Our flight to Palawan signalled the start of the final leg of our trip in the Philippines. We’d avoided internal flights up to this point and felt vindicated when our flight was delayed. Our destination was Puerto Princesa (PP), the capital of Palawan Island.
Before heading to the beach, we had a half day city tour of PP. But due to the delayed flight, we were running late and our guide, Ada rattled off a list of all the sights we’d try to fit in.
We drove to the Bay Walk, a wide promenade, where fish restaurants open in the evening. We quickly discovered Ada wanted us to pose in front of every conceivable photo opportunity. We saw signs about their littering policy: 1st offence, 200 Peso/£3.30 fine, 2nd offence 300 Peso and a month in prison and the 3rd offence, 1000 Peso and two months in prison. On asking whether this was a new initiative, we realised Ada was good on her script, but not good on off-the cuff questions. There is a similar policy for smoking in a non-smoking area but without the prison sentence.
We drove onwards to Plaza Cuartel, a military base during WW2, where 150 American prisoners of war, were burned to death by the Japanese. Through the entrance, were story boards which we didn’t have time to fully read, before being directed to the statue dedicated to the 150 men.
We then walked to the nearby Cathedral which we confirmed we’d seen from the air, much to the amazement of Ada, but this did not stop her from rushing us through and onwards.
Next stop was the Iwahig Prison and Penal Colony. Once inside and with security sorted, Ada told us how this was an open prison where the prisoners, who live with their families, work on all types of activities. The road was very bumpy and we both thought the prisoners could have been trained on road surfacing. In the gift shop, where all the goods are made by the prisoners, we bought souvenir pens. It was then on to the dancing prisoners where 6 dancers performed a rap type routine to ‘You’re amazing’. Unfortunately, Ada was unable to understand my question about the downsides of being in the prison as it seemed like a good number.
At the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre our arrival was timed for touring the salt and fresh water crocodile pens. After an obligatory photo in front of a huge crocodile skeleton, we joined a huge noisy group. The overhead walkway took us above many tubs containing small crocodiles, going up in age until we hit the big boys and girls. Time restriction meant we had to leave the tour early and departed via an area where Roy held a small crocodile and stroked a huge snake.
At the Butterfly Eco Garden and Tribal Village, we were whisked through the butterfly area and into a tribal area at the back, for a talk on the tribes and their customs. This included handicrafts for sale and tartan, loin-clothed men giving various demonstrations: playing instruments, making a fire and using blow pipes to kill animals. Heading back into the butterfly area, once again, Roy did a sterling job by picking up a millipede, scorpion and putting his hand in a pool of nibbling fish.
Fortunately, pineapple weaving wasn’t available on a Sunday, so we drove up to Rancho Mitra the family home of a local politician. It’s now a noted visitors spot with good views, and the opportunity to see the house and undertake numerous family friendly activities.
Back in the car we drove down to Baker’s Hill a free, themed garden with lots of plants, sculptures and food and drink outlets. Once again, it was very busy with families and young children and not exactly a cultural highlight.
This was an exhausting tour which was followed by a two-hour drive up a narrow, twisting road to our hotel. When we arrived at 6pm, we headed straight for the bar!