I was one of the many who voted for the Underground River in Puerto Princesa, Palawan for a spot on the New 7 Wonders of the World List. Ever since the voting started, I wanted to go there and see what made it so special. Then came Airphil Express’s seat sale and the chance finally came for me to go to Puerto Princesa. One of the 7 Wonders of the World was only a short plane ride away… why not make that trip? 🙂
Originally, I and 4 of my college friends were supposed to on this trip but a Facebook status changed everything. Suddenly other friends were commenting that they wanted to go too. I thought they were kidding but I was so wrong. I wasn’t able to book them in 1 go. I think 3 seat sales passed by before I could get cheap tickets for everyone. By everyone I mean around 20 people. 🙂 Of those 20, 14 of us really made the trip. Parang class field trip lang! I was the “link” – my companions were a mix of my college friends and high school friends.
The Flight: Airphil Express & Cebu Pacific
I was able to book myself and college friends when Airphil Express had a seat sale. I was able to book round trip tickets for Php 1,200 for each person. For my high school friends, they were booked when Cebu Pacific had their trademark piso fare promo. The cost of the tickets are about the same.
Our group would arrive at Puerto Princesa in 3 batches. I was among the first batch flying with Airphil Express. There were no delays at all and the flight was smooth. The same could be said for the second batch flying with Cebu Pacific. They arrived three hours later so we were able to rest at the pension house while waiting. The third batch would also be flying with Airphil Express and their flight was super delayed (if I remember correctly) by four hours. Rhan and Stef were very tired by the time we picked them up at Puerto Princesa and disappointed that they already missed half a day.
For the return flights, the Airphil Express group experienced another hour-long delay. The folks flying with Cebu Pacific departed Puerto Princesa and arrived in Manila on time… So if this was a contest, Cebu Pacific would have won 🙂
Our Accommodation: Jamp Pension House
I discovered Jamp Pension House through Agoda. It was relatively new at that time and the prices were reasonable so I made the reservations for all of us. Once I made the payment, I contacted Jamp directly and the staff asked for our flight details so they could pick us up at the airport. We didn’t have to pay any additional fees for this.
We had no trouble looking for our shuttle service to Jamp Pension House because the driver was holding a signboard with my name on it. We waited for 2 other guests to arrive and we headed off to the pension house. Jamp was 30 minutes away from the city center and the location was in a quiet but somewhat remote neighborhood. I didn’t know this when I booked our rooms and was starting to regret my decision. But when I saw the place, my uneasiness disappeared. There was a guard stationed at the entrance and the place was secure. Our rooms were clean and basic but we had what we needed. Each of us paid Php 1,300 for a 3-nights stay inclusive of breakfast at their roof deck.
The Itinerary: 4D/3N
When the first and second batch arrived at Jamp Pension House, we started to discuss what we wanted to achieve that day. I didn’t plan anything on Day 1 in case my companions wanted to rest, but they immediately wanted to go exploring. A city tour was arranged with the help of Jamp’s staff. They contacted a van that we could hire for the afternoon. There were 12 of us (still watiting for 2) so it was the most efficient way to go around the city. The rate of the van was Php 2,000 and we divided it among all of us.
We requested the driver and tour guide that our first stop would be somewhere we can eat lunch so he drove us straight to Baker’s Kitchen. We arrived just as the lunchtime guests were about to finish with their meals. The guys took charge of ordering for the group and doubted our ability to eat everything as I was listening to them give our order to the waiters. They ordered a LOT. It seemed like a good decision because we waited a bit long for our food and we were very hungry by then. The guys wanted extra rice but the staff forgot about our additional order so we decided to get the bill.
After eating, we explored the gardens surrounding the restaurant. There were lovely areas around the gardens that we couldn’t resist taking pictures.
Beside Baker’s Kitchen is Baker’s Hill which is a famous bakery in Palawan. I just checked the products and prices because I was planning to come back and buy pasalubong before we return to Manila.
When everyone returned to the van, we headed to Mitra’s Ranch where the guests can enjoy a wonderful view of Puerto Princesa and the waters surrounding it. The guests can go horseback riding at the area but we decided to just enjoy the view.
Our next stop was the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center a.k.a. the Crocodile Farm. We decided not the enter the center since most of us have been in crocodile farms before. My friends lined up at the booth where they can have their picture taken while holding a crocodile for a small fee. I only watched. I don’t like crocodiles much.
