Category Archives: PROVENANCE

Feature on the provinces with a brief overview of their history

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A Day’s worth of backpacking in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

I had read so many wonderful features about Palawan I thought it was high time I got acquainted with this part of the country, so I grabbed the first opportunity I had to visit the province. I hopped on an Air Asia Zest airplane and arrived in Puerto Princesa City, its capital, in over just an hour.

1 RAQ Pensionne Bed2 RAQ artworkI first checked in at RAQ Pensionne Bed & Breakfast (048-4341429/09175532884) located at Malvar Street to freshen up. For just P 1,000 overnight stay for a single bed regular room, it comes with air conditioning, private toilet & bathroom, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, and breakfast. They also have Family Rooms at an affordable P 2,500 per night. Hung on the walls of the hallways are colorful paintings made by local artists depicting everyday scenes, flora and fauna.

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  1. KaLui Restaurant (048-4332580/09477617191) along Rizal Ave.

4 KaLui RestaurantFirst stop over is brunch at KaLui Restaurant which is famous for offering exclusive seafood and veggie menu all year round. Feast on fresh seafood such as tuna steak, prawns and seaweed salad, paired with organically grown veggie recipes, topped off with fruits in season. Pocket gardens and native hut motif add to the unique dining experience. The owner’s collection of paintings, wooden masks, collectibles, and artfully arranged centerpieces of flowers, fruits and veggies are crowd drawers, so make sure to call in advance to make a reservation if you are coming in groups to make sure you have a table. Otherwise, be ready to line up for a seat.

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2. Plaza Cuartel and Immaculate Conception Cathedral along Taft Street

Walk off your lunch and give your digestive juices ample time to break down the nutrients by taking in the sights in and around the city. Start off with Plaza Cuartel and the church which is just across the street from the plaza’s landmark gate, the only remnant of a once magnificent garrison during the Spanish Period which was destroyed during World War II. Now a war memorial garden, panels with photos depicting the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers and the valor of local Filipino guerillas and their American counterparts have been recently set up to honor Palawan’s veteran soldiers and heroes. You may also sit in the shade in one of the many benches and enjoy a picturesque view of the Puerto Princesa Bay, with fishermen’s boats docked on the shore.

6 church facade7 church interiorsPonder on the cost of freedom inside the church with its high vaulted ceiling and beautiful stained glass design at the altar, awash in soft blue natural light filtered through the colored glass windows. The ambiance is relaxed and peaceful, making the church a favorite venue for weddings.

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3. Palawan Special Battalion World War II Museum along Rizal Ave. Ext.

Officially opened to the public in 2011 on the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing, December 7, the museum started as a private collection of Ret. Vice Admiral Higinio “Buddy” C. Mendoza. The museum has five galleries which profile the countries which participated in World War II – the United States, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia. There are soldier’s uniforms, weapons, flags, armaments, and other relics. Post war photos of Palawan are displayed at the main entrance, including a collection of rare stamps released by the postal service depicting the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, donated by an American collector to the museum.

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4. Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (Crocodile Farm and Nature Park) along Puerto Princesa South Road

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Minimal entrance fees (P 40.00 for adults and P 25.00 for children) lead you into an hour spent in the company of freshwater crocs. The first croc breeding farm in the country established in 1987, a tour guide will show you the hide and skeleton of a large croc displayed in the lobby, second only to the famous Lolong (20 feet 3 inches), which was placed in captivity when it tried to devour a local fisherman. The fisherman died, and the croc died a few months later due to “stress” in captivity. You walk through pens with baby crocs, and are allowed to feed the older ones with fish and chopped chicken meat should your visit happen during feeding time. There is a photo booth where you are allowed to pose with live baby crocs, and a canteen in the compound offering croc sisig, tapa, tocino and teriyaki should you feel up to partaking of some croc meat. There are also assorted birds and other animals in the croc farm.

