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Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Visiting the Underground River: One of the New 7 Wonders of the World
ITLOG_No. 18
(07-10.03.2013)

Waking up a little bit late than usual and having breakfast leisurely, because we would be touring around the city this day. We had called the tricycle driver, which brought us from the airport to the lodge to take us around the city, and even suggested where and when to eat for lunch and what places to visit. We started off at around 1100hrs heading towards Irawan to the Crocodile Farm, but upon arriving we were told that the tour would not start till 01330hrs, so Dong, our driver took us to another place near-by which is Irawan Eco Park, where we were dropped off and he had to run some errand but will be back.

Irawan Eco Park is situated amidst a lush jungle where you take a multicab going from the main office to the part where the zip line is, upon arrival we were given a list on what activities we would like to do in the park and since Carol did not want to try the zip line, we opted for the Carabao Ride, and the Butterfly farm, since it was around 12 noon already, we also ordered some crocodile sisig and crocodile adobo for lunch. We were then told to wait at the entrance while the carabao that would pull the cart was brought around and was hitched to the cart, then we were told to ride the cart and was brought to the Hagedorn Eco Home, where the guide told us that he usually stays there and rest.

After the tour of his house, a multicab arrived and brought us up the mountain where the butterfly farm would be, and it was a little bit of a long dusty ride, because we rode in the back of the multicab. Arriving at the place was a big shed where you get your gear for the zip line and other souvenirs and a waiting area, but we were directed at the back where the butterfly farm would be. With our guide telling us about the butterflies and how she takes care of them we were then brought around the whole farm looking at different species of butterflies they have, while the others who tried the zip line could be heard above. We were then directed to wait at the big shed for our ride, and we were brought back to the main building where we were ushered to the tables where our lunch would be served. The Crocodile sisig tasted really good even the Crocodile Adobo taking our sweet time savouring our food. After our lunch we then headed back to the Crocodile Farm and we were told to hurry up and catch up with the start of the tour.

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Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center formerly known as the Crocodile Farm and Nature Park, it serves as the sanctuary of the Philippine Crocodile that is endemic to the country. The Philippine Crocodile is currently included in the endangered species list and the conservation center is making ways to increase the number of the species. Aside from crocodiles, the center takes care of other animals like ostriches and endemic to the island of Palawan, like the bearcat.

Palawan Wildlife Rescue is located south of the Puerto Princesa city center. One has to take a ride of about 30 minutes to the rural south of the city and is a few minutes from the Iwahig Penal Farm. One may hire a jeepney or multicab to bring them to the park, which is far off for tricycles to reach. City tour packages regularly include the park in their itinerary.

At the entrance of the park, a signage of the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center meets the guests. Behind it is a mini reservoir for the park and a water tank, which are surrounded by an oval roadway. The mini reservoir is located just in front of the main building.

At the main hall of the main building, a skeleton of a huge seawater crocodile named “Rio” which is encased in a glass chest. And on the wall beside it hangs the skin of the said crocodile. This crocodile was caught somewhere in an island and was killed after it devoured a child. This remains of the crocodile showcases how big salt-water crocodiles can grow.

Aside from the giant crocodile remains, a skeleton of a Sperm Whale is also displayed near the crocodile encasing. The skeleton was retrieved from a dead whale found on the shores of Puerto Princesa. Also within the building is a small museum about crocodiles and other fossils.

We walk around following the group and upon reaching the pens at the back we saw “mac mac” the biggest seawater crocodile in the farm, which is 17 feet long and was basking in the sun, there is also “Valentino”, who is about 16 feet long.

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After the Crocodile farm the next stops were the Mitra Ranch and the Baker’s Hill where we bought some hopia to bring back home. Nothing much to see in the said places, but the scenic view of Honda Bay. Along the way to Mitra’s Ranch, we had a tricycle trouble and was transferred to another tricycle to continue with our city tour.

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Our next stop was at the tiangge, where they sell those cheap souvenirs and picked our way getting some to bring back home. Then we headed for the Baywalk, where I took some photos of it and then headed for Plaza Cuartel.

Plaza Cuartel is where a Japanese Garrison burned a number of American prisoners inside the tunnel and only 11 people escaped, as the inscription says “In this site which is a former military fort during the Second World War, happened the burning of more or less 150 American prisoners-of-war by the Japanese soldiers on 14 December 1944. Some survivors swam the sea to going to Iwahig [penal colony put up during the Commonwealth]. The remains of the dead were transported and buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis County, Missouri, United States, 1952.” With the names of those who perished inscribed in the monument and how they perished is a reminder what horrors war can bring.

