Puerto Princesa City is as straightforward as it can get. So much like haggling for south sea pearls.
My brother and I are not twins, but we were born on the same day. This makes for one unique, ultra-special birthday celebration come September each year. This year, we spent our forever-shared birthday on a short vacation in Palawan.
It’s been a while since we last went on a trip with my family. This was my first time in Palawan and I was eager to see for myself what the new 7 wonders brouhaha was all about. We stayed only for a couple of days, but Puerto Princesa did not disappoint.
We spent our first night in the city center, in a beautiful guest house run by Mr. Manny Lucena. Manny’s guesthouse sits atop his wife’s ancestral house (the ground floor is where they live), rustically renovated, with an unobstructed view of the Puerto Bay. We loved Manny’s guesthouse. There was enough ambience that we could have gone home right then without second thoughts. It was a beautiful, affordable, very well run place to stay for a family or large group. The guesthouse had three rooms, with ample natural ventilation, a TV that we didn’t have any use for, pretty décor, and cooking stuff should you want to prepare your own food. It cost us P1,500 (jawdrop) for one night.
In the morning of our second day in the city, we hopped on our hired van to the port where boats can be rented for the Honda Bay tour. I was never fond of island hopping, I would always prefer swimming at the beach or just laying around to get a tan. But I enjoyed the Honda Bay experience. All of it.
We went to three islands total. The kids and I fed the fishes at Pambato reef, while the rest went snorkelling.
Then we went swimming in Snake Island and the kids ran through the sandbar. I snorkelled and found myself in a life-sized aquarium. I have never seen that many fishes swimming around me all at the same time. And these are truly beautiful, colorful fishes that are really a sight to behold. It was amazing and a bit hard to believe.
Our last stop was Pandan Island where we bought crabs and fish from random vendors and had them cooked, while our boatman a.k.a. tour guide were catching pretty little fishes and throwing them inside a fishbowl carved from the shore. The food was great and we ate them on Talisay leaves with our hands.
We would have wanted to stay longer but the wind was getting stronger and we needed to return before the waves and the weather got bad. At the port, our van was waiting to take us to Sabang where we’d stay for the night, as it was our jumpoff point for the Underground River tour early the next day.
Sabang is unelectrified. Resorts ran on generators from 6 to 10 pm. Afterwards the lights go off and everybody’s forced to go to bed. And so it was a quiet and restful night.
The day that we were scheduled for the Underground River tour was also the day of our birthday. And as always, it rained. It had to rain, and it had to rain hard, otherwise our birthday celebration is not complete. It was a rainy boat ride to the Subterranean River Park, followed by a relatively long wait for our turn to ride the fiberglass canoe and take the tour.
The tour didn’t have the new seven wonder of the world effect on me. The wonder, for me, is the fact that the river is subterranean leading out to the ocean. But the caves and the rock formations inside looked pretty ordinary. Definitely less awesome than those I’ve seen in Sagada and in photos from the Callao cave in Cagayan.
The city will not run out of good places to eat. We ended up eating a lot in Palawan. We splurged on seafoods, and our favorite “lamayo” which is fresh danggit in a vinegar marinade. We ate at a quaint pizza place called Neva’s and at the Vietnamese Village on our way back from Sabang. While there are big ticket restaurants in Puerto like Ka Lui’s, the city is filled with restaurants that offer ambience and great food at little cost.
I guess birthdays are best celebrated with good food, wonderful people and breathtaking scenery. Off goes another year.