Palawan Island, Philippines. October 24-27, 1996




INTRODUCTION


Puerto Princesa City

CROCODILE FARM

MONKEY TRAIL

UNDERGROUND RIVER

STARFISH ISLAND

Philippines

Charles' PCI Card

INTRODUCTION

Hi! Today is Sunday October 27, 1996, well, I just came home from Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island, Philippines for a four days' vacation. Its great to be back to my computer terminal again and at the same time I felt bad too! Why? Because I missed Palawan and the new friends I have there (also new friends from our group who came from Manila) and of course, I felt bad too because I did not have enough time to tour the rest of the island due to bad weather and compromises in our group.

Together with our tour guide from Puerto Princesa City, we went to Crocodile Farm in Irawan, Palawan. To St. Paul Subterranean River National Park in Sabang, where the Underground River, Monkey Trail and many beaches are located. Next to Honda Bay, Tabataha, where Starfish Island and many more islands were situated, there you can snorkeled around the coral reef. Then I'll tell you folks that we did not go to El Nido, Bat Island near Starfish Island where you can see many bats hanging on trees and Estrella Falls in Narra, and Balabac, etc.

By the way our tour guide is a friendly, beautiful lady with good memory who guided us through the entire zigzag around Palawan. Her name is Dianne from Puerto Princesa City. Top | Bottom

***Dianne IRCing (Internet Relay Chatting!) with us waiting for us to finished our tour inside the Underground River. Her denims were wetted from the boat's ride.

Map of Puerto Princesa City

Puerto Princesa City

Before our Airbus A300 plane touched down near the airport, I saw a lot of trees, just like forest. It's a 50 minute cruising time from Manila to this city. Puerto Princesa Airport is a very small one and can only accommodate one flight of passengers at a time. They have two lines of baggage check-in counter and one x-ray machine. Don't x-ray your film even if the machine said it's safe for film (negative), I know it will blur your pictures somewhat. Placed your film in a transparent plastic so custom personnel will see it. When we arrived there I noticed the airport was almost full when about 300 passengers were waiting and about to board the A300 plane we just boarded to fly them back to Manila. I know Palawan has at least one more airport located outside Puerto Princesa. Top | Bottom

My first impression after getting out of the plane is the air is very fresh with almost no dust or any kind of pollution. All the people there are very, very friendly and the city is very, very clean (not a single litter seen on the road), quiet and peaceful. The temperature there is almost the same as ours here in Manila if not a degree or two lower I guess. I seldom see police officer, in fact I can not recalled I ever saw one. Jeffrey, who manned our hotel front desk tell me a snatcher seldom reach a block away without being caught, because all the people there help fight crime. They don't speak of traffic too because there were none.

I only saw one Honda Civic, I did not see any Toyota's. There are few luxuries and economy cars of the 90s here. Though there are many L300, Tamaraw FX and Vannete. Top | Bottom


+Puerto Princesa Airport and Airbus A300 airplane.

**One unique car of theirs is the taxicles, a different version of our motor-driven 3-wheel tricycles. It has a common roof that covers the driver and the passenger seats, and has a front bumper (sort of) just like a car. You can ride on this taxicles for Php 5.00 (US$ .19) for each person with maximum of 4 persons or even five.

Their beach, Oh! The water is crystal clear. I swim a lot and can't have enough of it. There are only few concrete buildings concentrated in this city. I can almost count them all. Puerto Princesa have cable TV channels- CNN, ABN, I think three or five Star TV channels, and the rest I forget for a total of 10 channels I guess. I think MTV too. Sorry I keep on guessing. As your age adds up your memories subtract. I did not take any note on this trip, and did not bother to ask any of my friend. So this is purely a brainteaser. Our plane ticket is Php 2,000 (US$ 75.50, a $ to 26.50 pesos) with special discount, regular price is Php 3,000 (US$ 113) plus for a round trip. For 3 nights and 4 days our hotel is from Php 1,200 (US$ 45.30) to about Php 2,900 (US$ 109) depending on which hotel you check in. I guess there is only one morning flight a day from Manila to Puerto Princesa, but sometimes they add one more flight a day if requested. Top | Bottom

Along Rizal Avenue where our hotel and the airport are located, I saw Far East Bank, PCI Bank and I think Metro Bank and Solid Bank too. Not sure again! Also along this avenue they have the Kodak and Fuji film color processing labs. Dianne ask their office mate to take it there in the morning and when I return at the hotel at about 6:00 PM it's done. You can not notice any difference in the quality of print from Manila to theirs.

