Palawan. Of all islands I have seen in the Philippines, I’m most impressed by Palawan. Here, I truly realize how insanely beautiful, untouched and pure this country is. We start (and end) in the capital city of Palawan: Puerto Princesa. It’s just a small city. We spend the night at Subli Cottages. Amazing shacks situated peacefully and owned by a heartwarming woman.
Puerto Princesa is very, very hot and I’m glad we travel for beautiful Port Barton immediately. When we (after a crazy trip to mesmerizing El Nido) travel back, we still have a day and a half in Puerto Princesa. We decide to rent a scooter and explore the area. We visit the ‘open’ prison. Truly a bizarre experience. The Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm is an open prison. The ‘minimum’ prisoners walk around freely but won’t even think of escaping. After years of being locked up, this is their the last part of their sentence. Many even remain living there because they have nothing to go back for. The prisoners are here for violent cases such as mass murder and rape. There is ‘medium security’ as well. They are able to walk around a few hours a day. The ‘maximum security ‘ prisoners are under lock and key the first years, but moving pretty quickly to medium security. We, of course, end up directly at the front door of the maximum security and there is only one open gate that separates us from the people there. We talk to them, shake hands, give them cigarettes (I didn’t have the feeling we could have NOT do that) but I admit…it is quite scary. After driving around in the prison (you can seriously get lost) we see a very cool, old American building. Some prisoners call us from out of the window. Shall we….Sure. I walk inside. Blame it on my open heart and open mind. In here, all kinds of prisoners are walking around. Talking, fighting, doing push ups, dancing…Security is nowhere to be found. I get to talk to them, and hear the most bizarre stories. The one does not stop complimenting about how I look, the other doesn’t leave my side because he wants to be my bodyguard and the third shows his tattoo’s: they stand for the amount of people he killed. “I killed three”, says my bodyguard. “I’VE MURDERED FIVE!”, grins the other one. The fourth says I remind him of his Spanish girlfriend (?!). After taking too many pictures with their phones (I don’t want to know what they are going to do with it) I feel I have to go. They are very affectionate now, and the stories no less violently. Check my uncomfortable grin. It is, again, a bizarre experience.
The next day we go for an island tour at Honda Bay. No succes. This is nothing after we’ve explored the incredibly beautiful El Nido and all its uninhabited islands. The islands here are touristy, and it turns out that everyone in the Philippines go to Puerto Princesa and Honda Bay during holidays. However, no Filipino I have spoken to has been in El Nido. What a shame. Puerto Princesa itself is noisy, and above all, still very hot. We spend the rest of the evening at the harbour with its many food courts, and enjoy a cold San Miguel. The last one. In a few hours we will fly to Manila, where we spend our last night in the prestigious Dusit Thani. Our room is a ballroom. If you love luxury and total closure of the busy, chaotic and violent Manila, this is a good starting point. The view is amazing.
Palawan, you are stunning. Although this seems the end, two blogposts are still coming up about El Nido, the hundreds of small islands and the beaches around El Nido. Wait and see.
Subli Cottages, Puerto Princesa
Dusit Thani, Manila