Friday, May 05, 2006

Palawan Day 1: City Tour at Puerto Princesa

The PAL plane that my husband, my daughter and I took left the Manila centennial airport at exactly 8 am and got to the Puerto Princesa airport at about 9:05 am. Daddy was there waiting for us and so were the staff from Lola Itang's Pension house. First stop was at the pension house where we checked in and unloaded our stuff. After this, we were off to the Iwahig Penal Colony.

Iwahig is a big place which is a prison but is basically the residence of the inmates and their families too. There we went around and purchased some souvenir items from the gift shop. I learned that when purchasing goods from this shop would mean helping the inmates earn. I suppose that if you have to buy something to remember anyone by, it might as well be something to help them. So, I bought some keychains, an arnis (mahogany wood) and some pens. From the way the goods have bee made, you'd deduce that the people who made them have been trained well. I just hope that there be some effort to market these goods to alleviate the living conditions of the families there. Some inmates recommended that we go check out the Balsahan natural pools which is just about 3 minutes away from the shop. So, off we went.

We were hungry when we got to Balsahan. At the gate, we were told that we'd have to rent a hut which cost 100 php. Also we had to order lunch right there. There was only 1 dish that they serve - broiled native chicken. Of course we didn't have a choice so we ordered two chickens and rice. They only had coconuts for beverages so we ordered these too. The chicken tasted really great despite the fact that it didn't have anything on it - not even salt! Why won't it be when these are killed and dressed only when there is an order. We asked for some soy sauce and red peppers to dip them in. It's funny how the lowly "tutong" turned out to be my daughter's favorite calling it "chips" which made it sound a little "sosyal".

While waiting for our orders, we proceeded to the hut assigned to us. This was the chance to go around the area. Balsahan is part of Iwahig and therefore proceeds from the use of this area would go to the inmates. It has several huts and gazillion trees that provided the cool and shady atmosphere to the resort. We were told that some inmates maintained the place. I should say they have done a pretty good job at maintaining it. The nice thing about Iwahig is that you can bring your own food to eat there or you can also bring raw food and have the inmates cook these at the resort for a fee. Such are the filipinos - ever so resilient and resourceful.

Our next stop was the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (formerly known as the Crocodile Farm). We got there at 1 pm. However we were told that there was a guided tour scheduled at 2 pm so we decided to stay. There was a fee of 50 pesos each (i'm not sure about the price really, could be more). The highlight of this activity was the opportunity to pet a crocodile but none of us wanted to do that. We left just after a few minutes of staying since we had to go to other places and there were plenty of mosquitoes there anyway.

Next we went to Mitra's ranch but this had been closed because there was an on-going renovation. On our way back we stopped for some water at the Baker's hill. I had heard from a friend that this bakeshop/bakery is originally from manila. The area had a small kiddie playground but the kid with us (my daughter) who is almost 12 years old was no longer interested in it so we went on our exploration of puerto.

Next stop was VietVille, the vietnamese village where the "boat people" were accomodated. Here you'd be proud to be a filipino because you know that we are indeed hospitable and warm having given these people a modest place to live in. There were but a few people left in the village though because most of them had migrated elsewhere. There is a restaurant that serves french-influenced-vietnamese food. But we were too full to try their fare. apart from the restaurant, there's a buddhist temple and a catholic church in the area. I heard there was a lagoon somewhere but did not get to see it.

After Vietville, as we were on our way back to the city, we noticed a hot spring resort and restaurant called Kim's. We checked it out and found that this place had about 6 or 7 huts with a small pool to dip in, kinda like a jacuzzi. The water gets really hot when the water is allowed to flow from the faucet sticking out from behind the pool. Apparently the owner had built a piping system from the hot spring to each cottage. There's a pool at the middle of the common area for those people who do not want to get their own cottage. The place is owned and run by a korean national so the restaurant serves both filipino and korean fare.

We had dinner at the Badjao Seafront Restaurant. My dad said that during the first few times he had gone to the restaurant, the mangroves that lined the entrance weren't there. Obviously these were planted in by the owners so now it looks like a restaurant amidst a mangrove plantation. This is very good for the marine life in the area and also contributes a lot to the ambiance of the place. You should try the steamed talakitok with the seaweed (lato) salad. But do dip the salad in some vinegar and onions so they don't smell like the sea.

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