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.
I 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.
- KaLui Restaurant (048-4332580/09477617191) along Rizal Ave.
First 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.
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.
Ponder 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.
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.
4. Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (Crocodile Farm and Nature Park) along Puerto Princesa South Road
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.
5. Palawan Butterfly Ecological Garden & Tribal Village in Sta. Monica
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.
6. Shopping for souvenirs in Puerto Princesa
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.
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.
7. Al fresco dinner at the Baywalk
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.
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.