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Five Things About Puerto Princesa, Palawan (Philippines) That Captured My Heart

Updated on January 17, 2012
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan:
Puerto Princesa City, Philippines

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Facts About Puerto Princesa and Palawan

Puerto Princesa is the capital city of the province of Palawan. This island province is located southwest of the Luzon mainland.

Puerto Princesa City is the destination and at the same time the main gateway to all the natural marvels of Palawan. Palawan is a long and narrow stretch of land about 450 kilometers in length (280 mi) and 50 kilometers (31 mi) in width. Islands, islets, rocky coves, and sugar-white sandy beaches are dotting this province's 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi) of irregular coastline and vast stretch of virgin forest.

If I have the chance to live permanently in another place, the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan in the Philippines will be my one and only choice. I have been to several cities here and abroad, but my heart has settled after a satisfying trip I had taken in this city.

If you are a laid back beach and nature lover who doesn't mind sharing a ride with other adventure seekers, Puerto Princesa City offers all these and more. With more, I mean, is that you feel the exclusivity of nature yet you are just nestled within the city limits. And a lot more reasons below:

1. No fuss, not superficial and environmentally conscious world class travel destination

Prior to booking your plane tickets, hotel accommodations and adventure trips, Puerto Princesa City with its tourism service providers is an epitome of "no fuss" source of information and rates. Transportation, adventure or tour rates are standard. The only difference would be is in your preferred accommodation. So if you are a traveler who is wary of being scalped, not a chance that it can happen to you in Puerto Princesa City or in the entire Palawan province.

Nothing is fancy about Puerto Princesa City except that it kept its simplicity with nature as its backdrop. Its development was not forced. Like its surrounding wonders of nature, it evolved according to what it only needed. So you would expect that nothing here is sugar-coated or superficial just to lure in tourists.

Although one of the main goal of Puerto Princesa and the entire Palawan province is tourism, at the core of it, is a tangible example of man having a sustainable co-existence with nature. That nothing or no one has to be favored over another for the purpose of economic development.

Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan | Source
Tricycle, The Mode of Transportation Around the City Proper
Tricycle, The Mode of Transportation Around the City Proper

2. Laid back yet convenient.

From the airport, getting around the city proper would cost no more than $0.25 per person using a tricycle. It will take only three minutes going to the capitol. If your accommodation is just around this area, guaranteed you will get there too in no time. Even the department store and restaurants are that much accessible. Where in the world can you find this kind of convenience?

It would take two days to travel the entire Palawan province by land and a month to leisurely explore. It has not been affected by urbanization. The city is not crowded. Some areas in the outskirts of Palawan have no phone lines (only cellular phone signal) and only scheduled power rations. But if you intend to travel the entire Palawan province, Puerto Princessa is the hub of organized tour and adventure trips. This is the place where being laid back do not compromise convenience.

Outtriger boats taking the tourists to the Island Hopping Experience at Honda Bay
Outtriger boats taking the tourists to the Island Hopping Experience at Honda Bay
The Immaculate Conception Parish
The Immaculate Conception Parish

3. A place filled with history

For the tourists, the main purpose of going to Puerto Princesa or Palawan is to experience the grandeur of nature. But knowing its history emblazons Puerto Princesa as a significant part of the Philippine history as a nation. Like the mainland Manila or Cebu who have been subjected to Spanish conquest, Japanese occupation, and American takeover, the people of Puerto Princesa and Palawan have these to credit for in their resolve to take care of their province's precious natural gems. In their current responsibility of maintaining cleanliness, environmental protection and conservation, no responsibility is bigger than more than once in their past, their lives was at the forefront of building a nation.

Taking this trip is a tricycle ride (no more than $0.25 per person). In one site is an interspersed monument of two centuries of historical significance. The Immaculate Conception Parish with its pointed Gothic arches is the emblem of Spanish colonization in 1872. Beside it is the Plaza Cuartel. It is an old Spanish garrison overtaken by the Americans and was used by the Japanese soldiers to cage their prisoners. When the Japanese realized they were losing the World War II, they burned their prisoners inside the tunnel with petroleum. There were 143 casualties. Eleven escaped and lived to tell the grim incident.

