Monthly Archives: September 2011

Puerto Princes Underground River: A Wonder of Nature

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, Philippine...

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Puerto Princesa Underground River



“ONE of the top natural attractions in the Philippines.” “An excellent scenic spot to visit.” “A spectacular limestone karst landscape with its underground river.” These are just some of the descriptions used to describe the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR).

Actually, the amazing subterranean waterway is part of the larger Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which was established in March 26, 1971. The National Committee on Geological Sciences declared the place as a National Geological Monument on December 11, 2003. Earlier, on December 4, 1999, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated it a World Heritage Site.

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“The focus of the area is a spectacular karst landscape which features both surface karst features, as well as an extensive underground river system,” said UNESCO in a statement. “A distinguishing feature of the river is the fact that it emerges directly into the sea, and that the lower portion of the river is brackish and subject to tidal influences.”

Until the discovery of an underground river in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in 2007, the 8.2-kilometer long Puerto Princesa Subterranean River was reputed to be the world’s longest underground river.

The underground river arises approximately two kilometers south-west of Mount Saint Paul at an altitude of 100 meters. “The subterranean river is the park’s main calling card, and it passes through a mystical limestone cave before emptying into the South China Sea,” UNESCO said.

No one knew who discovered the underground river first. However, it is believed that the islands early inhabitants were the first to know of its existence, but their fear of spirits that they believe inhabit the caves prevented them from exploring the cave.

The earliest recorded mention of the underground river was done Dean C. Worcester, Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of Michigan who later became the Secretary of Interior. In 1887, he wrote while touring the island of Palawan he heard of some accounts telling him “of a lake opening to the sea by a Subterranean River.”

I had the opportunity of seeing this spectacular underground river up close some twenty years ago as part of the prize of I won in a media contest sponsored by then Senator Heherson Alvarez. Recently, I returned together with some of the members of the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists.

The underground river is about 50 kilometers north of the city center of Puerto Princesa. But be warned: you will need to spend about two hours of bumpy and whirlwind ride to get to Sitio Sabang, the starting point.

From Sitio Sabang, you have to ride a boat that can accommodate from six to twelve persons. All visitors are requested to wear a life jacket as the boat ride is sometimes tumultuous if not breathtaking. The boat ride is about fifteen to twenty minutes.

Once you get to the park entrance, you have to wait for about thirty minutes before you can get inside the cave. Our boat guide, Ricardo Mancera, said only half of the 8.2 kilometer-long river is navigable but they ferry visitors only a kilometer and a half into the cave. The boat ride takes about 45 minutes to one hour. Entrance fee is 200 pesos for foreigners and 150 pesos for locals. Kids and senior citizens get a discount.

Be sure to listen to your bangkero as he explained those beautiful images of stalactites and stalagmites. In the massive cavern called the Cathedral, you get to see an image of Virgin Mary and the Holy Family. There are several other images: corn, mushroom, carrot, jellyfish, umbrella, man’s head, and part of dinosaurs and ship. A battery-operated lamp beams on these various formations.

When admiring the limestone cave and different formations, keep your mouth close when looking up. The cave is home to bats and swiftlets, in which case guano often falls from the upper reaches. “Always wear your safety helmet because you’ll never know if it’s water of the pee of the bat that hits you,” Mancera reminds.

According to Mancera, we were the 11th group he toured that day. “On a busy day, we have about 800 visitors who come to this place,” he says. “Even on lean days, we still have some 600 visitors.”

Cruising down a beautiful underground river is just one of the things you can do while in the 22,202-hectare national park. The Park has a range of forest formations representing eight of the thirteen forest types found in tropical Asia. So far, researchers have identified more than 800 plant species from 300 genera and 100 families. Among the common trees are dao, ipil, dita, amugis, and apitong. Other notable plant species include almaciga and kamagong.

Birds comprise the largest group of vertebrates found in the park. Of the 252 bird species known to occur in Palawan, a total of 165 species of birds were recorded in the park. Notable species are the blue-naped parrot, hill myna, Palawan hornbill, and white breasted sea eagle. The Palawan peacock pheasant has also been recorded in the site (recognized as an internationally threatened species).

There are also some 30 mammal species that have been recorded. Most often observed in the forest canopy and along the shoreline feeding during low tide is the long-tailed macaque, the only primate found in the area. Other mammal species are the bearded pig, bearcat, Palawan stink badger, and the Palawan porcupine.

Notable are the nine species of bats, two species of swiftlets and whip spider found in the cave, and the sea cow (Dugong dugon) and the hawksbill sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) that feed in the coastal area of the park.

It was almost dark when we left the underground river. There was also a storm coming and everyone was silent as we traversed the sea. We talked again once we got back at the wharf. Some of us were already wet as it was raining hard.

It was good that the place where we were staying – the Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort – was just a walking distance away. “Our location is perfect because we are able to support the accommodation requirements of guests going to the underground river,” says chairman and CEO Ruben “Butch” F. Tan, Jr.

We agreed.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 29, 2011. By Henrylito D. Tacio

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5-day Weather Outlook Now Available Online

Fretting your stay in Boracay, El Nido, Anilao or Puerto Galera will be rained out?


