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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 20, 2011

Puerto Princesa Palawan: One of the best vacation places in our country

WE JUST RETURNED from a four-day vacation in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, truly one of the best places we visited in our country. We went to Snake Island and Isla Pandan in Honda Bay. One evening, we went firefly watching in Iwahig River. The sight of numerous fireflies lighting up mangrove trees on both sides of the river while the night is pitch black is truly awesome. They seem like Christmas lights, but the difference is that they’re moving, flying around. We’re told this project was done with the help of Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN Foundation and it’s now a tourist attraction that’s helping a lot of people in the area financially, especially those living in the Iwahig Penal Colony.

We also went to the beautiful ranch of the Mitras and the adjacent Baker’s Hill park where they make the best tasting hopia we’ve ever tasted. We also went to the Subterranean River. From Puerto, you travel by land on good roads for about 1 hour and 45 minutes until you reach Sabang Beach. You should stay here overnight as they have beautiful resorts like Sheridan and Roberts. From there, you take a 20-minute boat ride to where the mouth of the underground river is located in a thickly forested area. You transfer to another boat that takes you inside the caves.

It’s more than 8 kilometers long but only 1.5 kilometers is navigable. Somehow, we felt sad when we saw the interior of the underground river. We’ve been to the Jenolan series of caves in the Blue Mountains, a very popular tourist attraction in Australia, and the cave formations are of extraordinary beauty, properly preserved, especially the luminously white stalactites and stalagmites that seem to glow. In our own underground river, the formations are black and look dead. What’s worse, the cave walls were vandalized with graffiti. But still, it’s worth seeing. We’re sure it’s now earning a lot as thousands of both local and foreign tourists flock to it everyday. How we wish they’d improve the facilities there and try to clean up the place.

We got our trip on a package tour via Metro Deal, but it turned the agency they deal with, Ensemble, is such a pain in the a$$. We paid way in advance and when we’re already trying to schedule our trip, they were giving us the run around. Later, they even asked an additional P900 per person for our airfare. It’s good we were booked in a good hotel, A&A Plaza Hotel, where the personnel are very courteous and the accommodations are really very comfortable.