The Plaza Cuartel
The Plaza Cuartel

The Natural Marvels of Palawan

1. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

2. Tubbataha Reef Marine Park

3. El Nido Marine Reserve Park

4. Coron Reefs, Coron Bay, Busuanga

5. Calauit Game Preserve an Wildlife Sanctuary

6. Malampaya Sound Land and Seascape Protected Area

4. Awe-inspiring accessible natural wonders

By nature, I am not an adventurous person. The last time I took hill climbing was more than a decade ago. I recon experiencing vertigo on the way up. I also have this fear of being enclosed in tight, dark spaces. Plus I get so anxious with the many unknown freaky creatures in the wild (This is what watching National Geographic can do to you). Aside from the comfortable beach which our place also offers, why would I drag myself into three airport transfers just to get to Puerto Princessa?

Aside from its inscription into the UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, the Puerto Princesa Underground River entered the most coveted Seven Wonders of Nature in November of 2011. This is the world's longest underground river that flows out directly to the sea. Inside the cave are large chambers of karst formations with stalactites and stalagmites.

Inside the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
Inside the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River | Source

Knowing that it will be a 50-kilometer ride from the city, a boat ride among thrashing waves and a mostly unexplored dark cavern, a name and recognition cannot just pull my interest to visit a site. If it is inconvenient and uncertain, I might just as well pass because a sore body and a troubled mind won't make me appreciate beauty.

But this protected landscape is a destination even our grandparents can enjoy. I've had retirees expressing their amazement and pride in having gone to this place. If it is good enough for my "lola", it is even better for me.

Entrance to the Puerto Princesa Underground River
Entrance to the Puerto Princesa Underground River | Source
Snorkeling at Isla Pandan, Honda Bay
Snorkeling at Isla Pandan, Honda Bay

Back in the city is a bay sprawling with islands / islets and reefs for beach lovers and underwater adventure seekers. It is only a 25 minute ride to the jump off port.

You do not need swimming capabilities or scuba diving expertise to enjoy the islands. My mom who was 57 years old to do snorkeling for the first time was able to manage and appreciate it.

For those who just want to be at peace and commune with nature, there is plenty of time and a long line of seashore to do that. Unspoiled beaches that is at par with the famous beaches in the world is just right within line of sight from the city.

The pristine beach of Snake Island
The pristine beach of Snake Island
Aerial view of Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Aerial view of Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
The part of Puerto Princesa Underground River that flows to the ocean
The part of Puerto Princesa Underground River that flows to the ocean

5. The pride of the people of Palawan is intoxicating and infectious.

We can detect phoniness and pretense even when a person is not talking. He does not even need to convince other people of his beliefs. But here in Puerto Princesa, you know that the pride they have for their province is no pretense. You think that they have consciously made it their facade. But this pride had naturally picked on them because they do not need convincing. They have got what it needs to show for it. Not once in my travels have I had goosebumps when I truly have witnessed this.

I thought visiting this place was only a "photo opportunity". It turned out for me a "sustainable development 101" educational tour. Not in the context of theories but in the tangible manifestation of where greater aspirations for man and its environment are actually met.

I thought, Puerto Princesa needed me or the tourists to fuel their tourism industry. On the contrary, I needed Puerto Princesa to convince me that greater and seemingly insurmountable aspirations can be realized in one's lifetime (I am having a teary-eyed and goose bump moment writing this).

Limestone cliffs welcome the tourists to the Puerto Princesa Underground River
Limestone cliffs welcome the tourists to the Puerto Princesa Underground River

I left Puerto Princesa like a renewed person. It is more than what a spiritual immersion can achieve in a short time and lasting at that. That is why I envy the people who have already lived in this last frontier of mankind. For now, I will keep on coming back to what this place could offer. But given a chance, I will chose to live here.


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