Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Quest For The Last Frontier 1

I had a hard time time thinking of what title I would write for this blog. Palawan is a very nice place so I must give justice to it. I have heard that Palawan is now called "The Last Frontier" and I didn't know exactly how to interpret it. I searched for some articles to make sure of it, and it's confirmed! And do you know why? Because it is the last unsettled area in the Philippines, a home to many tribal groups such as Tau Batu, The Batak and the Tagbanuas. It is composed of 1,700 islands which I believed some of them hasn't been explored. The island is largely formed by a mountainous ridge covered with rich vegetation that harbors endemic animal species despite of deforestration and occasional fires.

At Sabang Port in Puerto Princesa
I thought that I only had few relatives in Palawan like what had in Ilocos. I don't have any idea that some of them had settled down and raised their own families. It was my first trip in Palawan and I was eager to see my relatives after so many years. Four days wouldn't be enough to explore Palawan, and we chose to take a 2-day packaged tour and the remaining two days would be for us to freely move around the place without time pressure. I guess you know how it is to be in a tour package, you can't really sneak out of it.

Our first day was raining and the first destination was the Underground River. The sea was rough during the ferry ride due to the heavy rains and the surge of giant waves kept on colliding with the boat. The boatman had a hard time docking the boat because of the strong current which keeps the boat away from the shore, we have to disembark quickly or we'll get soaked! Walking along the wooden trail leading to the mouth of the cave was pleasant enough to get over with the stressful ride. The rich forest is a habitat for a diversity of flora and fauna on earth. Monitor lizards passed by, monkeys loiters around, butterflies in different colors, crickets, bees, flowers and I think there are more in places unexplored! 

It is with great pride and honor to see one of the Seven Wonders of Nature which boasts of 500,000 to 1,000,000 monthly visitors from around the world. One would be proud to be a Filipino and to belong to a country so blessed with natural resources and recognized globally. At the end of the trail is the mouth of the cave and the line of people waiting for their turns with their eyes all focused on the cave.

Mouth of the cave.

As the boatman/tour guide paddled slowly on the calm water of the river, the sight of the dark cave was orphic preternatural and made me quiver. Do you have an idea how dark it was in the cave? Just close your eyes for a second and that is that! You won't see anything, the cave smelled bat urine and merges with the smell of the river and the damp cold air which confirms that everything in there is pure organic.

Mushroom formation.

Corn formation.
Guess what formation?

Stalactites formed into an image of the Holy Family, animated characters, dinosaur and many more were apparently the residents of the cave for thousands of years, apart from the bats, birds and cold blooded creatures. There is a dome in the middle part of the cave, similar to St. Paul Cathedral in London. According to the tour guide, a British explorer discovered and named it St. Paul Underground River Park which it was formerly known.  But the local tribes has another story, they say that the "Tagbanuas" were the first to know about the cave and was inhabited by fairies, sounds magical! Yes, the natives could be right, the fairies could be the rightful owners and the sculptors of the cave and I am talking about the mythical aspect. While scientifically speaking, the mineral water were responsible for its formations, but how were they molded into forms which appears like people and things familiar to us?

Underground highway.

Well, all I can say is that the 45 minute tour was rewarding and quite entertaining due to the punchlines delivered by the boatman. "Ang kuweba daw ay nagsasara at 12 noon"
(The cave will be closed at 12 noon). I thought the river would rise and fill the cave, but it's not!
And why is that? Punchline: "kasi daw lunchbreak nila"! (it's their lunchbreak!).
Funny! Haha.
er can tell. Maybe, 
Into the bat cave!

This is just our first tour in Palawan, I will be writing about my next adventure on my next blog and I hope you'll find time reading it. Thank you for reading!
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