Eco-tourism has been the new wave or the new culture that the Philippine government has trying to imbibe in restoring and maintaining world-class tourism. Nonetheless, before it has been totally implemented in the department of tourism, as far as I can remember, the province of Palawan already reflected this kind of culture and attitude in making their place locally and globally competitive.
‘Princes of Ports’
That has been the literal Spanish translation of Puerto Princesa according to the official website of Puerto Princesa City. Legend has it that there was once a princess with rare beauty roamed around the bay during night time, thus the name ‘Puerto Princesa’ was attributed. Other stories claimed, however, the reason for its name was because of the place’s geographic value as a harbor or port, being naturally sheltered by unfriendly weather the whole year and a suitable deepness for those ships to anchor during that time and thus the description ‘Princes of Ports’ was given (in Spanish, ‘Puerto Princesa’).
Love at ‘First Sight’
I was a first (1st) year in high school student when I was able to be at Palawan. It was our school’s annual Summer Camping that time and I was so excited because that was the first time I boarded a ‘real’ big ferry. It was definitely ‘Super’! I thought I did not need any medication for sea sickness, but when the boat started to move away from Manila port, I seemed that my world was literally turning upside-down. I really thanked God for the fast relief that time. It took almost half a day before we found our vessel in the ports of Palawan and indeed it was so different from the port where we came from.
During that time, we were surprised that there were a lot of divers making a living in the port itself. What made us be amazed of these divers was the fact that they were swimming in the harbor and we could never have had imagined it could possibly happen at the ports of Manila! These divers made a living by amusing tourists that if one of us throws a coin to the sea they would try to ‘dive’ for it!
When we arrived at Puerto Princesa City, we were welcomed by the bishop of Palawan (a proud alumnus of our institution) and we stayed at his place for the next day before totally camping out at Mount St. Paul. As first timers, many of us prepared for the camp and at the same time explored the city as we roamed around the place.
It was in Puerto Princesa that I first saw a signed board that prohibited ‘spitting’ in the city streets. Natives were so disciplined and the whole place was definitely a paradise! It was incomparable to the busy streets of Metro Manila. During that time, my classmates and I were talking about the place’s ‘charisma’ as if the city placed us under its spell and all we could say were words of admiration and wonder. The only regret that we had was we never had that much documentation as per taking some photos of the place. It was absolutely a very wonderful experience for us!
Camping at Mount St.Paul
Palawan was not yet through in giving us reasons to admire her wonders. When we went to Mount St. Paul, our Boy Scout master and leaders told us that we were going to hike to reach our campsite. I was very excited that time because, again, it would be my first time to really get ‘in touch’ with Mother Nature, as I hiked through Mount St. Paul. It was tiring and at the same time memorable experience for me. We stayed for almost five (5) days in camp, but it was indeed unforgettable. In those five (5) short days, we were able to appreciate sky or star gazing because the place was really away from the usual city lights. That was the time I saw a ‘shooting star’ and it was amazing! We never missed during our stay hiking our way to a very good swimming spot where we swam with big tides to our delight!
The Monkey Trail and the famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
The camp was designed for us to know and to be trained in the ways of a Boy Scout. For these reason, we were never treated as a ‘tourist’ that everything was available in one click. Nonetheless, it could be arranged though, if you visit the place as a tourist. For us, we were Boy Scouts to be trained and at the same time learn to appreciate nature. In order for us to enjoy the wonders of the underground river of Palawan, we needed to take a hike again through what they called that time the ‘Monkey Trail’. Living by the given name, the trail was indeed for monkeys freely roaming around because without the structure in which we were threading, we cannot be at the underground river, and only monkeys could jump from one rock to another to get to the other side. There was another way though, and it was through the bay boarding a small motor boat.
We were all exhausted when we reached the entrance of the underground river, but after a hearty lunch and few time of rest, again, we were back in action. After gearing up some safety paraphernalia, we boarded a small motor craft and entered our way through the cave’s opening. As soon as darkness enveloped us, the strong carbide lamps by the tourist guide illuminated a particular spot in the cave as they explained its significance. The most remarkable sight I had in this place was when the guide explained some sort of ‘cathedral’ or ‘church’ inside the river as they attributed religious figures to stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Before we left our campsite, we were given a sort of talk or conversation about caring for Mother Nature. It was then that I realized that even in my young age, I could contribute and do my share preserving the wonders of nature. I also realized that it was really possible for us to make a difference in caring for Mother Nature. As a final note, the official caretaker of Mount St. Paul prophesized that Palawan would be known because of the wonders Mother Nature had bestowed for them and it was up for the locals how they would act in order for them to thank Mother Nature by caring these wonders. Indeed, the custodian was correct Puerto Princesa or Palawan has been truly a ‘City in the Forest and Sports Tourism Capital of the Philippines’!