Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hello, Palawan! Day 2 (Part 1)


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


PLANS

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.

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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.

Power charges are also expensive and he, therefore, was mighty proud about transitioning his hotels to green technology and renewable energy systems (and getting recognized with awards to boot, with another nomination, he said, they had just received), as he pointed to 3 solar panels installed behind the Pension that heat hotel shower.

Because we had the privilege of an audience with Puerto Pension’s owner that morning, I seized the chance to comment on the homeyness of Puerto Pension to which he credited his wife, Maria, as in charge of details of both hotels’ interiors (he, the business side), and that if I favored Puerto Pension much over concrete-and-glass enclosed lodges, that I would definitely love Daluyon.

I confess to not being a fan of flat TVs with cable connections and air conditioning when I lodge, especially in places that point to its its natural environment as key to one’s experience.

I’m perfectly fine as long as the accommodation provides its own clean toilet and hot shower, privacy and some quiet time at night, sockets to plug in (free wifi is a plus, as is mobile telephone signal access) but most especially have windows that open to let breeze in or some sunshine in the morning.

Bamboo walls, mats and wood: Puerto Pension's signature.

Anyhow, as there’s great effort in affixing local materials like the woven bamboo and mats on walls (both being rather stubborn natural materials, something which I know first-hand can take as much work to tear down as it is to install), Butch said that they do scheduled replacements to keep the hotels fresh and properly maintained.

It's also great knowing from Butch that all the finishing materials and furnishing are locally sourced. He also pointed out that laundry service of both his hotels is done by members of a local community they support and have oriented to practice proper usage and care of water.

After breakfast, the rest of our morning was spent freshening up and getting down to meetings by our room corridor between entrep partners May, Chingbee and myself. Mike stayed behind in Tribu Café not only to provide a healthy blow-by-blow exchange of views started during breakfast with an American couple, but to watch Pacquiao’s live-streamed fight against Brandon Rios with them.

By this time, the sun struggled harder to shine through the clouds which really looked promising.

LA TERRASSE RESTAURANT & CAFÉ

Time flies in Puerto Princesa (or perhaps that daytime is actually shorter than night during this period) that before we knew it, settling to have lunch after a filling breakfast left us wrapping up our meeting posthaste to head for La Terrasse.

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The day's service vehicle, our white "taxicle."

Puerto Pension’s staff helped flag down a tricycle by the gate (or a “taxicle” as our city tour guide referred to which, even without a meter, was as accurate as it can get). Accredited Puerto Princesa public taxicles are either just blue or white; everything else are privately-owned.

Our taxicle would bring us eastward from our hotel to La Terrasse Restaurant in Bancao Bancao on main street Rizal Avenue which sits between KaLui and the airport, but closer to the latter at just 200 meters away.

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La Terrassse: Almost hidden signage.

La Terrasse is an expansive and sophisticated open-air fine dining restaurant that welcomed travelers like us in rugged wear that Sunday afternoon.

We arrived there past 2 to a hushed and serene space with empty tables save for two where separate groups of back-packing Causasian tourists were seated.

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Late lunchtime hush: refined and friendly.

True to Palawan’s nature-tripping ambience, the restaurant uses a great deal of wood all around, is effectively fenced-off from street noise and activity by real bamboo plants—perhaps of the clumping Bambusa variety—and overall exuded elegance.

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Quite elegant.

Service here was prompt. We opted for the table by the open area in the ground floor to get a view of the restaurant space and the entryway. As this is more laid back than others we’ve dined in during our stay in the city proper, food takes time to prepare but the wait was valid. It’s worth mentioning, too, that La Terrasse is very vegan-friendly.

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Hungry but well worth the wait.
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Food-porning my dish.
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Prompt and attentive service: La Terrasse all to ourselves that Sunday afternoon.

We had pasta (mine), a sandwich, Mike and May their Adobo Overload, another viand and rice—brown, white and lots of it—the entire set could fill us for the rest of the day that we had to think twice about dessert the waiter offered.

Giving in to temptation, however, Chingbee ordered their Flourless Orange Cake and I, one of the best coffee-based desserts I would recommend to any kindred caffein-lovin’ soul to never, ever pass up: La Terrasee’s Homemade Coffee Kahlua Ice Cream.

