PAX: The Puerto Princesa City Tour 2008

Palawan is a paradise, sanctuary to an amazing variety of fauna and flora found nowhere else in the world. It is blessed with incredibly awesome landscapes that astound even the most indifferent of visitors. Palawan is the country’s biggest province and is composed of 1,768 islands and islets surrounded by a coral shelf with an exceptionally rich marine life. Its steeply sloped mountains are canopied by broad virgin forests.

An anchor tourist destination, Palawan is one of the 7,000 times more islands that make up the Philippine archipelago. It is the perfect playground for the adventurous. As thus, Palawan is considered to be the Last Frontier.

Unique to Palawan is its megadiversity.

For a long time, Palawan’s bountiful resources, abundant wildlife and extraordinary natural beauty are known only to the many ethnic communities that thrive in these islands and a few other daring settlers who wanted to live in unpolluted surroundings.

The island-province first attracted foreign attention in the 1970’s when it became a United Nations Vietnamese Refugee Center. At this time, a disturbance in Kenya also saw the transport of endangered animals from its savannas to the plains of Calauit Island.

However, it was only a sea accident in 1979 that eventually led to the opening of Palawan into tourism big time.

And so, my friend Janyl and I planned to go coming to Palawan. We told ourselves na kahit 2 lang kami, pupunta pa din kami because of the promising itinerary that I have created. Even so, we still invited our friends to coming with us. Unfortunately, nobody heeded our call except for Janyl’s parents. The crew had been set and our search for the most affordable trip to Palawan is on.

We started off with our inquiries for our Palawan tour as early as January of 2008. Originally, we planned of availing PALakbayan package tour for Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Because of budget considerations, our trip should cover the off peak season. So we settled on going to Palawan on March 14-16, 2008. Since the PALakbayan package thingy on their website does not include the taxes yet, we thought it was affordable. When the inquiries started, we realized that most of the payments with this package goes to taxes. So we ended up booking seperately for our air travel and accommodations because it’s cheaper that way. Off we went to Puerto Princesa City via PAL on March 14, 2008; and chose Hotel Asturias for our accommodations. Janyl chose the Php3000 per night per room which includes daily breakfast for two, air-conditioned, free use of amenities such as the pool, etc. What I liked about our rooms is that it has a bath tub! And it’s adjoining with Janyl’s parents’ room, seperated only by a door. The room rate also includes the airport transfer going to the hotel, 15-20 minutes travel time only. Which also brought us back to the airport when we left Puerto Princesa City.

I noticed that Puerto Princesa is not a very busy city at all. One can feel the laid back character of the people once you step into the  airport. There’s not much of development and technology in the place, I guess because they’re trying to preserve their “untouched” part of their reputation. After we settled our things at the airport, I scouted the hotel for a while. Then our group decided to eat lunch at Ka Lui’s which is located in the outskirts of the city. We went there via tricycle which cost us around Php40 for all for us. Most of their offerings include seafood dishes  which Janyl’s family love. However since they are masters of seafood dishes, they said that they didn’t liked the menu nor the servings. I guess Ka Lui’s was just over-rated by those who tried their dishes, aside from the fact that the food is quite expensive. It ranged from Php160 per meal set to as much as Php400 per meal set, good only for one person. I ordered Cordon Bleu. I for one didn’t enjoyed my dish. Probably I was just very hungry at that time that’s why I ate my entire meal. We never went back there. The only good thing about the place is that they serve appetizers while waiting for meals to be served, and of course, its interiors. I love how the owner has put together unique wood pieces and created the restaurant into a must-see piece of art. What’s unique about the place is that we have to go barefoot while inside the restaurant!

After our meals, we were fetched by our van who would be our official guide for the Puerto Princesa City tour. The city tour costs Php600 per head . The line-up includes the following:

  • The Butterfly Garden. The entrance to the garden is Php25 per head. It’s actually a small garden with a wide variety of butterfly and flora species. I’m not sure why it’s one of the spots for city tours but at least it’s one of the places to take people for additional income. It is located at Sta. Monica.
  • The Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. The entrance to this place is Php40 per head. It is open from Monday to Fridays between 1:30PM to 5:00PM. This is located along the National Road, Barangay Irawan and roughly 30-40 minutes away from the town. I didn’t have enough time to look at teh entrance because of the snotty smart aleck usherette. At the entrance we were greeted by a humongous crocodile and sperm whale fossils. The narrator was a Palawan locale. I didn’t liked him, probably because of the way he talks, where only the foreigners are the ones enjoying his cheap antics and retorts. After which we visited the little crocs housed in seperated small tubs. The tubs have water in them but just enough so they can wallow for some time. I have noticed that the little crocs like to huddle close to each other. Probably because they wanted to feel the warmth of their cold-blooded kin. Ironic!
  • The Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm. This is located at Barangay Iwahig and takes about 35 minutes to travel from town. This is where the only prison where prisoners are free. Ironic again! They are actually free to roam the entire farm and they have their own houses situated along the road instead of being housed together inside the prisoned walls. No entrance to the place but they have souvenirs for sale made by the prisoners themselves.
  • Vista Luz Picnic Grounds at the Mitra Ranch. There’s no entrance to this place either. Not advisable to drop by.
  • The Plaza Cuartel. This is reminiscent of the old Spanish quarters located very near the Immaculate Conception Church.

We were not able to go to the Palawan Museum at Mendoza Park and the Palawan State College Museum too, because of time constraints. The guide said that there isn’t much to see there anyways. After which we were ushered back to our hotel rooms.

I was excited to see the night life of Palawenos. Janyl and I took a dip for a while at the hotel’s swimming pool. We were happy because we didn’t have to share the pool with a lot of people. There were only the two of us. I freshened up and changed costumes (of course) and we decided to go to Kina Buch’s for our dinner rendezvous. Galing Kina Buch’s restaurant is a typical outdoor type of restaurant that serves dishes from ihaw, sizzling, soups, name it. The menu ranges from local specialties to usual Filipino dishes to Italian dishes as well. Our group had the following:

  • Pinaputok na Samaral
  • Sinigang na hipon
  • Sizzling spare ribs for me
  • Yang chow rice
  • Sizzling seafood sisig
  • Bagoong rice
  • Iced tea slush
  • Caramel cafe latte for me

They also serve beer but since we were with Janyl’s parents, we weren’t able to show them how good we are at drinking LOL! I guess at that time, we had to show them who we are not for a while. After dinner, we rode tricycle who brought us back to our hotel. We watched TV for a while then I fell to sleep.

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