Friday, September 28, 2012

Pampered in Palawan's Puerto Princesa City (Part 1)

It’s a long shot! That’s what I’d tell myself whenever thoughts of going to Palawan seduced me. For the longest time, I’ve been resisting the seduction to explore the island, which lesser mortals, including me, perceive as one of the big-ticket destinations in the Philippines.

A glimpse of Puerto Princesa City
It’s quite a dilemma because this adventure junkie is raring to see that part of the country yet there’s this nagging thought that such a short-term caprice — should  I choose to give in to it—could mutate into a long-term calvary for the coffers. LOL!

Having learned my lessons from past excesses, I’ve become scrimpy as far as traveling is concerned, making the most out of whatever and wherever my rather limited means could take me. If it would cost me an arm and a leg, forget it. I’d readily abort any frilly folly no matter how tempting it may be. Ergo, to splurge thousands of cash on, say, a 4D/3N vacay in Palawan is definitely out of the question. 

But, lo and behold, I’ve made it to the Philippines’ Last Frontier just recently! How did that happen? Well, I think it was fate which paved the way for my coming and indulging in guiltless pleasure in the island at a time I least expected it. It all began when I got this invite plus a super low-priced ticket—thank you, generous sponsor!—for a September interlude in that elongated island that’s one of the most raved about hotspots among local and foreign tourists. I guess I was really fated to see Palawan this month what with the advent of some half expected godsend that came my way in the nick of time.

Puerto Princesa Airport
I think I also have to attribute to fate the slackening of my schedules (at a time considered the onset of the peak season for us) and the speedy approval of my request for a respite from work. Also, the timing of our visit couldn’t have been more providential as plane fares, food and accommodations, including guided tours, were at their lowest because it’s the rainy season. Now, with all those things falling into place, who wouldn’t surrender sweetly to the seduction named Palawan?

Honda Bay
As the date of our hastily planned trek drew near, the thrill of seeing one of my dream destinations grew intense by the day. Er, should I say, by the hour? LOL! So, by the time I, along with my companions, left for the island, I was burning with excitement all the way to Palawan. Landing at the airport after a nearly hour-and-a-half flight, it seemed so unreal that I had to slap my cheeks for a reality check. Now, that part hurt a bit because I wasn’t dreaming. LOL! I was indeed in a wonderland made up of 1,769 wonderful islands! 

Long before our vacay plans were hatched, I’ve already put the island up there on a pedestal of must-see local destinations and Palawan didn’t disappoint me. After roaming around its capital, it’s no longer a question to me now why Puerto Princesa has been hailed as the Philippines’ cleanest city. Believe it or not, Ripley, there were very few traces, if any, of rubbish, garbage, litter or what have you around the city. Undoubtedly, cleanliness isn’t just hype for the folks out there; it’s a habit they practice every single day! 

Puerto Princesa Baywalk

Populated by around 220,000 Palawe├▒os, the so-called “city in a forest”, which is found in the central part of the island province, is the epitome of a modern-day Eden: verdant, vivid, vestal. And Puerto Princesa is blessed with a seaport so charming she literally lives up to her name as “princess of ports”, at least in that corner of the world. I bet even the most picky among princesses would dare tread in the city whose name rings with royalty!  

Sabang Beach
Outside the capital, the scenic rural landscapes await to mesmerize first-timers and frequenters. For Palawan’s inherent charms are found in its numerous postcard-perfect sceneries—towering karsts, enchanting coves, turquoise waters, lofty mountains, virgin forests—that tug the heart, inspire the mind and revitalize the soul. Not even the gloomy skies nor the capricious drizzles during our visit could diminish my admiration for the island’s innate beauty. Believe me, I felt so pampered the whole time I was there even as bad weather messed up our tour.  

It was Palawan’s sandy shores, however, which this incorrigible beach bum really looked forward to exploring. A two-hour drive into the countryside, which had us snaking through a well-paved highway (for the most part, that is), brought me and my companions to one of the most popular destinations in Puerto Princesa—Sabang Beach, the take-off point to the subterranean river. Despite the intermittent rains that hampered our trip, its pristine shores had me big time the moment my beach-hungry feet touched Sabang’s immaculate sands.
Sabang Beach

I’ve seen other more famous beaches in the country but Sabang is something different. Nothing prepared me for it. It felt surreal just watching those frothy surges smashed the beach with a savagery that seemed to tear apart the great divide separating the seaboard from the sea. While this was happening, amazing breaking waves pounded the craggy ridges, producing giant sprays and cloudy mists that reminded me of the movies I’ve seen. 

Whew! Those whimsical displays of nature’s daily tantrums are simply phenomenal! Geez, Sabang Beach is surely one spot that surfing enthusiasts would consider their sanctuary, along with Baler (Aurora), San Juan (La Union), Pagudpud (Ilocos Norte) and Siargao (Surigao del Norte), to name some of the other surf sites that’s part of my must-see list. Wind and wave worshippers, pros and rookies alike, will have a field day in that famous beach in Puerto Princesa as they ride high on the mighty crests coming from the West Philippine Sea. 

If Sabang Beach hypnotized me, Honda Bay heated me up. All my pent-up emotions for Palawan wanted to break loose as we went around that impressive body of water, undoubtedly one of the most picturesque parts of the city. “Yeehaw!” I blurted out, unable to contain myself. Dotted with several islands, Honda Bay delights sightseers with a magnificent view of sea and sky that seem to conspire in inundating the senses with stirring memories. 

Never for a moment did my companions and I regret our decision to avail of an island cruise around Honda Bay even as overcast skies threatened to wreak havoc to the tour. By golly, we not only got a chance to explore two nice islands, Pandan and Luli, but we’re able to catch a glimpse of the others which had very interesting names: Bat, Cowrie, Snake, Starfish, and of course, the notorious Dos Palmas, to name some.

(to be continued…)

More pics: