Sunday, August 30, 2009

Butterfly Garden and the City Baywalk – Palawan Chronicles Part 6


Puerto Princesa is a city desperately balancing the onslaught of commercialization with the preservation of its clean-and-green status. The scale tips towards the latter, but I foresee a much different metropolis (if you can call it that) in the next 10 years. Modernization beckons.

After visiting Palawan Museum (see previous post), I was taken to the City Baywalk. The new park has generous space for strolling and biking. I was surprised to find the beautiful sprawl of the new city Baywalk, located just beside the port area. There are seahorse-shaped waiting sheds. But there’s hardly any store to buy your drinks from although some ambulant vendors roam around. The stretch of the sea wall provides a perfect place to sit back and observe the sail boats parked nearby.

Unlike Manila’s Roxas Boulevard, the bay side is a safe and refreshing place to unwind. The still-blue waters that lap against the walls sparkle. You can sit back, enjoy the mild sun and feel the fresh sea breeze. An afternoon visit offers very few people milling around, but in the evening, the place transforms into a haven for lovers and friends lazily hanging around (unless it rains). This is obviously a welcome addition to the city’s limited hang-out areas.

I wanted to see the Baywalk at night so after my dinner at the superb Ka Lui’s, I took the tricycle (PhP10) to check it out. The multiple lighting provided a more dramatic effect, but since it was drizzling, there were very few people. It’s easy to hail a ride from the trikes that wait by the entrance of the park. Usual trike fare from and to the city center is PhP7 to 8, but usually becomes PhP10 ($0.14-0.20) at night, and is roughly a 7-minute ride.

Light peacocks and bright lanterns line the Baywalk.

Colorful Fish Art as center piece.

Some of the cleanest, bluest Baywalk waters...

Seahorse sheds...

Can get muddy when it rains, but they are still growing the grass...

Gets bright, romantic and festive at night.


There are few butterflies to enjoy at the Butterfly Garden, located some 20 minutes south from the city center. Your ride will park in front of a small cottage, then you purchase your PhP25 ($0.51) entrance ticket from a counter. You are led to a viewing room to the left of the counter, where you are treated to a short introductory film showing (in English) that documents general knowledge on butterflies, their life cycles, etc. This is a film that probably hasn't been updated in the last 10 years or so. From there, the door in front opens, and you are ushered into a garden full of shrubs. There is a mish-mash of closely planted vegetation. There is a small trail to follow, including a short cave-like section. It won’t take you more than 15 minutes to explore, and for my 2nd visit, I was as disappointed as my 1st time a few years ago. 

I saw 3 butterflies flying around during my short visit. Maybe if I stayed for an hour, I can spot some magical variety? LOL. Maybe not. The establishment seems contented with the status quo, and there is no evidence of acquisition of more specimen, nor of any upgrades to their randomly designed garden. My aunt has a more beautiful garden and I didn’t have to pay any entrance fee to enjoy it. Before you leave the shrubbery, you exit through a souvenir room where shirts, some handicrafts and local wines are being sold. Having said that, I can’t highly recommend this place, unless you’re bored out of your wits and seeing a mediocre place would suffice.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

There's one...

Two... oppps, the 3rd one flew away. LOL

An almost stagnant lagoon, with water being provided by that faucet. Dangerous place for the endemic malaria-carrying mosquito.

Wine souvenirs, anyone?

Up next: A close look at the Palawan Museum

Friday, August 28, 2009

Around Puerto Princesa City - Palawan Chronicles Part 5

Butterfly Garden was a disappointment the first time I visited it a few years back. The butterflies were few and there wasn’t much variety in the species seen. I thought it was probably the season, but this time around, it was the same. Of course there’s not much to complain with an entrance of just PhP25 ($0.51) per adult, but still, as part of an itinerary, this garden is a disappointment. If your itinerary is tight, give it a miss, although if Barangay Santa Monica is part of your trip (Mitra Ranch, Baker’s Hill), then you have the option to drop by Butterfly Garden which is nearby! We will feature Butterfly Garden in a separate post.

National hero Jose P. Rizal stands before the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral

We trodded back to the centro (city center) to check out the local sites. Outside the Underground River and Honda Bay, the city center doesn’t have much to offer besides its restaurants, laidback demeanor and warm hospitality, but if you are naturally curious and travel-inspired, a visit into any of the following sites will open up avenues of historical and cultural significance. Forget your “malls”. Puerto Princesa has a single “mall” – if you can call it that – New City Commercial Center, otherwise called NCCC, which is more of a big department store than a “mall”. However, there is brewing excitement with the eminent construction of SM Mall in Barangay San Manuel. We have seen the lot that’s presently home to coconut trees and hedges.

Palawan Museum


Palawan is home to several indigenous people and ethno-linguistic tribes. These are the Tagbanua, Palawano, Tau’t Bato and the Batak tribes. Palawan Museum is the repository of relics and artifacts of that otherwise forgotten era. Many of these artifacts have been unearthed from the Tabon Caves, including a skullcap of the remains of a caveman carbon dated back to the early Paleolithic Era about 22,000 years ago. The museum is located along the city’s main commercial street - Rizal Avenue, facing Mendoza Park. Entrance fees are as follows: adults – PhP20 ($0.40), college students – PhP10 ($0.20), high school – PhP5 ($0.10), other children – PhP2. The building is a 2-story complex that’s open Mondays to Saturdays, 9AM to 12PM, 1:30 to 5PM.