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5. Palawan Butterfly Ecological Garden & Tribal Village in Sta. Monica

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Minimal Entrance Fee (P 50.00 per person) showcases an assortment of tropical butterflies with live exhibits of scorpions, beetles and mantises which are considered their natural predators. Added attraction is the rescued endemic wildlife of Palawan such as the Palawan Peacock and bearcat. Visitors are given the rare chance to interact with the Palaw’an Tribe, one of Palawan’s many indigenous tribes. Witness them play musical instruments such as the gong and kudyapi, demonstrate how they hunt using blow pipes that shoot two darts, and two kinds of spears, make a fire using flint and aromatic resin, and carry packages on their backpacks made of indigenous materials. Souvenir photos with their pet snake are an instant hit with visitors. At the end of the tour, visitors will get a chance to bring home Palaw’an made crafts and other souvenirs that are hand crafted by the local village folks.

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6. Shopping for souvenirs in Puerto Princesa

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As there are several souvenir shops scattered throughout the city, you have a wide variety to choose from. The usual printed shirts and beach wear are never out of stock. South Sea Pearls are open for price haggling. Wood crafts with exquisite detail are in abundance – from masks in various sizes for wall décor, to carved wooden statues and fruit bowls. Wooden Manunggul jar replicas are available. The Manunggul Jar is a secondary burial jar excavated from a Neolithic burial site in Tabon Caves of Lipuun Point, Palawan dating from 890–710 B.C. The two prominent figures at the top handle of its cover represent the journey of the soul to the afterlife. The Manunggul Jar is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest Philippine pre-colonial artworks ever produced and is a considered a masterpiece.

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Of course, food products such as roasted cashew nuts, pastries, dried fish and dried squid are quite popular with tourists. Some shop for fresh seafood in the local market and fly them home packed in coolers with crushed ice.

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7. Al fresco dinner at the Baywalk

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Cap off your day with grilled seafood dinner and a barbecue in one of the many inexpensive al fresco dining places along the boulevard. For P 300.00 you already have dinner for two, P 500 for 5 persons, and P 1,000.00 for 10 persons. This includes fish sinigang (soup), grilled fish, steamed shrimps, grilled squid, assorted barbecue (chicken & pork), seaweed salad, eggplant with tomatoes & onions, steamed veggies (okra, kamote tops), two pitchers of iced tea and 10 cups of rice. That’s a steal at an average cost of P100.00 per head! Or you can just choose from the fresh catch on display as lobsters, crabs and clams are not included in the set menu and have them cooked to your specification – a bit more expensive but still a lot cheaper compared to fine dining establishments.

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This coverage was made possible as a part of USAID’s Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (COMPETE) project which seeks to increase competitiveness of economic growth areas including Palawan, in partnership with the Department of Tourism and the Province of Palawan.

Special thanks to Air Asia Zest Airlines for sponsoring our roundtrip airfare from Manila to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

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jeepney rooftop (header)

a day’s worth of backpacking in Bohol

We wanted to see how we would fare if we took the public transportation to visit Bohol’s most famous tourist sites, and so we started off from Tagbilaran City’s plaza near the cathedral at around 9:00 a.m. where we rode a jeep to Baclayon. Fare P 8.00 per head, travel time around 20 minutes.

a day's worth of backpacking in bohol

The Baclayon Church is one of the more famous old churches in Bohol. Its parking lot was filled with tourist buses, vans for hire and private vehicles which came in and out at all times of the day.

It was my first time inside the church. As is staple to old churches, there were several statues at the altar, carved woodwork on the door panels and church pews, paintings on the walls and ceilings and stained glass windows. I dropped in on the souvenir shop and saw all sorts of religious items for sale such as rosaries and prayer beads made of several materials including the expensive Swarovski crystal. I bought a sapphire blue rosary for P 450.00 as a momento.

We stayed for a while near the belfry where we took several souvenir photos. Our photographer from the Manila Bulletin newspaper Noel Pabalate pointed out a shape on one of the churches’ stone façade which resembled the face of a friar. According to him, it was first noticed by a student who called the attention of the sisters running the convent. It has become an iconic example of Baclayon’s religious devotion to the church and its patron saint/s.

We went out back to look for the shop selling the famous Marzipan biscuits/bread but was informed they had ran out of stocks due to a deluge of tourists the day before.

a day's worth of backpacking in bohol

We went back to the main road to wait for a jeepney ride to our next stop. After about 30 minutes, we were able to catch a jeep for Loboc where they have the famous Loboc river cruises and floating restaurants. Fare from Baclayon to Loboc was P 18.00 per head with travel time of about 45 minutes.

