Going to Palawan is a goal Filipinos and foreigners alike want to achieve. Palawan is well known throughout the world for its beautiful scenery and natural wonder.
So you can imagine how stoked I was when it was decided that we were going there. I’m dedicating my next three posts here on my Silence is the Enemy blog to our three and a half day trip. After the third post, an optional fourth post will be about a few insights, opinions and trivia I’ve come across during this adventure. My primary goal here is to share my experience in Palawan. But I would also like to give readers an idea of what to expect if they decide to spend a couple of days there.
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan’s capital, is about 420 kilometers south-west of Iloilo City. Our flight was at 7:15 A.M, and the ETA was at 8:25, but fortunately for us, the plane landed 20 minutes earlier.
After meeting with the van driver the travel agency arranged for us (hate to point out the obvious, but it’s way better to visit Puerto Princesa, or any tourist destination for that matter, through a travel agency), we immediately proceeded to Sitio Sabang, the site of one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, officially known as St. Paul Subterranean River National Park. Sabang is an hour and a half ride from the airport, but surprisingly, it’s still a part of Puerto Princesa City.
Nature, however had other plans. Right now, the only way to the Subterranean Park is by motor bancas crossing the sea, circling to another portion of Sabang because the jungle trail is closed for renovation (check this image from Google Maps for further information). The coast guard had cancelled the tour for the day due to strong waves brought about by the amihan. So the driver decided to take us to Ugong Rock, located at Tagabinet, about half an hour away from Sabang.
Ugong Rock offers a variety of activities for tourists. These include mountain hiking, spelunking and ziplining. We were given an orientation by the head of the people managing the cave. He explained that he, along with others who now serve as tour guides, used to be enemies of nature, destroyer of all things green, but somehow, the government, in cooperation with the ABS CBN Foundation’s Bantay Kalikasan in 2008, managed to turn their lives around by giving them livelihood in the form of stewardship over the cave and its surrounding natural resources. That’s pretty rad if you ask me.
Upon entering the cave, the first thing you’ll see (besides the stalagmites and stalactites) are weird formations on the walls. The guides (some of which are kababayans from Iloilo and Antique!) explained that geologists claim that the cave used to be under water, hence, the formations. They do look like they’ve been carved by water. Sounds bizzare since that point of the cave is 75 feet above sea level.
After progressing some more, we’ve reached what is probably the raddest part of the spelunking experience – rappelling up the mountain walls to reach the cave’s next level. It was my first time to rappel up anything, so it was a pretty fun but daunting experience. But more importantly, fun. I mean, how could you not find it fun when people violate your personal space to put cables and harness on your body, have you scale up the rocky wall of a cave where jagged rocks are hanging right above you, while listening to guides making “Lord Patawad” references? No, but seriously, it was very, very fun. You don’t get to experience that in the flat lands of Iloilo. What’s more fun, though, was the fact that my 68-year old great aunt spelunked (not sure if that’s the correct word to describe the act of spelunking) with us. Beat that, young’uns.
After climbing a few more stairs, and steep mountain walls, we reached the summit, and found out that there were only two ways to get back down: by scaling the cave again, the same way you did going up (a.k.a the hard way), or the easy way – by zipline (which costs extra I might add)! Pretty good business tactic by the owner. People are most likely too tired or too freaked out to climb back down, so ziplining would be the obvious choice. Again, it costs extra.
I’ve never ziplined my entire life because height-o-phobia. I was *this* close to zipline in Loboc, Bohol (connecting the 2 mountains surrounding Loboc river, where the floating restos are located) two years ago but chickened out at the last minute.
It wasn’t all that bad. The most scary/freaky/exhilarating/fun part is the drop. It goes like “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh—- meh, whatever, I wasn’t scared, psssh”. Of course, you have to purchase (for 150 PhP) the photo of you screaming like a little baby falling 75 feet down a cable.
Ugong Rock is a pretty good “warm up” for tourists as they embark on an adventure in Palawan. It gets your blood pumping (quite literally, I might add) to prep you up with even more exciting activities.