Barangay Irawan's is one of the district of Puerto Princesa City not very far from the crocodile farm. It’s fame is owed to its being home to Asia’s longest canopy zipline at 1.3 kilometers long with it’s fascinating skywalk. But I’m not going to talk about the Eco-Park. I’m starting to explore the off-the-beaten path of the city like I used to in other countries, I simply like small villages. I walked along the main road from the reception of the Eco-Park and spotted this sloping down road and heard a water flow, so there must be a river and my instinct once again is confirmed. Yes, there’s a river just beside the main road where kids are having a swim.
The river is clean and there are some locals washing their clothes. The barangay (district or village) itself is quaint, very local and the street is lined with huge trees. The atmosphere is very local and evokes authentic forest feeling.
You can visit Irawan and its river by taking a multicab with “Irawan” sign on it and get off at the corner junction and walk your way to the road all the way to Irawan Eco-Park, if you’re heading there – for the zipline of course. Or you can always book the eco-park’s package deal at PHP1,300 inclusive of hotel pick-up, lunch, zipline, and almost all of their facilities.
We hit the road to B.M. and at the end of it is the Hartman Beach. The first beach resort charging 10 pesos per person right at the end of the road isn’t that good, too many seaweeds and water is so shallow, so we headed few meters to the next one. The water is also shallow maybe because it’s early in the morning but the place is a lot better than the first one. Entry fee is 20 pesos per person.
Here’s the google map location: http://goo.gl/maps/h0RIV
It’s not (yet) crowded and the place is clean and well maintained. Tall coconut trees dot the whole sands, plenty of wooden table and benches (cost of use at 60 pesos), small huts on the edge of the beach (at 300 pesos), barbecue facility, toilets and showers, and a nice big ballroom-type of platform jutting on the water, I could just imagine this is a nice place to have a wedding, it's romantic esp. for a sunset kind of wedding, or some parties or any other events.
The water is still low at noontime, we’ve already walked about 50 or so meters, still the water is up to knee-deep. I wonder though if it gets higher in the late afternoon as we’ve left the place around noon time? I got impatient with the slow height movement of the tide. It’s safe though for kids. There are families having a picnic, group of teens having some barbecue and the occasional foreign tourists.
The best time to get to Hartman Beach is probably afternoon, if you want to swim otherwise you’ll just be soaking your feet on the water in the early morn. It’s quiet though and tranquil during mornings there, so if you just want to feel serenity, a nice walk along a calm palm-dotted beach, Hartman Beach can be a good beach - I didn't say excellent - just good within the city.
The Irawan Art Cafe and Gallery is actually the reception/registration hall for the many activities in the eco-park including the 1.3 kilometer or so zipline, dubbed as “Asia’s longest Zipline”. Other activities are Skywalk, Tarzan Swing, Wall Climbing, Jungle and River trail, Carabao cart ride, and the Butterfly Garden.
But the reception area itself is a garden restaurant serving Asian cuisine, a nice display of artsy handicrafts, a beautiful nature retreat with lots of hammocks and a tent where you can spend a night or two. Even if you’re not taking the zipline or join any of their activities, you can always hang out at the registration ground garden café, swing at one of the hammocks and read a nice book. Relaxing atmosphere surrounded by tall trees, fairy statues, some livestock, grassy lawn, just don’t forget to bring a mosquito off-lotion as I got beaten twice or so.
But of course people go there for the zipline, so if you want to have that exhilarating experience hanging your way along a more than kilometer zipline with spectacular views of tall trees in the jungle and rivers, get there, it may turn out to be the highlight of your trip in Puerto Princesa.
You can go on your own at the registration area in Baranggay Irawan by multicab (sign “Irawan”), when you get there, look for the very friendly Randy at the reception. The zipline and all activities are on top of the mountain, some 800 meters away up on a zigzag road).
If you’re heading to the St. Paul Subterrenean River or popularly known as Underground River – a must-see if you’re in Puerto Princesa, you’ll be passing by Sabang – a small municipality/town in Puerto Princesa city.
