Exploring Palawan, day 3: meeting the princess

Fresh from island-hopping, it was time to pay a courtesy call to the princess.

We asked our van to pick us up at 6AM for our trip back to Puerto Princesa, so breakfast (and yes, more coffee) was served at 5AM to give us time to pack up and get ready. At around 9:30, we stopped at a restaurant where we could use the bathroom, get snacks, smoke, whatever. Before leaving the place, our driver realized we had a flat tire. Not a problem; he had a spare and our Puerto Princesa city tour wasn’t until 1PM. (We were able to secure a promo with Palawan Uno hotel for a four-day-three-night stay plus a city tour, a trip to the famed Underground River, and island hopping at Honda Bay for Php 6,000 per head.)

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Goodbye, unlimited coffee.

Fast forward to 11AM, it was like someone had it bad for us. The driver ran over something and blew another tire. Now we were getting nervous. Not only could we forfeit the tour, we were also in a pretty secluded area where gas stations were nowhere to be found. Con got hold of our hotel contact, who said we forfeit the city tour if we don’t make it by 1:30. Shit.

Luckily, the driver was able to contact another tour van that loaned him their spare tire. After about 20 minutes, we were on our way again, with me constantly checking Waze and Google Maps where we were and what time we’d get to the hotel. Amazingly, we got to the hotel with half an hour to spare. We hadn’t had lunch yet, so we figured we’d stop somewhere during the tour to grab something. Turns out, we were taking doing the tour with a few other tourists so that wouldn’t be possible.

Our city tour guide, Chris, first took us to a drive through the Puerto Princesa seaport, spouting out a steady stream of facts and figures about the city. Next, we stopped at the Plaza Cuartel, where a memorial for the fallen soldiers and survivors of the Palawan Massacre during the Second World War stood. Across the street was the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral, a 50-year-old structure that traces its roots to the 19th century. After more photos, we headed to MCA Market Mall for some pasalubong shopping. Cashew and cashew-based goods are all over the place, but you can get other things too, from dried fish to wall decors to keychains. There was even a stall where you could have a shirt silk-screened while you wait.

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Posing at the Plaza Cuartel

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We proceeded to Binuatan Creations, a hand loom weaving center whose products are said to be recognized by international brand Calvin Klein. You can actually try your hand at weaving here, but being the klutz that I am, I chose to steer clear of the looms.

loom weaving 2

The guide was supposed to take us to the Crocodile Farm next, but because they were trying to get the word out about the Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village, we went there instead. More than just a sanctuary for our flighty, colorful friends, the Butterfly Garden is also home to other animals like the bearcat, plus various creepy-crawlies like scorpions and beetles.

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A gecko from the Butterfly Garden

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In the Tribal Village, we were introduced to the indigenous tribe of Palawan, who talked about their life and showed us their everyday items, products and weapons. They even played us some music using their native instruments, which was pretty cool. We also got to meet their pet Ginger, an albino Burmese python. (Don’t ask me why they named a yellow snake Ginger; I never got to ask. Probably named it after the root crop, but what do I know?)

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A budding friendship

Mitra’s Ranch, the next stop of the tour, is said to be referred to as Little Tagaytay because of the view of Honda Bay, which from afar is reminiscent of Taal Lake. There were quite a lot of activities you could do there, like horseback riding and ziplining, but we settled for photo-taking.

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The next and final leg was Baker’s Hill, a famous Disneyland-like park (save for the rides) with costumey statues and cartoonish structures, all bathed in the delicious smells coming from the bakeshop. Because it was Chris’ birthday, he treated everyone on the tour to some of the goods from the shop, and we enthusiastically got into them (no use pretending to turn down the food; we hadn’t had lunch yet). While resting, we actually got to know some of the tourists a bit better. One in particular is Cornelo, a jet-setting Filipino based in the US who was taking a tour of the Philippines before going back home and buckling down to finish his law studies.

After more pasalubong-shopping (Baker’s Hill specialty is hopia, but they have other delicious treats for you to take home), we headed back to Palawan Uno to rest up before dinner. At around 8, we decided to try out this place called Tiki Restobar, which is said to have gotten its name not just for its running theme, but also for the way they named their restrooms (clue: they have something to do with Tagalog body parts). The food’s so-so, but if you’re looking for a night of lively fun and entertainment courtesy of a live band, this is probably the place for you.

When we’d had enough of the singing and dancing (them, not us), we took a trike back to the hotel (rides usually average about Php 10, depending on the honesty of the driver). At 11, it was still too early to turn in so we watched TV until we zonked out one by one. That’s OK; we’ve got another early start tomorrow anyway.

Coming up:
Day 4, or: how I learned to stop minding the sorry lack of wildlife and love the darkness

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