Take a break from lounging and sunbathing by the beach and explore the inner workings of Puerto Princesa by going on the city tour. After all, a deeper appreciation and understanding of the people and the community is the reason why we travel, right?
You can book through an accredited travel agency or for budget travelers you can do a DIY tour by taking one of the tourism-accredited tricycles. The former is most convenient as you will be seating comfortably in an air-conditioned van for the rest of the trip, while the latter is deemed more exciting (I would even drive the tricycle myself if possible). Choose your own adventure.
Here are some the popular tourist spots you can visit in the city:
Iwahig Penal Colony
Known as the "prison with no bars," Iwahig houses inmates that cannot be accommodated anymore in the Bilib Prison or Muntinlupa City Jail. These inmates (I've been told) have committed the gravest of crimes and are sent to Iwahig for rehabilitation.
They live and work freely with their families in Iwahig. Their duties vary from farming, to handicraft-making, carpentry, fishing, etc. Inmates are free to choose whatever vocational activities they prefer.
The Recreation Hall was built during the American period and is so old that only 60 people at a time are allowed to occupy it. It's for receiving guests and tourists, and serves as a "showroom" of the handicrafts made by the inmates.
|the Dancing Inmates|
One of inmates I hung out with was Kuya Elias who was quietly personalizing some souvenirs using the wood burning technique. He shares that he was imprisoned in Muntinlupa City Jail when he was 19 and then transferred to Iwahig.
Sadly, he has not seen his wife nor son for the 23 years he's been living in Iwahig Penal Colony. He misses them dearly (no one has visited him here) yet understands that the plane ticket or trip to Palawan is expensive. My heart goes out to him because family is the most important thing and having that taken away from you must be devastating.
Another inmate (his name escapes me) made this wallet and was so pushy and annoying (he kept following me and asking me to buy in a deep manly voice) and then on the nth time that I tried to brush him off, I looked at him intently and asked: "Are you wearing mascara?!" He flutters his eye lashes and said yes. I found that too funny, instead of me getting irritated I finally bought the wallet!
|with fellow travel bloggers: Edmar, Lilliane, Edgar|
A few minutes from Iwahig Penal Colony is the Crocodile farm where they rear hatchlings and rehabilitate rescued [adult] crocodiles.
Upon entering the main hall of the building, one will see the skeletal remains and dried hide of Mac-Mac, the second largest crocodile captured. He is only second to Lolong of Bunawan, Agusan del Sur (click see my last photo of Lolong) however both passed away in captivity due to stress.
It is in the Hatchling House where crocodiles of varying stages and maturity are taken care of. Visitors are allowed to pass through to view the basins, the further in the older the crocodiles.
Guests can have their photos taken with the young crocodiles (mouths are taped shut), and explore the mini zoo within the forest afterwards.
This unique garden was constructed in order to educate tourists on the life cycles of butterflies and to introduce the various local species that thrive in Palawan.
The various pupae are on display and we were lucky that a butterfly hatched and was drying its wings at the exact time we were there!
|Giant Millipedes (I used to play with these when I was a kid)|
|A Stick Insect|
I am very proud to say that I handled a black scorpion -- very poisonous when provoked.
The Tribal Village
Palawan tourism also focuses on culture sharing where indigenous tribes show a part of their daily lives to a small group. The Palaw'an tribes are timid people who live by foraging and hunting. Since Palawan enforces conservation efforts, the tribes are given other means (such as selling their handicrafts to tourists in the city) in order to sustain their living and hinder them from killing endangered species
Far from the usual "cultural show" where tribes are modernized and just don their traditional outfits when tourists arrive, Palawan encourages tribe members to preserve their traditional beliefs and routine.
One thing very noticeable with indigenous Filipinos is their beauty, I've seen the same natural beauty when I visited Batanes last June. The child with the mesmerizing eyes is Angelita. You'll notice that they have beautiful eyebrows as well, apparently they groom their brows early on (the beauty blogger in me is smiling).
They also showed us how to play their gongs and native instruments, how to start fire with flints, aim blow guns and poison darts at makeshift animals, and also handle their pet python.
Smoking is a bad habit that they are addicted to as well. They grow their own tobacco leaves and roll them, creating their own pure cigar.
Of course, Roy (our resident photographer) encouraged me to go first and handle their pet python. I was game anyway, it's just that....I can feel its muscles contracting while it was being wrapped around me neck. Very icky.
Before flying out to Puerto Princesa, my sister was adamant about hoarding the Choco Crinkles at Baker's Hill. I'm glad it was one of the stops in the City Tour, so yes I did buy a couple along with their famous Hopias.
The owners of this popular bakery used to live in Taguig and then transferred to Palawan. They now own and manage Baker's Hill which has a simple bakery, a restaurant, a viewing deck, and a spacious theme park for the kids. Believe it or not, there is no entrance fee here, making it a popular weekend destination for locals and tourists.
|new friends! :)|
The horrors that happened in Plaza Cuartel during the Japanese occupation will forever be etched in Palawan's history. In December 14, 1944, 150 American POWs were kept in the air raid chambers and then burned alive. Only 11 members were able to escape, their names commemorated on the bronze marker onsite.
There are still numerous sights in the city that I hope to explore in the future. What about you, what are your favorite sites in Puerto Princesa? Share them with me in the comments.
More Puerto Princesa adventures here: http://bit.ly/PuertoPrinsesa