a little theme park without the rides. It is famous for its delicious pastries such as hopia and caramel ensaymada, perfect pasalubongs for your family. It has lots of pretty pocket gardens where you can pose and take some pictures and restaurants that serve a wide variety of dishes.
After lunch, we proceeded to Aplaya Elementary School for an Outreach activity. Hey this is not solely a leisure trip, we had to put some heart into it right?:) We distributed hygiene kits, food and slippers to the kids, and computers and other essentials to the school. We also did some counseling on some of the children and gave workshops to the teachers.
After the outreach activity, we headed to Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm to hear mass. Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm is the world’s largest open prison. As you enter, you will notice prisoners visibly present within the community but do not be afraid for they post no harm. Iwahig provides detainees hope for a better life in prison by giving them work such as farming, fishing, carpentry etc. that is why some prisoners chose to stay in the community when their sentences commenced.
The following day we left at 5:30 a.m. for the Underground River adventure. It was a good 2.5 hour van ride to Brgy. Sabang, 20 minute boat ride to the foot of St. Paul Mountain and a 5 minute walk along the edge of the forest to the Underground River entrance. We had to register and present our permit first at the Aplaya before we were allowed to ride the small boat. We also have to put on our life vests and hard hats. The Underground River cruise lasted for about 45 minutes. It was like being treated to an amazing nature show. We cannot help but marveled at the beautiful sights in front of us. Our trusty bankero cum tour guide pointed out interesting stalagmite, stalactite and limestone formations such as mushroom, bacon, cabbage, umbrella etc. I particularly liked the part in the Underground River cave where it would suddenly open to reveal a somewhat majestic cathedral complete with a Virgin Mary, Holy Family, Angels and Saints like formations. It was magical in a way that those interesting formations are all nature’s artwork. Underground River is truly a living testimony of how nature’s mighty hands work.
The next day we headed to Honda Bay for an island hopping escapade. The banca took us to the different islets along Honda Bay. We saw Luli island (short for lulubog, lilitaw depending on the level of the tides), Pambato reef which is popular among divers with its rich marine biodiversity, and Starfish island where you can find many big and gorgeous starfish scattered around the shore. We got off at Snake Island which is a good place to snorkel since it is teeming with fish and Isla Pandan where we enjoyed some deep sea swimming. Honda Bay to me is simply paradise.
We also visited other interesting places in Palawan such as the Mitra residence, Crocodile Farm and the Balsahan Resort in Iwahig. Of course Palawan trip will not be complete if you do not pass by the palengke to shop for kasoy and some dried /fresh seafoods, we bought a lot! We also shopped for pearls at the Tiange, Tinage, a must see place for pearls enthusiast like me, authentic south sea and fresh water pearls are sold here at a bargain.
Palawan is truly beautiful because it is not only blessed with abundant natural resources but also with dedicated and concerned people who readily step up at any given time to safeguard their environment and community. They take part in the local government’s drive for a clean environment by taking seriously the strict fines imposed on littering. They actively support coastal clean-up. Volunteer scubaderos (short for scuba and basureros) dive into the water to collect litters and tidy up the sea beds to ensure that it teems with marine life. They also educate and involve tourists in the conservation and preservation process. They encourage them to be responsible caretakers of nature through simple acts of proper waste disposal. They religiously participate in projects spearheaded by Mayor Hagedorn that increase environmental awareness not only among locals but among tourists as well. One such project, the Love Affair with Mangroves, is held every year. Here, local and tourist volunteers plant mangrove seeds to help prevent coastal erosion and form nurseries for fish and shrimp. The Feast of the Forest, also an annual event, takes place every third or fourth week of June. In this project, volunteers of all ages plant various trees in the denuded forest zones in the city.
Palawan’s rise to fame is truly remarkable. The local government has done its job well but I guess, the biggest credit goes to the people living in the community whose deep initiative and involvement made Palawan what it is today. It is through their concerted efforts to preserve the beauty of their community and conserve the wildlife that Palawan continues to thrive in its beauty today. There is still so much to see and so much to explore in Palawan. I am looking forward to my comeback there. When you are in Palawan, its as if God is so near, because everywhere you look, you will clearly see his hand imprinted on nature.:)