The Palawan Diaries – Puerto Princesa

I’m still running out of time to do everything that I have to do, so much that I couldn’t commemorate Earth Hour today with the rest of my family, who’s off cooling themselves in some nearby shopping mall. Gone are the days where Earth Hour meant impromptu outdoor photo shoots and bonding sessions. Le sigh.

Anyway, here’s a quick photo chronicle of me & the fam’s recent trip to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. As you may see, it’s not the Coron or El Nido I was imagining, but it was an utterly relaxing trip nevertheless. I was very much down with the flu when we flew here, and was well in a day. But anyway, that’s not the point. The thing is:

Have you ever stayed in a penal farm, a.k.a. prison? Guess not, no? Well, the Iwahig Penal Farm was our hotel of choice (not mine, if you’ll ask me), and you’d definitely be nervous about staying in an 80-hectare mass of nature at its best (I’m not kidding, the place is huge) with prisoners walking about. But no, the prisoners were the kindest and most polite people I’ve ever met in a long time. None tried to take our bags or something while we were away, and they were gracious to us every time we saw them. During dinner time, there were always people who, when prodded, would tell us their stories – he murdered his wife’s lover, he smuggled drugs for some druglord, etc. It’s kinda new for me to listen to such honesty from people like them. Now that’s one for uniqueness, indeed!

So actually, I did enjoy my “prison stay” in Palawan, very much.

ANYWAY! Photos, right.

This was one of the rudest wake-up calls in my life. Haha! When we arrived, not only was it raining cats and dogs (I meanย pouring), I was informed that we don’t have the tube hatch thingy we walk through from the airplane to inside the airport if it’s domestic flights like this. OHHHH. Walking through the rain = not my thing. But I must not act spoiled brat-ish right now, so… onward!

After getting out of the stuffy airport (man, the Puerto Princesa airport is small), we took a rather crowded van ride, courtesy of our gracious hosts, through 30 minutes of unpaved road, right inside the penal farm. Whew. So upon seeing this delightful feast for us, who can not be cheered?

I swear I’ve overdosed on coconuts and crab during our five-day stay. Our hosts just spoiled us with these! By the third day I 100% passed on the crab – that doesn’t happen often, does it? ๐Ÿ˜€

I mentioned in the previous post that we slept au naturel – no aircon or whatnot. However, believe me, this was the most comfortable sleep I’ve had in years. Our companion mentioned that sleeping with only natural surroundings is actually the one that gives you the best rest – that explains why we never feel like getting up when we sleep with the aircon. Yun pala, it’s because our body never really got to rest as well as how it should. Truly, I slept at 10pm and woke up by myself at 6am – thinking it was already 9am or something. Absolutely refreshing. Of course, this works better on places with lots of fresh air. Try that in Manila and you might just wake up with soot on your face. Haha!

This is what stepping out looks like. This is what an actual penal farm looks like – nothing with the dirty surroundings, prison bars and whatnot I imagined in my head.

We stayed here – at the head superintendent’s home. (So feeling protected talaga, haha!) You can’t see it from this far, but the house is all varnished wooden planks – very vintage-y. They told us this was built during the time of the Americans in the Philippines. On a side note: my dad just was in the mood to model during our whole Palawan trip!

My first time to see actual geese. My dad told me, geese love charging at people, where they’ll assume a position similar to the one second from the left. Random.

Another first – my first time to see an actual cotton tree. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tired of guessing? This is an actual tree root – the whole enormity of it. Certain prisoners with a hand for art then etched and carved it to finish this beauty. If you sell this in Manila, it’s sure to draw in the big bucks.

This particular prisoner’s specialty is basket weaving – and he’s pretty darn good at it. Everyone was so impressed, he soon got busy weaving custom orders for my family and our companions.

On the second day or so (I honestly can’t remember), we went to a batisan, or natural spring. My family and I picnic-ed with our hosts, so we just spent several hours here, chilling and everything. Should have been boring because there was absolutely no technology around, but we actually enjoyed ourselves!

I was looking for other subjects to photograph when the sun suddenly danced in the water right in front of me. Click!

This looks like just some rocks on the ground – but there’s actually water between them and my camera. That’s how clear the water is!

Meet my new friend, Crabby! (No, di ako magpapaka-Pokรฉmon and spell it like Krabby haha). Admittedly, he kept me entertained for about an hour or so, taking interest in stuff like coconut shreds and star apple bits I throw at him.

Dad got a pedicure from one of the prisoners – to the delight of my mom! Haha!

Presenting: the Iwahig dancing prisoners. Obvs inspired by the ones in Cebu, but great job nonetheless! As Dad said, they could think up a new concept/approach to dancing which will set them apart from those already famous.

All the items in the souvenir shop were proudly prisoner-handmade. When I approached to take this photo, they gave the most ingratiating smiles and politely asked me to look around. My heart swelled at seeing the immense pride in their faces – not only were they able to make productive use of their time, they seemed genuinely driven to turn their lives around. From the bottom of my heart, I support you guys!

As the sign says, we went firefly-watching. We weren’t allowed to take photos because the flash would interfere with and disturb the fireflies (no flash is obviously not an option), and so we took a boat ride through that silent river with mangrove trees all around. Our tour guide actually explained everything about the fireflies, mangrove trees, river and so much more, so we were able to appreciate the fireflies more. They were all in the trees, shining their little white lights, making the whole river look like Christmas trees were surrounding it. Simply magical. TRIVIA: red light makes them shine brighter and all at once! Coolio! SO you could guess we kept bugging our guide to shine his red light on the trees LOL.

Pretty soon it was time to fly back to Manila. There was a better shot than this, but I picked this because it happened to capture my mom smiling at Dan’s favorite pose.

Aaand a little souvenir – a pearl ring my mom originally bought for herself. On one day when the rest of us were too tired to travel, my mom and friends went to a pearl farm where the pearls just abounded. The pearls they cultivated were so many, they were selling them even for prices as low as P100. Insane! Even South Sea pearls would retail for 70% lower than how they are sold in Manila. That’s one thing anyone should understand about buying stuff – the closer you are to the source, the cheaper. Cheap doesn’t always mean fake or low quality, you just have to be more discerning, and having connections doesn’t hurt.

Whew. How do I end this post? The trip itself has been such a whirlwind, I feel my photos are just snaps of here and there without any cohesion. I’ll try to do a better travel post next time, if God blesses me with more opportunities to travel. ๐Ÿ™‚


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