Friday, July 17, 2009

Palawan - An Underground River, A Backroads Beach and a New Hotel Resort

Without any knowledge of the hovering storm, we braved the tailwinds of Typhoon Isang that lasted the whole trip through from start to finish. I was absolutely soaked from head to toe, from backpack down to my trousers. And soggy garments are a pet peeve. After braving the gigantic waves (no one even mentioned during the whole ordeal that there was a typhoon - not good for local business, is it? Wait til you get dead tourists.), I've finally revisited St. Paul's Subterranean Park, aka Underground River.

I have to say that compared to the other caves (even to the well-lighted caves of backpacking Vietnam), the rock formations found at the river are nothing short of spectacular. Several years after my first visit, back when the roads to Sabang were literally an "Abortion Road", I can offer a more objective perspective. In terms of its naturally "untouched" and enigmatic formations, this deserves its "spot" at the ongoing "7 New Wonders of the Natural World" contest where the Philippines' bet stands at the number 2 spot, just behind Brazil's Amazon River.

I was all set to discover a barely known beach in the northwest coast of Palawan, Nagtabon Beach, but 40 minutes from the crossroad, we encountered people on a bike advising against proceeding. "It's very slippery; you better visit early in the morning when the sun is up," the driver offered. There was no phone signal either, so with that in mind, I wasn't too keen on the possibilities of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere where help isn't exactly closeby.

So... I decided to just checkout a new resort - the Microtel Hotel, mainland Puerto Princesa's ONLY beachfront hotel, located at a sitio in Barangay San Manuel, some 3.2 kilometers from the Main Highway. To my surprise, it was just their soft opening.

I had to talk to someone to be sure we wouldn't be turned away. I ordered a delicious pesto pasta (at PhP160 a plate), then roamed the surroundings. My first view of the beach took my breath away. The undertow had receded the waters to the sea, so there was a panoramic expanse of fine white sand that stretches for 50 meters or so to the ocean. The walk towards the water took me through dried corals and shells.There were poetically located mangroves that posed perfectly for a surreal photo. I was in awe.

The "lady manager" (coz I'm aware there's a male manager too) was exceedingly accommodating, she kept egging us to explore the place which I was just too glad to oblige. Far as I know, this was my best decision for the day.

This is the Eye in the Sky in smug heaven.

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