Across the street is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. In 1872, a Spanish expedition proclaimed the Immaculate Conception of Mary as the patroness of Puerto Princesa. That same year, the first mass was celebrated here. However it took almost a century before the cathedral on Rizal Avenue, going to the pier, was built in 1961 under then Bishop Most Rev. Gregorio Espiga. The angular structure departs from most churches in other parts of the Philippines, providing visitors with an interesting glimpse of unconventional religious structure.

The century-old cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish has been known as the center of spiritual refuge for locals and visitors of Puerto Princesa City.
Located at Barangay Liwanag along Rizal Avenue, the main thoroughfare in the city, the blue cathedral is an eye-catching edifice because of its unique architectural design in the district.

The pointed arches remind you of Gothic castles and buildings built during medieval Europe but unlike them, the Immaculate Conception Parish is predominantly made of cement, and not limestone. Nonetheless, the sight of the towering cathedral evokes different emotions.

The cathedral was built during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines in the late part of the 1800s. Since then, it has become part of every Palawan local’s spiritual refuge, especially during the war.

Spanish Colonizers founded the settlement in Puerto Princesa on March 4, 1872. Scanning the Palawan shoreline for a capital site, the Spaniards found a steep hill and an extensive plateau, which they deemed was ideal for settlement.

Father Antonio Muro leveled a portion of the hill to make way for a chapel, the same location of the cathedral, which used to be a small church then, the historic Plaza Cuartel and local Rizal Park. By 1961, the locals changed the small church into the big cathedral it is known today.

The church’s patroness is the Immaculate Concepcion of Mary, the same icon found in Sta. Cruz, the capitol of Laguna province.

During my early morning visit to the cathedral, I saw a handful of locals who lived nearby the barangay reciting their prayers and offering flowers to religious icons in the church. According to my guide, the popularity of the church also relies on the countless blessings and miracles granted by the town patroness.

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It was around 1700hrs, so we decided to have an early dinner, which would be in Badjao Seafront for a different kind of ambiance.

Badjao Seafront is perched over the water at the end of a raised boardwalk over mangroves, is fairly high class in terms of service and table settings, but it’s the sea and mountain views that raise it above the ordinary.

Walking through the boardwalk along the mangroves, we reach the restaurant and was seated at the sides of the restaurant where you could hear splashes of the waves against the post the restaurant and the mangroves, we decided to have a light dinner this time compared to the dinner we had the previous nights and ordered Sizzling Squid, Seaweed Salad and Clam soup, which we shared together, relaxing and relishing the view of the sunset.

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After a relaxing dinner, we were then met by our tricycle driver, and told us a place about a cashew factory where we could buy cashew to bring back home, after passing by the place and buying some cashew, we headed out to Iwahig, for the Firefly Watching. I remember when we were kids, we would catch some fireflies and put them into a bottle to see them light up and since the fireflies in Manila are all gone (which is a sign of pollution), it was nice to see fireflies again.

We arrived at the Iwahig Firefly Watching at around 1900hrs and after paying for the banca we were ushered to the waiting area for our turn to ride the banca. After using the lifevest and the Salakot hat, we were told to hop on the banca where our guide told us all about fileflies, the people working at the area and the location of the place. It was nice to see not only the fireflies but the sky full of stars, we were having a great time rowing along the banks when we did not notice that we were back at our starting point and got off.

After a long trip back to our lodge and paying for our tour, we then freshened up for the night and rested for tomorrow would be the highlight of our trip to Puerto Princesa, which is the tour to the Underground River. While I was cleaning up our gears and packing our bags, 2 other guests came in the lodge and learned that they are with our group on the tour the next day.

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Waking up around 0500hrs and preparing for the day, then waited for our breakfast to arrive, since it was a Sunday, the store in front, where we buy our drinks were closed, and had to be contented with what we had. The van, which would pick us up, arrived at around 0800hrs, after getting our identification cards and payment for the environmental fee, we boarded the van and headed for Sabang. Along the way, we stopped at Halfway Rest Area, where our guide and driver had a bite to eat, and we were told that since we were early leaving the city proper and the other van was still back in Puerto Princesa with the original document for the Underground River, we were told that we would pass by Ugong Rock to kill time and not get bored at Sabang Port.

