Lush green Philippine archipelago beckons tourists

palawanPALWAN: Palawan, situated on the western seaboard of the Philippines could be considered a mini archipelago in a country consisting of 7,107 tropical islands and islets when low tide.

The Gulf Today reached the province, very near the disputed Spratlys, located on the West Philippine Sea, on board Cebu Pacific Air from the concrete jungle megapolis of Metro Manila on a clear fair on Saturday.

As the A320-200 slowly descended, the truth about it being The Last Frontier of a nation on the Ring of Fire and on the Typhoon Belt became a reality.

There is the interplay of the lush greenery, the rugged limestones teeming and jutting from the mix of crystal clear to celadon to aquamarine waters.

The rays of the sun striking on the vast West Philippine Sea and Sulu Sea give a glimpse of the rich marine life.

The scent of fresh air wafting through the small airport and all through the rustic verdant environs of the throbbing capital of Puerto Princesa City makes one immediately fall in love with the peace and serenity. 

The capital on the main island is only the start of how nature can make one feel so blessed and how one realises God’s majesty. 

Welcome to Palawan, a province of at least 1,200 islands and islets.

Thanks to a responsible leadership and pro-active residents, it lives. 

On the west and specifically in Sabang of the capital is the famed Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and Cave, one of the Seven Nature Wonders of the World.

Part of the lengthy St. Paul limestone mountain range on the West Philippine Sea, one gets inside this 8.2km cave which legend says was formed from underneath the waters along with other parts of the province many million years back.

Only 1.5kms is navigable for tourists as local and international authorities have decided to keep the inner chambers only for research purposes and for environmental considerations.

Interestingly, a strong sulfuric odour greets tourists once they land on the woods leading to the underground river cave.

The smell is said to originate from the millions and even billions of the nocturnal bats within the natural wonder.

This eventually disappears.

As tourists queue for their respective guided boat rides, they may be fortunate to see huge monitor lizards, the puny Palawan pheasant and playful monkeys around.

This reporter had the chance, after a journey inside the cavernous cave enjoying the waters dripping from stalactites, some of which have edges already reaching the river, and the stalagmites. 

Scientists say the stalactites and stalagmites are alive and continually expand. 

Therefore,  there may come a time when the Subterranean River and Cave shut itself from the world.

Near the natural wonder is a thick mangrove of humongous crazy looking roots thriving on brackish waters.

This is home to snakes that curl up on the branches, birds such as the woodpecker, monitor lizards, colourful crabs and the tamilok which belongs to the family of mollusks that feed on the deadwoods and said to be an aphrodisiac.

On Palawan being a mini archipelago, 16 of the over 1,200 islands and islets are in what is known as Honda Bay (from the old Spanish name Junda Agua or Deep Water) on the eastern side of the province on the Sulu Sea.

It was at the Luli (Lulubog-Lilitaw) Islet, literally a sandbar and group of mangroves where this reporter had the opportunity to dive, snorkel and feed the fish with several pieces of bread.

The islet is called us such because it is sinks and re-appears depending on the tide.

At Pandan Island where pandan leaves made into mats abound, there was the joy of having Nemo and his friends swim up to the surface from the deep crevices of astounding corals and reefs in the numerous times this reporter pulverised pieces of bread for them to eat.

These are only a few of the wonders in Palawan.

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