Although it does not offer much activities for tourists and travelers passing this way, it’s worth to note that there’s a nice beach at Sabang. And if you get stuck at this place, there are some guesthouses and places to stay, and restaurants too.
If you’re on the way to the underground river, you’ll be taking boats from the port of Sabang. There are boats that can also be rented in case you fancy going around the area. There are also boats here that goes all the way to El Nido, although the trip could be very long, about 8 hours – that long.
From the city centre of Puerto Princesa, take a tricycle or multicab with a "San Jose" signboard to the "New Market". The trip from San Jose Terminal to Sabang run takes about 3 hours or so.
Much like the very busy baywalk in Manila city, Puerto Princesa City Baywalk is a long stretch of promenade, well paved walkway right beside the bay. The kilometer or so cemented walkway is lined with palm trees, some flowers and lamp posts.
Several marble benches beside the trees and facing the bay or just sit at the long ledge on the edge of the bay, nice way to watch the sunset in the afternoon. Few steps from the promenade are lines of foodcarts selling cold drinks, various streetfood like fried fishballs, skewered chicken innerds which I don’t think I would be able to muster shoving into my mouth. Not ready for it yet.
The beautiful mountain range is visible at a fair distance as well as some kampong or hamlet of houses on the water.
The city baywalk is a nice place to may be jog around, brisk walk or just inhale fresh air. I spotted a group of students rehearsing some dance moves.
Just beside the Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral is a small park, sort of a small-ish version of Luneta or Rizal Park in the city of Manila.
No entry fee getting in the plaza.
The fortress-looking entrance has an underground tunnel on its left side.
The story is this (as narrated by the survivors), the place is an old garrison during the WW2 when the Japanese soldiers captured 143 american soldiers, imprisoned them on this small tunnel and on December 14, 1944, the Japanese soldiers pour gasoline on the prisoners and set them on fire. Eleven of them were able to escape by swimming all the way to Iwahig. The remains of those who died were sent back to Missouri where they finally were laid to rest at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
This did remind me of the time when we were at the Canakkale Naval Museum some years back. I was with an Australian couple and while scrutinizing the black and white old photographs depicting the bravery of the Turkish soldiers against the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), I heard them saying that the story conveyed by the photos and texts are different from what they have back home. I suddenly realized, of course, stories will be different from each sides, it will always depend on where you’re standing. In Turkey, they will definitely proclaim bravery and heroism, the protagonist, whereas, if your stand is from the other side of the fence, then the heroism will also be on that side.
Which again reminded me of Arthur N. Chamberlain’s quote “In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.”
Going back to Plaza Cuartel, in an effort to honor the gallantry of the American POWs and as promised by the former Mayor of the city – Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn – to Don Schloat (former WW2 American POW), the commemorative marker was built. The bronze marker is located on the right side of the walkway. The unfortunates are listed on one side of the quad-pyramid memorial with a statue of a skinny guy that probably depicts the suffering of the American soldiers under the hands of Japanese soldiers. There’s also another bronze marker listing of the names of the American POWs who were able to escape the tormentors.
The whole place is a landscaped garden with some really huge trees, several plants, walkways with the shapes of leaves etched on them, some benches, a local horse carriage, a small waterfalls with an equally small bridge. At the far end is a nice view of the ocean with kampong – a small village of houses, some perched on the water.
Another stop-over, part of the “City Tour” package offered by most hotels or tour operators in the city is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. But you can always visit the cathedral whenever you’re staying near the city center.
The present baby blue painted church is built in homage to Mary (mother of JC) during the 1960s. The original church was a small chapel built during the Spaniards occupation of the Philippines when they proclaimed the Immaculate Conception of Mary as the patroness of Puerto Princesa city.
For devout Christians, this is a nice place to stay for awhile, ponder and pray. For architectural fans, it’s a big structure but not much in the way of awe and amazement, but for cultural sake, get in and observe a part of the Filipino Christian culture.
The cathedral is located along the main thoroughfare of Rizal Avenue and just few strides away from the Plaza Cuartel, another sight to visit in the city.
The Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center popularly known as Crocodile Farm is a favorite attraction of the city. You can reach this attraction by either joining a tour called “City Tour” offered by your hotel or any tour operators in town, the airconditioned van group tour costs 600 pesos per person and it includes the highlights of the city of Puerto Princesa.
My bubbly nephew is one of the tour van driver, hook up with me and I could hook you up with him for a discounted rate. But since I’m a local, I took it the hard (not so actually) way, hailing a multicab along the highway. You could also find these multicabs along Rizal Avenue at the downtown near Jollibee with the sign “Irawan”. Just tell the driver that you’re going to Crocodile Farm, fare is only 10 pesos, unless of course you’re a big group, hiring a tricycle or renting a van would be cost-effective.
Crocodile farm, just as the name suggests, is a sanctuary for those reptiles, they breed crocodiles in here. Do you know that some restaurants are offering it cooked as a delicacy? – eouw!
Entrance fee is 40 pesos, students get a discount. They have a couple of minutes introduction session prior to the tour for a couple of minutes and then you’re on your own. There’s a huge open hall where small crocodiles are in breed captivity in small to medium sizes. Bigger ones are down the swampy area, there’s a bridge for visitors to watch those crocs below. There’s a really huge one down there named … hmmm.. I forgot the name actually.
Aside from crocodiles, they keep some endangered animal species scattered in huge cages around the forest wildlife park like talking maynahs, eagles, bearcats, a lonely snake, and others. There are also a lot of trees and different kind flora, some of them have labels – scientific names – some are rare species. You just have to follow the clearly marked paths.
The highlight for me – aside from the crocs of course – are the lovely talking Hill Mynahs of Palawan. Scientific name: Gracula religiosa palawanensis, also called the Philippine Talking Mynah or simply Palawan Mynah.
They’re lovely black birds with yellow beaks that mimic human speech. They’re amazing creatures, almost unbelievably smart birds that talks like- you know - humans? When I first saw them in a big cage sitting on a tree and I started hearing whistles blowing particularly the “you’re sexy” whistles and several “wows” I thought they’re coming from people around, took me a minute or two before I’d figured out it’s actually coming from those black birds. I was so amused, never really seen birds talking, except from some parrots I saw at a pet store few months back that meows and whistles. Well, its cage is beside several kittens.
OK, going back to those talking mynahs of Palawan, throw them some words, and if you’re lucky, they’d shout the same words back at you. Although, they already have sets of memorized words like “panget” (Filipino word for ugly).
After exploring the crocodile farm, getting out of the area is easy, there are multicabs running along the highway in front of the gate for 10 pesos back to the downtown, or take the parked tricycles there if it’s not closing time already when most of them are gone.
After visiting Baker's Hill, just few minutes walk, about 5 – 8 minutes on a well concrete road is Mitra’s Ranch. As the name suggests, it’s a ranch named after the owner (or former?) Ramon "Monching" Villarosa Mitra Jr., a prominent Filipino statesman, diplomat, and a renowned pro-democracy activist.
It’s a nice landscaped ranch with the original pyramid-shaped house of the former senator with several horses and ponies available for riding for a fee of course. The rolling hill down to the zipline is a nice grassy area where you can sit and relax. Yes, there’s a zipline where you can glide down the valley.
The place is nestled on top of the hill and commands an invigorating views of the mountains, the green plains, and the ocean from a good distance. The air is a bit colder and refreshing here.
Like the neighboring Baker’s Hill, entry at Mitra’s Ranch (also called Sta. Monica Ranch) is free.
To reach the place, you can book the “City Tour” that cost 600 pesos including several stops of the highlights of the city which includes the crocodile farm, baker’s hill, cathedral, etc.
Or you can always hail those notorious tricycles. If you’re on your adventurous element, you can combine visits to both Baker’s Hill and Mitra’s Ranch on your own by tricycle stopping first at Baker’s Hill and walking your way to Mitra’s Ranch and taking a tricycle back to where you’re staying.
One of the things that comes to mind for some tourists who visit this place is the delicious “hopia”, a local pastry that originated from immigrants of Fujian province (mainland China) who introduced it into the country, in various flavours. It’s being sold at the small bakeshop near the main entrance – very strategic location indeed.
