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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Puerto Princesa, Palawan: The Subterranean River

For me, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River or popularly known as the "Underground River" is definitely one of the best tourist site in the Philippines and a must-see place before you vanish in this world. It's pretty amazing how nature unraveled its own beauty and created such beautiful scene.

St. Paul Limestone Formation
Originally known as "St. Paul Limestone Formation"

According to our tour guide, Kris, when we went to the Underground River, the Islands of Palawan was once submerged in water that's why the island is mostly made up of limestones, and over time and other environmental factors, the island was formed the way it is now.

Raffy, our boatman and tour guide during the Underground River tour mentioned that the original name of the underground river was "St. Paul Limestone Formation" because the facade and the mountain covering the cave similarly resembles the St. Paul Cathedral. However, because of the recently concluded New 7 Wonders of Nature where it was finally included as one of the finalists, it was now popularly referred to as the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River.

Underground River boatman
Together with our boatman, Raffy

The navigable river trail according to our boatman is around 2.1 kilometers, however underground tours are only allowed up to 1.5 kilometers. You need special tour permit from the local tourism office if you want to go beyond the allowable river tour and plan to explore some of the narrow river canals. More fascinating and shimmering stalactites and stalagmites can be found on these less-explored areas.

TRAVEL TIP: When going inside the Underground River, make sure to wear your life jacket and hard hat (in their case the color of both were orange), and secure your Digicam / DSLR from dripping water or bat pee or worst bat poop, from the cave's ceiling.

Proper Gears to Underground River Palawan
Preparing ourselves before entering the cave

TRAVEL TIP: The tour took around 30 - 45 minutes. Upon entering the cave, it felt a bit scary, just a bit, maybe because of the cold circulating air inside it. However, when our boatman started his tour guiding spiels, everything went well.

Limestone Formation at Underground River Palawan
"Mushroom-like" limestone formation
The Candle at Underground River Palawan
"The Candle"

All, yes I'm referring to all the boatmen, were very hilarious when doing their guiding stints! Every sentence they said ended with a joke. Now I completely understood that they take this craft seriously. Serious in a way that they want to be informative and as well as interactive with the guests. There were lots of fascinating stone formations found inside the underground river. Some of the coined terms by the boatmen for the stone figures inside were: The Cathedral, The Candle, Vegetable and Fruit Market, The Titanic, Pegasus, Virgin Mary, Shark's Fin, and even Sharon Stone!

Sharon Stone at Underground River
"Sharon Stone"

Some of the jokes that stayed in my mind were, the "Batroom" - a part of the cave where bats allegedly pee and poop because of the stinking smell, and the other one was when we passed-by another boat and our lightman accidentally focused the light on the face of the other boatman and he responded, "Wag nyo po kaming ilawan, hindi po kami bato!" ("Don't focus your light on us, we're not stone formations!"). These jokes made my day!

Entrance to the Underground River
Entrance to the Underground River

I salute all the tour guides and boatmen in Puerto Princesa. They're making sure putting laughter, not just smiles, into the faces of every tourist. I respect them more now that I understand how difficult their job is - inform and lead tourists, and as well as making tourists at ease, happy, and satisfied.

More information about Palawan from here:

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