Friday, September 18, 2009

Viet Ville - A Dwindling Vietnamese Community in Palawan





Viet Ville is a special village set up by the local government of Puerto Princesa to house the displaced Vietnamese Asylum seekers who wanted to live in a free world outside the shackles of communist Vietnam. It was originally conceived by the Center for Assistance to Displaced Persons (CADP) of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines (CBCP). This was also made possible by the financial support of the Vietnamese communities around the world. This community of refugees built this immigrant zone from the ground in their pursuit of self-reliance.

The village was set up in 1996 with as much as 1,500 residents. However, in recent years, the population has dwindled down to less than 150. A good number of them have assimilated with the Pinoy communities, opting to live outside Viet Ville, setting up noodle houses and selling jewelries in markets and commercial spaces. Moreover, the governments of the U.S. and some European countries have opened their "doors" for these displaced people, welcoming them into their greener pastures, and this has become more economically viable as an option for the refugees.

In 2004, a piece written by Sol Jose Vanzi of the Philippine Star highlighted Viet Ville’s looming crisis – it is simply running out of Vietnamese!

When we visited the village for the 2nd time, it has turned into a virtual ghost town. And it's almost safe to predict the natural demise of this community in the coming decade or two. For now, one can still enjoy authentic French-Vietnamese cuisine - try their French bread and pho - from the Viet Ville Restaurant, which boasts of beautifully prepared, average-priced entrees, cooked by a Vietnamese chef – the only Vietnamese personnel in the restaurant. We have tried the restaurant before, and though we couldn’t say they became an instant favorite, they nevertheless presented something “different”. A word of warning for the hungry: ordering food takes forever, so make sure you’re not morbidly hungry. Otherwise, you’re up for a long hypoglycemic wait!

Filipino legislators were working on a bill to grant these refugees permanent residency but this was abandoned when the Vietnamese shifted their attention to the renewed efforts for resettlement abroad. Life in the Philippines is, after all, not a feast!



Taking a stroll around the village.












A cacti-variety growing wildly beside a home. The houses are small, with low ceilings and rural clutter. Windows are open, but there's hardly people seen moving about.


GETTING THERE AND AWAY

Vietnamese Village is conveniently located along the North National Highway, Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa City. Jeepneys bound for Sta. Lourdes are available, tricycles along Burgos St. or one may hire a private vehicle. Travel time is 40 minutes by trike or 25 minutes by jeepney or a hired van or car. Hire a tricycle that will take you there and back. The usual asking price for tourists is in the vicinity of PhP300-350 ($6.30-7). Bargain hard! The trike will travel through the well paved National Highway going north, and the view along the way is a pleasing parade of greenery. There is an empty parking lot just across Viet Ville Restaurant. 

In the aforementioned article, Nguyen Van Lam, assistant administrator of Viet-Ville said that the community includes a noodle factory, two French bread bakeries, Catholic and Protestant churches and a Buddhist temple. Just opposite the Catholic Church, there is a Souvenir Shop. It won’t take you 20 minutes to walk around the almost-empty streets of the village. The place feels isolated and though I am mostly confident of its safety, I suggest you schedule your visit before sun down.

This is the Eye in the Sky.





2 comments:

Ishmael Fischer Ahab said...

Interesting post. I didn't know that there is Vietnamese Refugee Settlement in Puerto Princesa. Should've take a peek when we visited the place 5 months ago.

eye in the sky said...

Thanks, Ishmael. It's an interesting place and I'd be tempted to visit it again in a couple of years to see how it is or what it has become. :)