Friday, October 19, 2012

Palawan Tour, by Patty Soliman

This is a guest post by a good friend, Patty Soliman. Patty and hubby Noli, were my housemates in the 80s where we stayed for free in the house of another good friend, Monchit Arellano, in Marikina.

Amazing Trip to Puerto Princesa

By Patty Soliman
19 October 2012

October 15, 2012 was the first time Noly and I set foot to this amazing place called Puerto Princesa. When my sister Tricci asked me last February where I would like to go, I immediately said, Puerto Princesa in Palawan. I never thought she was serious booking us right away when she got a promo from Cebu Pacific. I chose to have the trip in October since Noly and I celebrated our 26th Anniversary last Oct.11.

I started searching everything I need to know about the place through the help of those people who've visited the place and made their blogs through Google. And it helped me a lot. Where to dine, places to visit and of course the pocket money more or less I should prepare. But that was also being taken care of. I even made our itinerary for the entire 3-days trip and secured medical certificate for Noly. Just in case someone asked. Two weeks before we leave for Puerto, I called up my cousin, Levi Evangelista whom Ive never seen for the past 20 years and told him I hope to see him there. He was delighted to hear from me again and even told me to call him as soon as we arrived.

Waking up as early as 3AM started our day preparing for this trip as we need to be at terminal 3 by 6AM. I can't complain why she booked our trip to 830AM flight. Contrary to what I hear about Cebu Pacific, there was no delay in our flight and our plane touched down exactly as what was indicated in our tickets. It was the most beautiful 9:10 AM I ever appreciated with full of excitement wondering how would this vacation is going to be. We were picked up from Puerto Princesa Airport by our hotel shuttle.

We checked in at A&A Plaza Hotel and funny, the room given to us doesn't have any windows. It felt like we were in a big cabinet. Good thing both Noly and I are not claustrophobic. As promised to my cousin, Levi, I called him as soon as we settled in our room. He then told me that his son will show us around the city. He was apologizing that he cannot join us due to unexpected matters from work.

His son, Avin, met us at the hotel lobby at around 11:30AM and drove us to Bilao at Palayok. Told him to drive us there as it was the one indicated in the itinerary I made. The first meal we ever ate in Palawan, and can really tell how fresh the fish was. We ordered Grilled Tuna and Beef Lengua. Tuna was really fresh and the Lengua was cooked with cream and Banana Heart and really taste good. Right after lunch, we headed to our first destination, The Crocodile Farm. We parked our van in front of those souvenir shops and were already excited to buy Sky his pasalubong. We paid our entrance fees and went straight to where a little information about Palawan Crocodiles was given to us. We then first saw those cute crocodile hatchlings placed in rectangular deep basins. The big ones were placed in bigger cages with shallow water. The biggest we saw was about 11ft. long. Some tourists were given the chance to feed those middle-sized crocodiles from the hanging raw meat. We made our tour high top from those crocodiles.

Other Palawan animals were introduced to us, like the Kalaw, Bearcat, and Peacock. I never thought we also have Peacocks here in the Philippines and it is called Peacock Peasant. Noly had the chance to try having picture with a Bearcat. It scares me to try, so I was contended to just stand beside him with a huge Bearcat on his shoulders.

Next in our itinerary was supposed to be the Butterfly farm but I begged off. We've seen a lot of Butterfly Farms in other places. So Avin showed us the Mitra Ranch. Upon approaching the place, I felt a familiar atmosphere and Avin told us that the place is similar to Tagaytay. I guess so, because there was a sudden change of coldness from the breeze. It was amazing to see Honda Bay from Mitra Ranch. Our next stop was the Baker's Hill. Noly was delighted to see rare plants while I enjoyed looking at those statues around. He even wanted to buy some plants but I stopped him from buying, not only that it was a bit expensive, told him, we might have difficulty bringing it to Manila.

We then went back to the City proper to buy the pasalubong pearls I promised our daughter at Delma Pearls and Souvenir shop. Noly then chose to buy also for his sister and a Palawan Printed Crocodile shirt for our little Sky. While we were busy buying, we were surprised by my cousin Levi. Finally meeting him again after 20 years! He then took the privilege of showing us the Bay walk, Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral and the Plaza Cuartel while Avin, went to fetch his mom and his other siblings for the dinner Levi set for us. Our City Tour end around 5:30 PM. Levi then, brought us back to our hotel to shower. It was tiring though since we were up since 3AM but it didn't stop us to look forward for the dinner date with Levi and his family.

He fetched us in our hotel at around 7PM and brought us to Dampa where this Dampa branch offered a rare kind of shellfish. We wanted so much to try the Tamilok but were afraid to get diarrhea if not eaten well. And so we passed. But we ate a rare kind of shell fish cooked similar to Camaron Rebosado style . And really tastes so good. I ate a lot of those. Our dinner was a catching up from lost times and how Levi ended up working at Iwahig. Gave up their careers from Jolibee in Manila and embraced the simple life in Iwahig. Our first day in Puerto Princesa ended at around 10:30PM.