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Arriving at Ugong Rock Adventures, we were greeted by the staff with a little orientation on the place and told us that those who were interested in exploring the cave and the zip line would just register, and head to the fitting area for the gears. We decided to forgo this adventure and just had some halo-halo at the store, when I noticed that one of the safety crew was an old woman named “Marquita”, having a chat with her, she told me that she was 78 years old and would guide visitors inside the cave but did not try the zip line, she also told me that the other safety crew older than her tried the zip line but was on her day off so I did not get a chance to meet her.

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Moving on the Sabang Boat Terminal, where we registered and waited for our turn on the motorized banca, talking with others in the group and had some ice cream. Then our guide told us the it was our turn to ride the banca, and boarded it heading for the Underground River, another registration in the entrance, we then walked about 50 meters to the entrance of the Underground River and then waited for our turn, which gave me an opportunity to get some photos around the area. Our guide told us to go ahead and board the banca ahead of the group, wearing our life vests and helmet for the tour, we boarded the banca and our guide started paddling towards the entrance to the Underground River.

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located about 50 kilometers (30 mi) north of the city center of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. The river is also called Puerto Princesa Underground River. The national park is located in the Saint Paul Mountain Range on the northern coast of the island. It is bordered by St. Paul Bay to the north and the Babuyan River to the east. The City Government of Puerto Princesa has managed the National Park since 1992. The park is also known as St. Paul’s Subterranean River National Park, or St. Paul Underground River. The entrance to the Subterranean River is a short hike from the town of Sabang.
In 2010, a group of environmentalists and geologists discovered that the underground river has a second floor, which means that there are small waterfalls inside the cave. They also found a huge cave dome, measuring 300 meters above the underground river, incredible rock formations, large bats, a deep water hole in the river, more river channels, another deep cave, marine creatures, and more. Deeper areas of the underground river are almost impossible to explore due to oxygen deprivation.
On November 11, 2011, Puerto Princesa Underground River was provisionally chosen as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. This selection was officially confirmed on January 28, 2012.

The park has a limestone karst mountain landscape. The main attraction here is St. Pauls Underground River Cave – a more than 24 km long cave, which contains an 8.2-kilometer-long underground section of Cabayugan River. A distinguishing feature of the river is that it winds through the cave before flowing directly into the South China Sea, and is navigable with a boat up to 4 kilometres in from the sea. The cave includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers, including the 360-meter-long Italian’s Chamber with approximate 2.5 million square meters volume – one of the largest cave rooms in the world. The lower portion of the river up to 6 km from the sea, is subject to tidal influences. Until the 2007 discovery of an underground river in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River was reputed to be the world’s longest underground river.
The area also represents a habitat for biodiversity conservation. The site contains a full mountain-to-the-sea ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia. It was inscribed by UNESCO, as a World Heritage Site, on December 4, 1999.

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After the tour of the Underground River, we headed back to Sabang Boat Terminal, where we were directed to a hut were we would have our lunch, a buffet lunch was prepared for us and got some vegetables and fish with some fruits. We then boarded the van and headed back to Puerto Princesa, where we would be catching our flight back to Manila which was at 1750hrs, dropping us off at the lodge and collecting our bags, we were then brought by the tricycle to the airport and then checked in our bags and was glad we were not late on our flight. We then headed for the waiting lounge and relaxed a bit waiting for the plane to arrive. By 1800hrs we were told that we could board our flight and trooped out to the tarmac and boarded the plane, settling on our seats and with the usual drills on the plane, we were off the ground at around 1820hrs, and headed for Manila, which we arrived at around 1930hrs, collecting our bags and catching our ride back to our house for some needed rest for the next day would be a working day.

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Did we enjoy this trip? We were still in Puerto Princesa, and we were planning for another trip back to the place but this time going to El Nido. I for one, really enjoyed this trip and seeing for myself the stories I read and hear about the place, not only that but visiting one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a World Heritage Site, bringing our list to 4 out of 5 World Heritage Sites visited, the only place in the list we have not visited is the Tubbataha Reef, well maybe in the near future.

Stay safe till our next Adventure! Happy trails!

All photos are owned and copyrighted by Joey Rico (also known under these names: alien_scream).
All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use, copy, editing, reproduction, publication, duplication and distribution of the digital photos, without his explicit permission, is punishable by law

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.

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