I am not certain, but the second floor may be the Ethnographic Museum which showcases the customs and way of life of the Bataks and the Tagbanuas. At the front door, there is a row of tables where you can purchase your tickets, and sign at a guest logbook. Unlike other museums elsewhere, cameras are allowed. This museum reminded me of the heavily ignored government museum in Mandalay (Myanmar) where I found myself the sole visitor (although the logbook showed 3 other tourists who visited earlier). Dusty showcases, faded photographs, discolored labels, cobwebs surrounding lamp posts. An interesting place nevertheless. We will post a separate piece on Palawan Museum.

Someone forgot to dust it for 5 years. LOL

Palawan's hero Dr. Higinio Mendoza, Sr. : honor to die

Facing Palawan Museum is the comely Mendoza Park, named after Palawan’s war hero, Dr. Higinio A. Mendoza, Sr. – a descendant of the popular Mendoza clan who currently runs Casa Linda. Mendoza’s resistance against the Japanese army led to his execution on January 24, 1944 at the age of 46. As his execution was announced, he told his son, “Not a lot of people is given the honor to die for his country.” The park has several tree-of-light that shine bright at night. It also has a children’s playground, and a few benches. It directly faces Rizal Avenue and, to the other end, the museum. The Mendoza Park Multi-Purpose Building stands at one end. There was an on-going forum sponsored by Napocor (National Power Corporation) during our visit.

A tree that lights up the night like Christmas at Mendoza Park.

Mendoza Park Multi-Purpose Building

Talakayan (discussion forum) at the Multi-Purpose Building concerning NPC's power rate adjustments.

The Baywalk - just like sea horses...


This newly developed sprawl is a welcome addition to the city’s few attractions. Facing the Palawan Bay, the park grounds boast of several modern light designs. There are waiting sheds shaped like seahorses - and very few amenities just yet. Grass is still being grown – and a colorful Fish Art adorns the central view deck that's facing the seas. The place comes alive at night as lovers roam and sit by the bayside benches. No entrance fees here, and there are a lot of walkways where cycling can be enjoyed. Tricycles are easily available in the vicinity. We shall feature this baywalk at a separate post.

Fish Art at the Baywalk

Prisoner windows at Plaza Cuartel's old garrison


A few blocks from the baywalk is a restored garrison developed into another park. This takes us back to its grim history. In the evening of December 14, 1944, the Kimpie-tai unit of the Japanese Imperial Army set the prisoner tunnels on fire burning alive 143 American prisoners of war (POWs). Eleven soldiers – Rufus Smith, Ernest John Cablos, Edwin Petry, Eugene Nelson, Elmo Deal, Tommy Daniels, Don T. Schlot, Fern Joseph Barta, Glen Weddal McDole, WM J. Balchus, Alberto D. Pacheco – devised a heart-stopping escape that would have them swim the night seas all the way to Iwahig for freedom. Burnt remains of the fallen POWs were taken to St. Louis Missouri at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery where a mass burial took place in 1952! I was looking for these tunnels which were supposed to be found beneath the park portals, but I couldn’t find anything more than a less-than-spectacular park lined by huge trees and benches. Free admission.

Plaza Cuartel entrance

Memorial Marker for the 143 soldier who were burned alive by the Japanese soldiers.

11 soldiers managed to escape the atrocities by swimming the night seas to Iwahig.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral - one of the 89 cathedrals in the Philippines.

Right across Plaza Cuartel is one of the 89 cathedrals in the Philippines - the majestic blue edifice of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. I have sung here for a dear friend’s wedding a few years ago, but I wasn’t able to appreciate the gothic exteriors back then (it happened in the evening). This time around, as I was walking into the Cathedral from the Plaza, the fa├žade took my breath away. I entered the church in awe of the blue sheen lighting the interiors. It felt like walking inside a piece of what would rightfully be God’s home. Anyone who visits Puerto Princesa shouldn’t miss this cathedral! It’s one of the holy places where God seems to be hovering around, listening to your wishes.

This is where God lives.

ST. MATTHEW’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH - This small church is located along Rizal Avenue near the Provincial Capitol and Rover’s Place.

Palawan Provincial Capitol along Rizal Avenue


It is hard to miss the province’s seat of governance. The building is circular, with a blue dome at the center. Philippine flags are hoisted above and around the beige walls. The lot was donated by the former mayor of Puerto Princesa, Don Pedro M. Vicente, Sr. As respect to the former mayor, the park grounds just outside the circular capitol was dedicated to and named as Don Pedro M. Vicente Memorial Park which has a huge circular pond with a non-working fountain, some plam trees and santan plants. At dusk, people are seen relaxing in the several benches around the park. Since it is withing the Capitol grounds, there are guards manning the gated entrances facing the streets. No entrance fees here.

Don Pedro M. Vicente Memorial Park

Holy Trinity College just beside the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. At the other side is the Baywalk.

The cross facing Holy Trinity College

NCCC, the city's only big-department store. This is where day-outers for Dos Palmas Resort will wait for the service bus that will take them to the port.

Next: Butterfly Garden and the City Baywalk

This is the Eye in the Sky.