Most of the hotels there are small, only one have 3 storey high and a 109 room capacity. This hotel has a big outdoor swimming pool, about half the Olympic size with a maximum depth of 8 feet, with bathtub on each room, hot and cool shower, TV ,telephone, and of course centralized temperature control air-conditioning. The hotel has 2 elevators, a big lobby, and a restaurant. Many of the hotels are less than a kilometer away from the airport.

There are plenty of restaurant too- Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipino cuisine and many more. Though they are famous for their seafood, so if I were you I will eat less meat here. My favorite disk is the big lobster. Their seafood is very tasty compare to ours here in Manila. The reason is that seafood in Manila came from catch within or around the Luzon provinces where sea water is polluted. That's why they taste not so good. Almost all the restaurant there have no air-conditioning installed, the air is cool anyway and you will not sweat. For 4 days I stay there I've never been bitten by mosquito at any restaurant, only once at our hotel room, though nothing happens. Top | Bottom

I have been to many Asian countries and Puerto Pricesa seems very special to me. Maybe it is their natural places, or because you can't find any high tech stuffs, therefore you just live a very simple worried free life. Only one cellular company has cell there and mine don't have signal strength. Many hotels have NDD (National Direct Dialing) and IDD (International Direct Dialing) landline, but I just use my friend cell because it's free. Their area code here is (048), Country code for Philippines is (63). You leave you business behind when you are in Palawan. No business talks and specially no monkey business talks either.:-) In return you get a lot of sunburn and feel very relax in any places. EMI (electro-magnetic interference) such as EMF (electro-magnetic field) from power line and all kind of appliances, RFI (radio frequency interference) from pagers, cellular phones, VHF and UHF transceivers including trunk radio, radio stations and TV stations, and noise pollution such as hum from electrical motors and appliances are almost nil here. Loss some weight and can't get used to sleeping on your new hotel's bed. If you like a good night sleep when vacationing, choose your roommate if you can. Oh! My roommate, he sleeps at 10:00 PM and wake up at 6:00 AM, I usually sleep at 1:00 AM and wake at 9:00 AM. On this trip I would wake up at 6:20 AM when my roommate wakeup at 6. Guess what, it is due to the sounds of music he created while showering, tooth brushing, and many unimaginable things he did early in the morning. Then we have to wait till 8 for our tour to begin.

All in all I spent about Php 10,000 (US$380, at one US dollar to Php 26.50) for the plane's ticket, hotel, tours, restaurants, snacks and many distilled waters and not to mention all the pictures I gave to my friends. Top | Bottom

CROCODILE FARM

On the main entrance inside the building you will see a very large crocodile skin hanging on the left wall and just below it a stand with glass cover displaying the skeleton of the crocodile. It is so large about 6 meters long (including the tail) and is estimated to be 52 years old when it died of hemorrhage (internal bleeding). Next 2 small alive crocodiles about 1 1/2 feet long including tail are display inside a small glass housing where you can pick them, hold them on your hand and sort of cradled and toying them around, and take some pictures too. To the left there are many pictures about crocodile, fresh crocodile eggs on display and actual sample of incubator, nets and traps to catch them etc.. At the back there are about 3,000 crocodiles patiently waiting and welcoming us to make a false move, they are from aged 2 to 10 years old. I think they release some of them to the wild when too many.

***Dianne and tour members at the Crocodile Farming Institute. I'm the photographer here.

There are two species of crocodile here in the Philippines. One is the salt water crocodile, not a native of this country, where it grows up to 10 meters I guess! Sorry I forget the scientific name for this and the preceding one. The other a fresh water and only native to the Philippines, identified only with a rare and unique 6 multi-color dot above their head. This species does not grow as big as the salt water species and is kinder than the other one. Wow! Top | Bottom

They will eat any meat (example: live chicken, lechon! steaks!) the caretaker gives them. Crocodiles don't eat much, caretaker fed them only twice a week. They will die from overfeed or when their stomach is full all the time. The very young one eat stuff that is color grey/green and like paste or gel, I don't know what it is. Their eggs are incubated to produce more young. A higher temperature produces more males and lower degree produces more female. I forget which is which. Their life expectancy is about 100 years.