The following day, we were excited preparing for our Underground River Tour. Ate buffet breakfast at around 6:30 and waited until our tour guide arrived.

Eleven of us tourists were introduced to our tour guide, Kristine and our driver Lito. Four foreigners, 3 honeymooners (including us) and another Filipino as body guard for the 2 foreigners. Kristine's deliberation about Palawan was really informative. She started her information from how it was called Palawan. Well, the Chinese and Malays were to ones who first set foot in this place. Then later, the British? I think? Well, I was not at all time listening to her as I was busy looking at those tall and huge trees I see on the road. I was surprised to see a live big boar running along the road. I asked our driver if the one I saw was really boar. Smiling at me, Lito replied nodding his head. Wow! I was fascinated with all these nature I see in front of me.

Kristine informed us about how Mayor Edward Hagedorn promotes to save the natural beauty of Palawan from the miners. He even has this so-called community projects in which he taught the people to protect their natural resources from miners and instead taught them to promote their communities through tourism. One of which was the Ugong Rock Mountain. Instead of allowing this Limestone Mountain to be quarried they let tourist to enter this magnificent place. And we were given the chance to experience this adventure. Before I signed in to register, I asked the guide if Noly be allowed to enter the cave with his condition. Kristine said, maybe Noly can try half way until Noly reached she called-Miranda Station. Then from there, she can help Noly to go back while I continue the cave climb until the top. We all agreed to these arrangements until we reached the Miranda Station.

Then Noly informed us, he can still continue and was willing to do the spelunking. I was a bit apprehensive with his decision but I then requested Kristine to extend her extra- assistance for Noly. We passed through narrow passages and headed for the heart stopping spelunking. Noly made it until the top of our cave exploration. Then I asked Kristine how to go down. She then offered 2 choices. One was to pass through how we get in and the other was to take the zip-line. It was not on my original plan as I am afraid of heights. But I was informed all our tour mates took the zip-line and were already waiting for us to finish. And Noly immediately said, OK, let's do the zip-line. I was really having second thoughts on doing it but I got no choice but to do it anyway. My heart was pounding so hard while men started fixing my harness. While waiting for our turn, I requested Kristine to take off before us for her to be able to take our picture as she capture this rare experience. I just want my first zip-line experience to be recorded :-) And in matter of few seconds it was over. While men were taking off my harness, Noly was asking me how I feel. I was still in shocked and couldn't utter a word and my legs were a bit shaky. Then we all applauded, Noly was able to do the entire cave exploration and ending it by taking the zip-line. I was really proud of his determination.

Then we head to Sabang where we were ushered to our Lunch destination while we wait for our turn for Underground River Tour. Lunch was buffet style prepared by those little restaurants by the beach. I wanted so much to take a dip in the water but Kristine stopped me due to underwater current. At exactly 1PM we are then one by one being assisted to take our boat. Our group was divided to two. We are joined with the honeymooners while the other boat where the foreigners and the bodyguard. We were amazed with those rocky mountains as we approached St. Paul's Subterranean River National Park. We requested someone to take our picture with those rocky mountains in our back view. Upon entering the park, we were told that there are some live monitor lizards around while we explore the place. I was excitedly taking pictures of these lizards until suddenly my camera battery was off. I felt so disappointed learning that I cannot be able to shoot our underground river exploration. Good thing our tour mate, Au and Cris offered to take picture of us and promised to send us through FB. Thanks to these two Samaritans our UR was recorded.

While waiting for our turn to enter, Noly and I decided to walk by the beach. Again, signage were written swimming is not allowed ): It took us about 30 minutes or so until we finally entered the underground river. It was really amazing! The boatman was telling us (in Filipino) how it was discovered and how these were explored by some geologist. Fascinated to see these stalagmites and stalactites formed were really incredible. But what amazed us all, was the high ceiling stone formation the boatman called Cathedral. Our boat exploration took us about 45 minutes and was really delighted with what we experienced from inside. Truly, a great wonders of the world. We headed back to City proper with full of amazement from what we discovered.

Noly and I had our romantic dinner at Kalui where we were served with complete meal from the appetizer (seaweed with calamansi), soup, 4-main course (Grilled Tuna, Buttered Shrimps, Sweet and Sour Dip-fried Fish and Pinakbet), to dessert (assorted fruit slices in Cconut hask with brown sugar). The serving was good for 2 and we were so full. After dinner, we decided to take a walk to further explore the city. Noticing it was safe to walk around Puerto Princesa. And also, noticed tricycle drivers are disciplined to ask for the right fare despite knowing that we are tourists.

We woke up 6AM packing our things for our morning flight back to Manila. When we approached the hotel's restaurant for our breakfast, all our tour mates from the previous day are all waiting for their tour guide for their Honda Bay Tour. Was a bit jealous that they will be able to further explore what Palawan can offer, but said to myself, next time, when I bring our children along :-)

Our amazing trip to Puerto Princesa ends when we boarded our plane at 10:10AM. Brought with us the exciting experienced we had. As Noly said, it was like watching a movie wherein we were part of it :-)

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