After 6 years, I once again have the opportunity of visiting the beautiful island of Palawan at the western coast of the Philippine archipelago. Again I visit Puerto Princesa City now with my wife Jen and 11 other ex-colleagues and friends.
Also this time, we took a packaged tour of 4 days and 3 nights to see what the city can offer. I booked our group with the travel agency of a friend in Palawan, Maple Palawan Travel and Tours. Maple have divided our group into two for our accommodations between Liberty Park Pension and RAQ Pension. This is due to full booking at Liberty when we took our package.
Our stay with Liberty Park was good with spacious clean rooms, though we had slow service during breakfast. We were told by our other friends that their rooms in RAQ were smaller but at least they had more options for their free breakfast.
Anyway on August 20th, all 13 of us took the earliest flight of Cebu Pacific Air to Puerto Princesa and we arrived in the city around 930 AM. There we were met by Aileen, the owner of Maple where she led us to our hotel vans to settle down. And at around noon, they picked us up from our hotels and brought us to Haim Chicken Inato for lunch before our city tour at 1PM. Haim Chicken Inato is among the most famous restaurants in the city. It is located at Balai Inato in Rizal Avenue, which is supposedly the best pension house in the city.
And so after lunch, using a Nissan Escapade and a Toyota Fortuner, our group started our tour. Our first stop is Plaza Cuartel, once a fortress used during the WWII. In this place, around 150 American prisoners of war burned alive by the Japanese army in a tunnel. Today, the plaza was turned into a lovers’ park with a memorial marker in the middle that bore the names of its survivors who swam to their safety to Iwahig. Across the plaza is the Puerto Princesa Cathedral.
Next stop, we headed for the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm which is about 30 minutes drive from the city center. On our way, the rain started to fall and if fell a bit hard. Anyways, Iwahig is a very unique maximum security prison. Unique that it does not have a wall or bars but rice paddies. Our guide tells us that prisoners are color coded as orange, brown and blue. The ones in orange are of highest security risk and ones in blue are more of caretakers.
Life in Iwahig is like any other prisons where inmates are counted everyday, have no contact with their love ones or from the outside world. But the difference is that each prisoner is tasked to tend the rice fields, do handicrafts, or take care of the farm and that tourists come into the farm regularly.
Luckily, before leaving Iwahig for our next destination the rain have stopped. Not very far from Iwahig we stopped at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, formerly the Crocodile Farm and Nature Park. When we arrived, there were a number of tourist vans on site and with about 40 or 50 tourists a park guide led us around the vicinity. It was an unhealthy tour for one guide to talk to a very big group. Very big that the guide did not notice some German ladies behind after he had made his spiel in Filipino.
Anyway, the main attraction of the park is of course the crocodiles. And the tour started with the skeleton and skin of the largest salt water crocodile that was captured and encased in glass. Then we were brought to the hatchery where hundreds of baby crocs of different sizes are housed in dozens of basins. Then next we walked over a crocodile pen. And before leaving, 3 of our friends took a picture carrying a baby crocodile.
Next we went to the Binuatan Creations Handloom Weaving Showroom. Here Jen tried to do some traditional weaving using their contraption. The showroom produces woven products from place mats, wallets, bags and other items. Well the ladies had to shop before leaving of course.
Then we drove to one of the known landmarks in the city, the Mitra Ranch. The ranch is nestled on a hill top and offering a view of Honda Bay. And then nearby we made a stop Baker’s Hill. Baker’s Hill started as a shop of breads and later the owners have built a park within its premises and now it has become a local destination. Here we took a longer time to kill time before we headed for our next tour.
Above from our tour package, we also booked the Firefly Watching tour at the Iwahig River. It is a new one being offered to tourists. But before taking on the tour, we were first served with a sumptuous dinner that include crabs, fish, and pork. Also, I didn’t expect that Maple have bought me a cake for my birthday, because of Jen.
And so after dinner, 3 boats were assigned to us. 7 were assigned to the bigger boat while two other boats carried 3 people each. So the tour started around 8pm which is already very dark because it was a new moon that night. But the stars are very visible that night. At first, we were dragged a motorized boat to our paddling site. On our way, we were amazed to see in the dark of night that certain trees in the river banks are lit up by fireflies. They are like Christmas trees in the night.