Palawan–the pristine paradise of the Orient
September 18, 2008 § 2 Comments
I was not surprised anymore when Palawan and Boracay, two of the best destination places here in this pristine beauty called the Philippines, were included in the World’s Best Tourist Spots. In my book, Bora and Palawan are two of the most exciting destinations just for their sheer natural beauty alone.
Ten years ago, I was fortunate to spend some days in Puerto Princesa. It was memorable for three things: first, it was a momentary respite from my duties as a broadcast journalist; two, it was an invitation to attend a wedding of a friend and three, Palawan was really my choice for an out-of-town trip since I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the place.
When the plane touched down at Puerto Princesa airport, all the exciting things about Palawan seem to rush headlong in my mind. The serenity of the place, the pristine beauty of the city, the age-old trees lining up the roads, the sunny smiles of the people–it was literally, an explosion of colors. To an urbanite, it was like being transported to another place, since we are accustomed to seeing grey, especially having lived in Makati for most of my life.
What impressed me the most about Palawan is its people. They all speak both Tagalog and English, very accommodating and very friendly. Since I always travel as a backpacker with a set budget in mind, asking questions are part of my itinerary. I asked where’s the cheapest place to eat and they point me to a carinderia that caters to my taste. I asked where’s the most reasonable hotel and they led me to this nice, cute and airy inn which has the entire city center for a view. In any tourist destination, the people are the most important part of the whole package since they serve as their city’s “Customer Relations” , so to speak.
That trip led me to the crocodile farm, the Colon Penal colony, and other tourist-sy spots. Yet, two places which really got my nod–the Honda bay with its islands and the underground river, touted as the most beautiful place in Asia. I hired a banca and get to travel most of the islands off the bay–the bat island, etc. I also was able to eat fresh lumot, a delicacy and sea-weed from its natural habitat. I saw these huge bats, swarms of them, dangling in those huge trees at Bat Island. Those scenes still resonate in my mind even now. I don’t have pictures yet the experience is still with me.
The best place though, is the underground river. I already travelled to Malaysia’s fabled beaches, saw Phuket’s virgin islands, trodded the road leading to Chiang Mai and even went to Cambodia’s legendary mountains and Java’s best offerings, but nothing beats the Underground River of Palawan. The river goes through this underground channel and my, the diversity of wildlife, the serenity of the place and the stark silence really transforms one’s soul. It was one commune with nature that I would love to go over and over again.
By the way, I almost forgot. Palawan is also for history freaks like me. It would be good to know that the first peoples of the Philippines first arrived in Palawan before fanning out to other places in the archiepelago. It would be best for those who promote Palawan to highlight the historical significance of the place as an important trading hub in the region before the Spaniards, the Dutch and the Europeans came.
Someday, if I have money, I’ll invest in this place. I’ll buy land in Puerto Princesa and probably spend my retirement years there.