Friday, December 20, 2013

Hello, Palawan! Day 2 (Part 3) - Iwahig Firefly-Watching Ecotourism and Wildlife Park

A rather extended post about fireflies and stars

⇠  DAY 1 |   Day 2 Part 1 Day 2 Part 2  | Day 3 

With more goods bought from Binuatan Creations added to the packs of cashew from the market loaded on our taxicle, we travelled for about 20 minutes from Sta. Monica to the Iwahig Firefly-Watching Ecotourism and Wildlife Park in Iwahig, Puerto Princesa. The Park entrance a few meters off the highway is past the end of the old South Road Bridge that spans the Iwahig River.

Iwahig Firefly-watching and Eco Park Entrance1
Welcome sign looking out to the main road.

The firefly-watching tour at the Eco Park, managed by the Iwahig Community Ecotourism Association, Inc. (ICETA), started in 2008. Established jointly by the ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc. through its former Palawan Ecotourism program manager, the late broadcaster and environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega, with the city government of Puerto Princesa and the Tourism Department, this community-led activity received the Gold Award (Ecotourism Project category) from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in 2010. It won the award over 65 other nominees from the Asia-Pacific region.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this evening firefly tour at all—I didn’t know what this first-time visit to Palawan had in store for me either, much less of the Underground River tour scheduled for Day 3 that convinced me to fly there—but anyhow gamely told my companions who had previously been to Puerto Princesa that I was open to doing whatever or be brought to wherever provided some internal matters like meetings or initiating contact with local community networks or groups were dealt with for example, and/or reunions with friends based in the city were done.

With the reunions and brief meetings fulfilled, and some happy shopping by my companions plus key tours of the city accomplished that afternoon and the day before, this firefly tour was, quite surprisingly, to be the highlight of our day. It was, at least, very much of mine.

A game-changer

Since its inception, the term “ecotourism” has often been misappropriated or misconstrued. Anyone with a room to let and a vista to display can claim to provide “ecotourism” experiences as had been mine in previous other instances so I tend to take locations that brand themselves as such with a bit of circumscription.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hello, Palawan! Day 2 (Part 2)

⇠  DAY 1 |   Day 2 Part 1 | Day 2 Part 3   | Day 3 


Binuatan IMG_5507-hello PP2 kv BIN
Binuatan Creations, Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa.

If traditional crafts is your thing, Binuatan Creations, a family-run weaving factory and shop tied-in with most guided tours, is a recommended stop. It was skipped by our tour package on Day 1 by around 5 p.m. from Baker's Hill so we went there on our own.

Binuatan can be reached on a hired taxicle like we did which would take about 15-20 minutes travel time from the city proper. The shop and factory is located off the main road of Puerto Princesa South Road (the one that leads to the Mitra Ranch, Baker's Hill and the Crocodile Farm) on barangay Sta. Monica.

Arriving there past 6 p.m. afforded us more chances to linger a bit, talk to the weavers and look over a variety of products at their store.

Hello, Palawan! Day 2 (Part 1)

⇠  DAY 1 |  Day 2 Part 2: Binuatan Creations ⇢ | Day 2 Part 3   | Day 3 


Our plans for Day 2 in Puerto Princesa that involved more of exploring the city included [a] lunch at La Terrasse, [b] shop for kasuy (cashew) in the downtown market, [c] go to Binuatan Creations, a weaving factory, and [d] end the day at Iwahig River for its guided Firefly Watching tour.

Our first breakfast at Puerto Pension’s Café Tribu on the 4th floor was moved 30 minutes later from original wake-up call time because we arrived past midnight from a night out with friends in Casa Nieves.

This morning was also cooled by the drizzle, a spillover of sorts from overnight rains which made us somewhat apprehensive of the Firefly Watching scheduled in the evening.

The urban creatures that we are, changes in weather made us uncertain about these things: natural or outdoor tours largely dependent on forecast and terrain, for example, as I envisioned the Iwahig fireflies all gathered in full company call (like a general meeting) on that overcast showery morning, to decide on whether they were to put on a night’s show or not.

Chingbee would definitely place a call to the association in charge so we could adjust our itinerary as may be the case.

IMG_5363-hello PP2 kv
Breakfast at Café Tribu with greetings from Puerto Pension and Daluyon Resort owner Butch (R) and Daluyon Resort GM Ed (L), active ZCR advocates both.

Just as we were ending a hearty breakfast, Puerto Pension’s owner and CEO Butch Tan who also owns the multi-awarded Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort in Sabang where we were to stay on Day 3, accompanied by Daluyon's GM Ed Gomez, joined us at our table.

Homey and green (and windows preferred)
Genial, welcoming and down-to-earth, Butch also soon became our Puerto Princesa informant of sorts. He said that most local fruits we’re familiar with in Luzon (mangoes, for example) are generally more expensive in Palawan because they’re not grown much there.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hello, Palawan! (Day 1, Part I)

TigerAir IMG_5084-hello PP1 kv

Finally! Palawan in 3 days and a very selected (limited) itinerary based on agreed schedule my companions set in March this year when we grabbed a TigerAir promo.

Palawan, sure, why not? My running joke then, as was my actual motivation for going, was to see the famous UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site that is the Puerto Princesa Underground River while it was "there for the taking," so to speak. This sarcasm stemmed from the fact that the Philippines has been at loggerheads with China* since April 2012 over territories covered by Palawan’s 1,780 or so islands—that’s roughly 3.99% of the entire Philippines’ 7,107 islands that just happens to fall under one province alone.

*Specifically, the flashpoint I’m referring to is the Kalayaan group of islands although the stand-off between China and the Philippines is about Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal,** also known as Bajo de Masinloc which is officially and historically part of Masinloc, Zambales Province, in Luzon up north.
(**Also refer to here and here for some basic and interesting info I found on Google. These are linked only as reads and for no other claims of authority,  legality or veracity of disputes.)

Anyway, to Palawan, certainly, in case China does take over not just Panatag Shoal and parts of Kalayaan Islands however it intends to which means requiring a passport to enter, tour and discover, and appreciate certain parts of my country–I don't care, really, for China's flippancy over its passport page designs–a preposterous and completely unacceptable circumstance should that be.

Hello, Palawan! (Day 1, Part 2) - Exploring Puerto Princesa City

DAY 1 - Exploring the City

We got into a guided City tour on the afternoon of our arrival. As we were the last group picked up by the tour van, the route first took us to the Baywalk behind Puerto Pension, then immediately up past the seaport gate on the way to the historic City Plaza Cuartel across of which is the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral.

Baywalk IMG_5124-hello PP1 kv
Quick shot of the Baywalk from the city tour van.
IMG_5152-hello PP1 kv
City Tour Stop #1: Plaza Cuartel entrance

Plaza Cuartel was a garrison during WW II and is now significant for its tunnel, the opening of which remains preserved and viewable but enclosed to avoid accidental falls. It is in this tunnel where about 150 American POWs were meted out their deaths by their Japanese captors, either burned alive inside it on December 14, 1944, or shot at (or impaled by bayonets); some, according to the entrance marker, were able to escape by swimming across to Iwahig).


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