When we were about to leave, the guys saw a stall selling crocodile sisig. On a dare, they bought a plate and all of them tasted it. They said it was just like pork sisig. I will trust them on this one. They couldn’t persuade me to take a small bite.
After our encounter with the crocodiles, we went to Tiangge-Tiangge which was a collection of stalls selling different kinds of souvenirs. I usually buy pasalubong on the last day but since we were already here, I bought shirts, pearl earrings, pili tarts, key chains and ref magnets.
Done with shopping, we headed to the airport to pick up Rhan and Stef who FINALLY arrived. The group is complete! Our driver asked us where we wanted to go next and I requested that we make a stop at their church. He drove us there and pointed us to Plaza Cuartel which was right beside the church. Plaza Cuartel looked like a park but it actually serves as a memorial for 143 American prisoners of war who were massacred and burned by Japanese soldiers during World War II. After discovering this fact, we didn’t want to stay longer because the sun was starting to set. Ayaw namin maabutan ng dilim.
We crossed the road and entered Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral to say a short prayer.
All the walking around made us hungry so we asked our driver to take us to another restaurant. This time it was Balinsasayaw Restaurant that we went to. Since we were all tired, we ordered the food to go to eat at the pension house. The food was delicious! Sadly though, no one thought to take pictures so there is no accompanying photo.
We woke up early to prepare for our Underground River tour. We were so energetic and loud considering that most of the others were hungover from the drinking session the night before. We were all excited for the day ahead, I guess.
Our guide picked us up at Jamp. She made sure that we brought our IDs for the Underground River tour and off we went. She told us what to expect for the day ahead and readily answered our questions. We made a stop at a roadside store to buy Off insect repellant for the mosquitoes at the Underground River. Our guide also informed us that we still had time for another activity. Our choices were mangrove tour, ziplining and caving. We chose caving or spelunking at Ugong Rock Adventures since it sounded the most fun.
Upon arriving, we were directed the the registration area where all the guests had to write their names and pay then entrance fee of Php 200.00. After that was a short lecture about Ugong Rock and its facilities, and safety tips for the guests while inside the caves. If you are wondering, there is a mini clinic at the site where first aid can be administered in case of injuries.
When all questions were answered, we gathered our helmets and gloves from another station. This is REQUIRED for all guests for their safety.
When we were ready, we were guided to the cave entrance where we met one of the guides. They are stationed along various parts of the cave to guide the guests especially when the cave gets a bit hard to navigate. We said a short prayer to ask for our safety for this little adventure.
Concentration is needed once you get inside the caves. It was relatively easy to navigate but there were moments when we had to climb up steep rocks, bow down low and squeeze in to get through tight spaces. It was so much fun pero nakakapagod.
Upon reaching the top of the caves, we were greeted by the wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and the forests.
We were given 2 options to get back to the base: zipline or go back the way we came. Some of us chose to circle back while the others wanted to try the zipline.
Tired and sweaty, we went back to our van and rode for another 30 minutes to Sabang Beach. We confirmed our permits for the Underground River Tour and walked to the resort where we would have our buffet lunch. There wasn’t much variety but all the dishes served were delicious.
When we finished with lunch, we rode our boat where the Subterranean River National Park is located. We rode on 2 boats since it couldn’t fit all of us. It was a relaxing ride to the park because the sights were a wonder to behold.
We had to wait for our turn for the tour so my companions took pictures of the flora and fauna of the park.
We also wore helmets and life vests for this tour. Upon entering the caves, I was a little creeped out by the bats and darkness but our boatman/guide was a funny distraction. He kept telling amusing stories whenever he points out an interesting rock formations.
Before leaving, our guides challenged us to switch off our light source. It was complete and total darkness. All I was hearing were the voices of my friends. It didn’t take 30 seconds before all of us were begging to switch on the lights.
We wanted to extend our tour but it was already getting late. We headed back to return our helmets and life vests and to purchase our souvenir photos. As we were leaving the park, we saw a little rainbow which lifted our spirits a little bit. I and my friends were already so tired from the day’s activities. We went back to Sabang Beach and swam for a bit. I bought ice cream from one of the stores because I needed a boost of energy.
We were supposed to eat dinner at one of the restaurants in Puerto Princesa but we all wanted to head straight to Jamp to rest. We ate dinner at the carinderia located near the pension house.