Yet, Bakers Hill is not at all about the yummy hopia nor the devilish brownies nor the cheesy ensaymadas. The hilltop attraction in Puerto Princesa is the best landscaped garden I’ve ever seen in the city. The plants and trees are beautifully arranged and contoured, some plants are of rare species, mostly flowering and fruit-bearing, well-cared for by several gardeners, and there are themed gardens with several statues, Marilyn Monroe in her signature red dress, the iconic statue of the baker, and the voluptuous lady will greet you near the entrance, all the cast of Shrek are there, Snow White and her 7 dwarves and of course the iconic statue of the fat baker.
Down inside the gardens you’ll find a big cage of amazing talking birds (Mynahs), a colourful lonely pheasant chicken, some majestic peacocks, geese, and other creatures. Themed gardens - Japanese garden, orchid-roofed house, some beautifully recycled broken ceramics, lovely umbrella-shaped trees, bonsai shrubs, ponds, an observation deck where the view of the ocean is visible, and several other interesting stuff.
There’s a nice restaurant, some drinks and bakery booths and the main residence – which is an architectural beauty itself - of the owner (I presume, who is the landscape artist herself) just beside the gate and the souvenir shop.
Just before leaving the premise, don't forget to grab some bake goodies - the hopia is delicious, the cheesy ensaymada is to-die-for, the choco-chip topped brownies are irresistible, and several others that will be a good treat for you and a nice gift to friends back home.
Entry is free!
Among the many places I’ve visited in Palawan was Narra. It offers pristine white islands and other worthwhile tourist activities that allowed me enjoy my stay. I will be sharing the five things I did in there and hopefully you will find those stuffs enjoyable as well.
1. Visit the white beaches of Rasa Island
2. Have a dip in the cool waters of Estrella Water Falls
3. Enjoy the San Isidro Hot Springs
4. Go Trekking at Mount Victoria and/or Sultan Peak
5. Do birdwatching and visit the Wildlife Sanctuary at Rasa Island!:D
The islands have an area of scenic landscape and high biodiversity. Within the bay, there are numerous islands and islets that offers a wide range of option for marine and land activities. Wherever you are in El Nido, just arrange a boat trip or more with your hotel or resort and begin to explore. You may have a private tour for you alone or join a group which is more fun.
I highly recommend a day trip to the Underground River in Sabang. The river was fascinating and the surrounding scenery is beautiful. The whole day was so much fun, we had a delicious lunch in Sabang and then relaxed on the beach which was secluded and peaceful, a beautiful rugged beach - no tourists just locals going about their day. We enjoyed our trip so much because we had a great guide so choose yours wisely! I recommend Joseph from Floral Travel, they have an office near Puerto Princessa airport. A very funny guy!
If you want to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Puerto Princesa, don't miss the Hunda Bay (not Honda) islang hopping. In our trip, we went to Pandan and Snake Islands. Travel time is about 30mins from the Hunda Bay pier via rented boats. There you can see white sand beaches, corals and various kinds of fish! Snorkling, aside from swimming, is the best activity you can do on these islands. It's more convenient if you have a travel agency where they will be the one to arrange the transportation, fees and others. In our case, we had 3B's Tours & Travels. They charge P1,350/pax inclusive of van rental (w/ transpo from airport-guesthouse-hunda bay and vice versa), boat rental and lunch.
If you wish to see diddy plants, birds and their emblem- the peafowls, and buy some goodies, Baker's Hill in Palawan is one of the itineraries of your city tour in case you booked one.
If you're traveling via local transportation (a tricycle ), one way trip will cost you 70 - 75 pesos one way trip, about 15 minute drive from Poblacion, make your driver wait if you don't like to have difficulty leaving the area since there are no tricycles roving, 150 pesos for a round trip isn't expensive. And don't forget to give a tip since tricycle drivers in Puerto Princesa are helpful enough to guide you, tell you stories AND patient enough to wait for you. :-)
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Mangenguey Island, Philippines
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Pamalican Island, PO Box 456, Palawan, 0000, Philippines
Good for: Business