We alighted at Loboc Plaza which was just adjacent to the parish church of San Pedro Apostol and the Loboc Tourism Office and Waiting Lounge housing the boat terminal for the river cruises. Since most of the floating restaurants started at lunchtime (11 a.m.), we had to wait around for 30 minutes since we arrived early. A good thing there were several souvenir shops and snack kiosks to while away the time.

There were around four choices for the river cruises, each one revolving on a particular theme or menu, complete with live music entertainment. There was also a choice between day cruise (inclusive of lunch) or night cruise (inclusive of dinner) at P 400.00 per head. Capacity per boat was anywhere from 30-50 pax.

After a perfunctory lunch and a quick stop over at a balsa where a group of locals serenaded us with native songs and dances, we left at around 1:00 p.m. for a bus ride to the interior town of Corella to visit The Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc. Entrance fee was at P 20.00 per head.

a day's worth of backpacking in bohol

Bus fare cost P 21.00 with a travel time of around 45 minutes.

From the registration area, we walked down a dirt road for about 10 minutes before reaching the sanctuary. According to the tour guide, tarsiers are nocturnal animals and should not be disturbed at daytime. They commit suicide in captivity due to trauma from touching and loud noise. They have the slowest fetal growth rates of any mammal, taking 6 months to reach a birth weight of 23 grams. They are able to move about at night, but are wary of cats and snakes which usually prey on them.

Every morning, the tour guides go into the sanctuary to locate the three adults and one baby tarsier they currently have.

On our way from the sanctuary back to the main road, we met several foreign tourists riding rented motorcycles.

The staff at the registration area advised us that if we missed the 3:00 p.m. ride back to Loboc, we would have to wait another hour for the next ride.

We waited for 30 minutes before a jeepney headed for Loboc came along. Since it was already full, two of us had to ride on the roof since we did not want to wait another hour.

It was my first roof ride even though I came from the province. It was a good thing it was a balmy day, otherwise we could have gotten sunburned. The view was exhilarating and we had fun waving to kids who thought we were Koreans! From this experience, we learned that jeepney and bus rides in the province usually served as couriers as well, dropping off passengers and their packages on their front gates! So every now and then, it was normal for stopovers at someone’s residence, or little detours on side roads to drop off packages.

Back at Loboc, we had to wait another 30 minutes before a bus headed for the chocolate hills of Carmen passed by and it was jampacked, even worst than Manila’s MRT at rush hour! First thing we verified was that the last trip from Carmen back to Tagbilaran City was at 5:00 p.m.

So we squeezed into the bus along with all the other passengers. Just like Manila buses, bus aisles were also maximized to full capacity. Unlike Manila buses however, the front half of the bus were all seats with no aisle. After about an hour into the journey, I was ready to grab the next seat vacated. To our surprise, the elderly were just as agile and frisky in hitching rides on jampacked buses as did the young. Bus fare was P 31.00 each at over an hour travel time.

a day's worth of backpacking in bohol

We reached the Chocolate Hills at around 4:30 p.m. and rode motorcycles at P 40.00 per head up to the view deck. Entrance fees were at P 50.00 per head.

At the view deck were several tour buses and lots of parked motorcycles. One had to go up a flight of stairs (I lost count at 50) to get a bird’s eye view of the hills. They were spread over several hectares of land and were covered in green grass since it was the rainy season. At summertime, they turn brown when the grass dies under the scorching heat of the sun.

Tagbilaran’s museum diorama explains that mainland Bohol could have been under the ocean in pre-historic times, a possible reason why several fossils of shells, volcanic rock and limestone are abundant in the area even though Carmen is an interior town and far from the ocean.

After about 20 minutes, we hurriedly made our way back to the main road to catch the last trip back to the city. It was a good thing we were able to grab some empty seats because it took an hour and a half back to Tagbilaran City.

We were back in the city plaza at 7:00 in the evening.

a day's worth of backpacking in bohol

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