Mabuhay Puerto Princessa!!
Awesome! this day is super awesome! After yesterday gaining a lot of energy by doing nothing in hostel’s lazy room, that morning I was so so ready to greet my third Natural Wonder. The minivan had picked me up at the hostel and brought all the passenger to Sabang beach, the place where we will continued the journey by a boat to the Underground river.
As usual, inside the minivan, I am the only Indonesian tourist. There were two couple from US and two Philippines family. And as usual, every body started to talk to me in Tagalog. We know that Indonesian, Filipino and some other South East Asian citizen share the same appearance such as the skin color. Therefore, not only that day, but the days before, I also had the same experience when in Manila and Puerto Princessa. Some people I met asked me or greeted me in Tagalog, and then I was like, “Sorry? I don’t speak Tagalog”. And then they were like astonished and starred at me for couple seconds
“I thought you were Filipino”.
“I know”, I smiled and then answered.
Actually I could go to the Underground river without using the travel agent service. But as I read from many blogs, and as I heard from some friends who had been there, they suggested me to take tour package. It is quite difficult and takes time to register the entry permit. Therefore, since I did not really have a lot of time here, I decided to take the tour service.
Along the way, the tour guide (TG) explained us why the city was given name Puerto Princessa. There are three versions about this. First version, there is a curvy seashore in this island which water is so calm. The Spanish government who occupied the country then built a harbor there because they think that the area is so good for the ships to dock. Then the government named it Puerto Princessa or port of princess (maybe the philosophical relation is princess word represents the calm of the shore)
Second version, far far away in Spain, there lived a beautiful princess who really wanted to visit this island. Unfortunately, sickness attacked her and brought her to death before she visited the island. In order to put honor toward the princess, the harbor is named Puerto Princessa.
Third version, not long after the death of the princess, every time the Spanish ship docked at the island harbor, the soldiers always saw a white lady was walking along the shore and gone. They believed that the white lady must be the spirit of the princess.
What is so special about Puerto Princessa compared to the other islands in the Philippines, said TG, this island is the longest island in the Philippines, this island also the place where the Philippines ancestors originally came from and spread to the other island. This island is also holding predicate as the least densely populated city and the second largest city in the Philippines.
After stopped for a while at a souvenir shop, The bus continued to go to Sabang beach. Inside the minivan, I started to make conversation with some guys from Filipino family. All of us were excited to find out how we had a lot of word similarity like:
bawang= bawang= onion
As i read from Wikipedia, Tagalog is an Austronesian language and a close cousin of both Malay varieties in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Because of this close relationship, there are many cognates between the two languages stretching back many millennia. Many cognates were re-borrowed into in the language when Old Malay became the official language of trade and documentation during the pre-Hispanic era of Philippine history.
Well, enough with Linguistic discussion, we had arrived at Sabang beach. Before spreading, all the passenger was told to meet at a tent near the dock when the group name called (he decided to called our group “little feather” for uncertain reason lols). We nodded and then left the minivan to look around.
Halo-Halo (Halo means mixed) ice
My first halo-halo
Me and my new Filipino family, look how look alike we are 😀
“Little Feather!” shouted TG.
All of the group member then walked approaching TG who was standing near a dock. We would wait for our turn to have the boat which would sail us to the Underground river area. The boat could only consist of eight passengers. Hence, 16 of us were divided into two smaller group with different boat.
When our boat came, one by one we got into the boat and sailed. The weather was so nice, the sun shined so bright and the waves rolled in calmly. I was in the boat with the other family. Well, we didn’t really talk at that time (everyone was so busy taking the pictures, lols). This family is smaller than before because it just consisted of couple of husband and wife, one little daughter and one grandma–while the other consisted of three couples and one daughter.
The underground river it self lies at the same island. The boat sailed to the side of the island where the mouth of the cave is at. When we arrived, we had to list our name in a counter and then walked a few meters along the wooden path away which is shaded with some trees. At the end of this path away, I could see another tent where we would wait for a call to do the kayaking inside the cave.
One special thing that made me amazed with this tourism site, The underground river seriously concerns to its environmental awareness. Some regulations such as no littering and no smoking are strictly enforced here. Even I could find an anti smoking board and its fine.
While waiting, we picked the safety helmet and life vest to be worn during kayaking. And of course, photo session was always put on the primary list, lols.
The river inside the cave called Cabayugan river which is 8,2 km long. The cave it self is a 24 km long cave which located in the Saint Paul Mountain Range on the northern coast of the island (wikipedia). Inside the cave, we could not only find sets of beautiful rock formations and the fusion of old stalagmites and stalactite, but also we could see some river canals, huge cave dome which is called as “the church”, and a lot of large bats. I sat right in front of the kayak and held the lamp. The captain who rowed the kayak from behind instructed me to light some parts of the cave while explaining. Much rock formations which were naturally eroded into unique form, such as half of Jesus face, giant mushroom, man and woman, even… err… penis, lols.
St. Paul bay outside the cave also presented an incredible breath taking scenery with its turquoise crystal clear water. I walked around the seashore for a while to enjoy that chilling moment alone before getting back to the group and sailed back to Sabang beach.
Well, Puerto Princessa underground tour was over. All of us were sent back to our hotel after having lunch at Sabang beach. This is another memorable tour that I have experienced. One precious thing that I learn from this trip is a commitment to love the environment. How I was so impressed with the government who really commits to discipline every people, not only the citizen but also the tourist, to love and preserve the nature. Wish that Indonesian regional government could do the same toward their local tourism site…
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