Like the previous morning, we woke up early to prepare for our Honda Bay Tour. Our guide picked us up at Jamp as usual and we stopped to get our packed lunch from our guide’s supplier. The guys requested that we make a stop at a store to buy booze. And then we went to a dive shop where our guide advised us to rent snorkel gear, aqua shoes and underwater camera case. I almost didn’t get the shoes, but I’m glad I did. The beach can sometimes be dangerous because of the rocks and corals littered along the shore and shallow waters.
The first stop for our Honda Bay Tour was at Pandan Island. I was surprised when I saw many tourists already there. Puerto Princesa indeed has lots of visitors even during lean season.
It was a perfect day to beach bum. Mr. Sun was happily shining and the beach was irresistible. I immediately made use of my snorkel gear and my underwater camera.
When we got tired of swimming, we explored the island and discovered a small stall selling freshly caught seafood. There was another spot selling buko which we immediately flocked.
I also got a henna tattoo just before our lunch. I couldn’t think of a design so I randomly chose from the samples.
Lunch was simple yet delicious! It was more than enough for all of us and our guides. Our lunch was made up of shrimp, grilled pork and fish, eggplant, green mangoes and tomatoes for ensalada, and bananas for dessert. Perfect combination for a meal at the beach 🙂
After resting for a bit, our guide told us it was time to go to Pambato Reef. Our guide said that many consider this as a mini-Tubbataha. This wasn’t an island but a floating cottage in the shape of a turtle. The only thing you can do here is swim and/or snorkel. The water surrounding it can reach up to 40 feet deep. Some of my friends back out upon hearing this. I chose to go ahead even though I didn’t know how to swim. I was wearing a life vest and our guides were experts swimmers. I entrusted my life in their hands. 🙂
I didn’t get to take any pictures while I was snorkeling. The first few attempts couldn’t capture the beauty I saw in the waters. It is an experience best seen in person.
By this time, the DSLR we were using ran out of battery and we discovered that the spare batteries were forgotten. We had to rely on my humble digicam to record the rest of our moments… We went to Luli Island next and fed the fish that could be found a few feet into the water. I named the place as the Fish Island because all I saw when I put on my snorkel gear was fish, fish and fish. It was amusing to see them head for the bread that I was holding in my hand when I went into the water.
After we ran out of bread to feed the fish, we climbed up to the diving board found at the island. I was only supposed to take pictures of my friends while they were diving, but I was persuaded to dive. I stood at the edge of the diving board for around 10 minutes before I plucked up enough courage to jump. Thank you to my friends who patiently encouraged me to conquer this fear.
At around 5 PM, our guide told us that it was time to return. It was an enjoyable day that we didn’t want to end but time was our enemy. We showered upon arriving at the mainland and headed straight to Ka Lui Restaurant. The staff of Jamp Pension kindly took care of our reservations for us the day before so we were assured of seats. Good thing they did because the restaurant was full with a long wait list when we arrived.
Ka Lui is one of the famous restaurants in Puerto Princesa. This was mentioned in all the blogs I read while researching for the best places to eat in Puerto Princesa. We were asked to remove our slippers and shoes before entering the restaurant. The ambience was very homey and rustic, and I loved that the tables were spaced far enough from each other to give groups some privacy.
The food was delicious and not as expensive as I expected it to be. This was definitely the right choice to celebrate our last night in Puerto Princesa.
There is nothing much to tell about Day 4. Our flights were scheduled early in the morning so we didn’t get to do anything else but pack our stuff and say goodbye 😦
I saved a lot on this trip by going with a big group. I was able to save a lot on the tours because the gave us a big discount: Php 1,300 for the Underground River Tour (standard rate is Php 1,500.00) and Php 1,000 for the Honda Bay Tour (standard rate is also Php 1,500.00). There are certainly many advantages to travelling with a big group! One other check for me was there was never a dull moment with us. Lagi kaming maingay kahit pagod o hungover.
Here is the breakdown of my expenses for this trip:
|1200.00||RT Ticket via Airphil Express|
|Day 1:||200.00||Breakfast at the airport|
|1300.00||Jamp Pension House (4D/3N)|
|300.00||Lunch at Baker’s Hill|
|1000.00||Pasalubong shopping at Tiangge-Tiangge|
|300.00||Dinner at Balinsasayaw|
|Day 2:||200.00||Caving at Ugong Rock Formation|
|1300.00||Underground River Tour|
|100.00||Dinner at carinderia near hotel|
|Day 3:||350.00||Swimming gear rental|
|1000.00||Honda Bay Tour|
|400.00||Dinner at Ka Lui|
|Day 4:||40.00||Terminal fee|