***
+

Palawan Bearcat. She noticed me and turns his head for this great picture. She only welcome photographer! And She is photogenic too, isn't she?

This farm is a sanctuary, and I think there is not a single animal slaughter here. In this farm you will also see the Palawan Bearcat, an endangered species found only in Palawan, Philippines. They measure about 30 inches long excluding their tail. I only saw three of them, one on tree top and the other one is pregnant, a first time there for this animal in captivity. The third is resting. The farm keeper directs us to look above the tree where we saw the tree top one. He or she doesn't move much either on the tree. By the way they can't determine the sex of this Bearcat and the pregnant one is by accident. They are a very lazy, sleepy and seldom move kind of animal. They don't mind how many visitors they have, they just lay there and ignore us totally. I think they are just lonely. This Bearcat reminded me of someone I know. No, I am just kidding all of you out there! Top | Bottom

Many Mynahs (black color talking bird) confiscated from tourist at the airport custom, are safely enjoying their stay there too. About a hundred I guess or more, and some eagles too.

 MONKEY TRAIL

After 3 hours car ride from Puerto Princesa you must ride a small 8-seater boat (bangka) to go to the Underground River in Sabang about 20 to 30 minutes ride, or by climbing through the mountain of Monkey Trail to reach the Underground River. I suggest that you do not eat too much before traveling the 3 hours car ride, because the road is very bumpy (we in Manila do not accelerate our car that fast on a bumpy road) and you might experience some discomfort in the stomach or worse dizziness and vomiting. I suggest too that you ride a boat instead of climbing when going to Underground River, except when you are physical fit and not over 40 years of age. In the trail there are many steep climbs and descending along the wooden and sometimes slippery stone staircase filled with wet fallen leaves that we Manilan are not accustomed to. I think the combined total height for all the climb is about 30 storey high or higher. Top | Bottom

Inside the Monkey Trail all the wooden stairs and bridges are made of Ipil lumber to withstand damaged from the rain. I did not see any monkeys along the way. Because one of my friend keeps on talking and sometimes shouting and this scared them away. By the way you must prepare some drinking water before hand, though we are able to buy some half way along. The average time to finish this mountain trail which is 4 kilometers long is 2 hours. About 16 of us join in and some (me included) finished in 3 hours and 15 minutes (Our tour members have many VHF transceivers which they bring them from Manila to here to contact to each other, so we all scatter and mess around without fear of being loss or left behind. Actually it saves us much time too, we will be able to change any itineraries at an instant notice on radio and every body will know it right away).One of us develops cramp on his feet and the other feels dizzy while descending on one of the wooden staircase surrounded by many very high cliffs. We have to wait and help each other as a team, and stop and posed for pictures too.

By the way don't wear tight shirt and pant. You'll have a hard time breathing and will feel uncomforteble from heat and sweat coming out of your body. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Wear short for the boat's ride. Half way through the trail there is a beautiful beach and all the way onto the other side is the place where groups of people wait their turns to ride inside the Underground River. (At the end of the day, after resting and waking up early the next morning from climbing. You started to feel the side effect of yesterday. Which is ah....ah! All your muscles seem to say stop!) This trail is a place resident of Manila seldom see; a virgin forest full of big and small trees, small lakes, cliffs and ponds, etc. Top | Bottom

***A portion of the Monkey Trail. I'm the one in front, Jeffrey is at the far back. Some cliffs along the staircase reach a depth of about a hundred feet or more, I can not calculate them well because it is so dark.

UNDERGROUND RIVER

Actually this is a cave filled with water. So instead of walking, you must ride a small six-seater boat to explore the cave. That's why they call it underground river. Everybody has to wear a life buoy jacket and helmet to be able to ride on the boat. Over all there are six boats and each have a halogen flashlight in front powered by a lead acid car battery.