Worry not. If you log onto the weather bureau’s website, you’ll be surprised to find a weather scenario in famous destinations not only for a day, but for five days.

To help tourists plan their getaway, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on Wednesday launched a weather outlook for selected tourist areas on and

The five-day outlook initially covers 12 destinations: Vigan, Baguio City, Banaue, Anilao in Batangas, Puerto Galera in Mindoro, Taal in Batangas, Naga City, El Nido in Palawan, Boracay in Aklan, Cebu and Davao, but will eventually be expanded to include other spots.

If you click on the site, you’d find the weather outlook for the 12 destinations from 10 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Sunday.   For instance, Vigan and Banaue are mostly cloudy with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms in those five days. Naga City, Cebu and Davao will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rain showers/ thunderstorm during the same period, and so on.

“It helps people to plan,” Pagasa supervising undersecretary Graciano Yumul said in an interview, pointing out that the five-day forecast would guide island-hopping tourists where to travel next given the differing weather conditions in different parts of the archipelago. “In effect, they’ll become weather-ready.”

The move has been prompted by calls or queries on Pagasa’s Twitter account about a weather scenario specific to a destination, and by the bureau’s desire to boost tourism in the country.

“The Philippines has a goal of attracting more tourists. And one thing tourists would like to know is whether it will be raining in the destination they’re going to,” Yumul said. “If you’re a tourist, you want as much information as you can about your destination. For tourists, the most important element is the weather.”

In a way, this is Pagasa’s contribution to making the country tourist-friendly. It would be a big help if local hotels print out the weather outlook and post it at their lobbies for the benefit of foreign or local tourists, he added.

Thanks to data transmitted by manned synoptic and unmanned automatic weather stations, as well as complex weather stations built in or close to these destinations, the forecasters have been able to come up with a weather outlook specific to a destination.

“That’s the reason we can do this. We have basis for coming out with the weather outlook,” Yumul said.


WESCOM continues efforts to protect Palawan tourism industry

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

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Palawan tourism industry

ISABELA CITY, Basilan, Sept 16 (PIA) -– The Western Command (WESCOM) continues its effort to protect and strengthen the tourism industry in the entire province by addressing the tourism-related security issues in Palawan.



The 6th Civil Relations Group of the AFP said after conducting a Security Assessment, Validation and Evaluation (SAVE) Tourism forum in El Nido on September 2 and in Narra on September 5, top officials from WESCOM once again gathered resort owners and managers from Puerto Princesa City and the central part of Palawan to discuss ways to strengthen the security of their respective businesses.


“Security is the responsibility of everybody. All stakeholders must take part in addressing this issue. We must be proactive and alert. We must not put our guard down in order to achieve development and peace,” WESCOM Commander LTGen Juancho M. Sabban AFP said on the importance of conducting the forum.


The SAVE Tourism forum aims to help resort and other tourism establishment owners and managers identify problems concerning the security of their businesses and come up with possible solutions to address them.


Owners and managers of tourist attractions in the city, as well as the tourism officers of Puerto Princesa and Roxas on September 9 sat down with WESCOM officials, Philippine National Police (PNP) officers and heads of different agencies concerned with the security of the city to discuss these issues in a forum held at the WESCOM Headquarters.


During the forum, WESCOM Chief of Staff CAPT Rosauro Sarmiento PN stressed the importance of tightening the security measures adopted by the numerous resorts and other tourist attractions found in the city to guarantee the safety of the guests and protect the integrity of their establishments.


CAPT Sarmiento also reminded the owners and managers of these establishments of their responsibility to the safety of the local and foreign tourists and of the importance of their cooperation to the success of this endeavor.


Besides formulating a contingency/security plan for the resorts, the forum attendees were able to create a communication network that would help them relay information faster and more efficient. Should an incident occur, they can now immediately report to hotlines provided by the military (OU2 Hub# 09175769474; Piltel# 433-7825); Provincial PNP (433-4363) and the City PNP (434-9890).


They will also utilize the services of social networking sites, such as Facebook, to communicate (Facebook Page Palawan Save (like) with account number [email protected]).


The participants have also decided to conduct a regular meeting after the forum to ensure the success of the forum’s objectives.


City PNP Director P/SSupt Virgilio Parocha also discussed salient points on public safety so that the SAVE Tourism program will have a quick and immediate actions to any incidents.


Though Palawan is relatively peaceful, WESCOM initiated the undertaking of SAVE Tourism security forum to avoid the occurrence of a tourism-related incident that could adversely affect the tourism industry of the province or compromise its security.


Among those who attended the forum with owners and managers of beach resorts are: Amanpulo and the Sheridan beach resorts, representatives from security-concerned agencies like the Civil Aviation Authority Office (CAAO), PNP Aviation Security Group, Special Operations Group (SOG) of Puerto Princesa City and Bantay Puerto.


Representatives of tourist transportation groups, including the Honda Bay Transportation Association and the AIRTODA Puerto also participated in the security forum. (JPA/6CRGAFP/RVC-PIA9 BaSulTa)


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