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La Terrasse Homemade Coffee Kahlua Ice Cream - instant fave. With panache.

It’s light, refreshing and flavorful with just the right coffee taste contrasted with orange rinds and mint they might as well have called it Homemade “Coffee Kahlua Panache” Ice Cream and claim total bragging rights.

During our lunch at La Terrasse, the sun managed to stay out which confirmed that our Iwahig Firefly Watching tour would go ahead as scheduled that evening.

TO DOWNTOWN MARKET PAST CITY SCENES

Our taxicle driver offered to be our service for the rest of our Sunday itinerary for what May and Chingbee believed was a reasonable flat fee. As such, we had no problems getting to our next stops from La Terrasse.

Another sense of a "cozy" ride.

The benefits of having such a service are not only that we were all cozy in the coziest way we, rather, my companions, could fit into the cab, but that we got past many other taxicles and navigated through the city streets quite easily.

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Curious city tourists.

A flamboyant privately-owned taxicle.
Except for some solo motorcyclists, drivers here observe traffic rules.
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Provincial Capitol compound, Palawan Mueum.

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Early Christmas air. 

Moving about Puerto Princesa

It’s amazing how sturdy these 3-wheeled vehicles are built, brawny as our driver, considering his size and weight plus ours combined.

Powered just by a motorcyle, the unique profile of Puerto Princesa’s jumbo version of the tricycle provided us generous head- and butt-room with enough windows of opportunity, so to speak, for sightseeing. We became as ubiquitous as the next taxicle and Palawenyo commuter, blending into the city’s local color in pursuit of the must-have kasuy to bring back home.

I wondered about Puerto Princesa’s aerodynamically-shaped lithium battery-powered E-tricycles that made news about two years ago because I don’t recall seeing any of it in the 48 hours we’ve been there. Rightly or wrongly, I was told that the city did not sustain the effort to gradually replace (“supplement” would be more correct, I think) the majority of gasoline-powered trikes as the one we rode in, which would make sense if true that power charges are high.

Maybe the city isn’t fitted to run the E-trikes yet, like providing for enough charging stations along major roads where these trikes would travel. Anyhow, had there been more of it in actual use by today, it would have strengthened the city’s full entitlement of being the “cleanest and greenest” in the country.


Before hitting the downtown, we stopped at a bank’s ATM machine—trust the driver to know exactly were to go and keep an eye on (our) things; to us, at least, he was that reliable.

This westward trip from one end of Rizal Avenue to the other, past the Provincial Capitol compound and other prominent facades, then northward to Malvar Road’s downtown section where the Puerto Princesa City Public Market is, is about a total of 1.7km ride.

I stayed in the taxicle while my companions hunted for Palawan’s famous kasuy inside the market as recommended by May’s friend, Magda. (Chingbee was unsuccessful tracing another off-city source she and Carla went to last year that, they say, would have cost way cheaper.)

Anyway, as is the nature of local markets where first-timers like ourselves wade through market sections and sellers hawking an array of goods in finding one’s pursuit, one just needs to be resolute and have the tenacity to haggle for the sweet reward of bagging home premium cashew.

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They hawk goods like vendors elsewhere but on cleaner sidewalks than any I've seen.

It did not take long for May, Chingbee and Mike to track down what they were after. And, as they found out, the price of Palawan cashew in the city’s public market, available in packs per kilo and sorted accordingly: raw, roasted, candied, unshelled, etc., was pretty much standard.

Still, they carried their spoils happily back to our ride. The total purchase added about 5 or so more kilos to our combined taxicle load which our uncomplaining driver helped carry to fix on the back carriage rack.

With early evening looming, the driver gassed up his motorcycle before we undertook about 20 minutes (approximately 12 kms.) travel towards Sta. Monica for Binuatan Creations, a weaving shop.

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Moving along: High-wire act in preparation for the City's fiesta.
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Pedestrian lanes in Puerto Princesa aren't just road art.

The Binuatan stop was skipped by 5 pm during our city tour on Day 1 from Baker’s Hill but were assured by our taxicle driver that we could still go before proceeding to Iwahig for our 8:30 p.m. Firefly tour sched.

I had no idea what the tour was about, really, because I've seen fireflies light up an entire tree nightly in Ilocos before (and caught some as kids which we put in jars), but so looked forward to that evening's.




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


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