***Tour friends ready to enter the Underground River Cave.

Once you're in, you will hear tete..cheche...tete cheche. It's the sound produced by birds inside the cave You will also see bats hanging on the wall and ceiling of the cave. Some portion of the ceiling rise up to a hundred feet or more and there are many natural shapes of stones and rocks that resembled castle, our saint, body of a woman, fruits, etc.. I run out of film here so there is not much pictures taken. And don't worry the bats will not bump us, they are a very very good night flyer able to detect a small diameter rope on their path. The river water is about 8 meters deep and a little muddy. When high tide occurs the salt sea water just a hundred meters away will be able to pass through here. Water drip from some portion of the cave, so you must prepare some special cover for your expensive camera. If you can, bring a special waterproof plastic bag with you for this trip and place your camera inside this bag when not in use. It takes about 30 minutes to finished this ride. This cave is very long, we only tour about 1/4 of them I guess, the inner portion of cave composed only of ordinary rocks and stones, so tourist seldom go that far. There are split passages too. No one will go to this cave alone, it's black and spooky! Top | Bottom

***Inside the Underground River.

 STARFISH ISLAND

About an hour ride on a boat from Honda Bay to here. This island is a very small and is surrounded by beautiful beach. There are many similar islands around, some about a few kilometers apart to each other. Bat Island is located somewhere here too.

Here in this island there is a restaurant. Beside the restaurant is a ten feet across blade windmill to generate 220V electricity for light and some small appliances. This is a low powered or wattage or ampere type, I guess it will not exceed 500 watts. And there is an about 12 feet by 6 feet solar panel (solar cell) on one of the house's roof. Solar cell is a very low wattage type too, where by it convert sun energy into DC (direct current) electricity. Usually it charges a car battery and needs an inverter to convert them to AC (alternating current) electricity. I think they use them mainly for transceiver (walkie-talkie) radio that is DC. This radio and an antenna on the roof are use to relay messages from this island to Honda bay and vice versa.

With a pure white sand and no litter in sight. If you are standing on the shore and look ahead, you'll notice that the sea water near the beach look light green and about 80 feet away it become very dark green. I ask one of the boatman, he said the light green portion is less than five feet deep while the dark green sea water is, well, more than 20 feet deep. I quivered a little and thank God I ask first before I swim. Top | Bottom

While I was swimming I got scared again, because the water is so clear that you would be able to see all the tiny teeny little things around them, not to mention suddenly a big fish appear in front of my goggles. I saw many small fishes and sometimes big one too. Then I saw a starfish then another two appeared. I ask my friend if it is poison or not, and when I came back they are gone. I saw some later. Each is about 10 inches across. They use their five foot to walk very slowly and are from yellow to red combination in color. My friend catches one on his hand and later freed it.


***I'm Superman here. If not for me you won't see this big rock standing! Tourists do help sometimes and not just stop, look, listen and stare. This is the beach where at the end of it we started to climb the Monkey Trail.


By the way Palawan have only one ISP (Internet Service Provider) right now. It includes IRCing.

I have to say that all the above information are my own personal observation and point of view and I shall try my best to present it as accurate as I can to the best of my knowledge. I'm not a good writer but I shall try my best! The best way still is for all of you out there to tour Palawan yourself! A week or two vacation will be enough! For the whole of Palawan I think 3 weeks to a month. Top | Bottom

For 1997, Palawan garnered 2 highest awards; The cleanest and greenest province and the cleanest lake (Kayagan Lake in Coron Island).

The Presidential Trophy was received by Puerto Princesa for the cleanest and greenest component city in the Philippines for 1996.

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Camera used:
**Contax G1 with Carl Zeiss Planar 45mm lens and Contax TLA 140 flash.
Film:
Fuji Super HGV 400 film

** Canon Prima AS-1 (Waterproof: 5m/16.4ft.) with Canon 32mm f/3.5 lens
+Hewlett Packard Scanjet G3010 USB Flat Bed Photo Scanner. 4800 X 9600 dpi resolution 48-bit color, scan negative and slide
***Scanner: Microtek ScanMaker II HR

Created on October 27, 1996. Updated 11 times. Last updated on May 31, 2007

Copyright 1996-2001, Created and maintained by Charles Keng.
All Rights Reserved