ACCORDING to folk tale, there was a princess-like maiden who, seemingly possessed, roamed the land on particular nights of the year well before the Spanish founded in 1872 a settlement in what is now known as Puerto Princesa, the capital city located in the western part of the province of Palawan. As with most myths, the tale, from which ostensibly the city’s name originates, conjures the most romantic imagery—a woman, perhaps in a white dress billowing in the wind as softly as her long silken black hair, perhaps walking barefoot toward a destination seen only by her mind’s eye. Was the woman in the throes of enchantment? Was she a witch communing with the primal forces of nature in the blanket of the night? Or, more simply, was she a woman pining for a lost lover not unlike John Fowles’s unforgettable Sarah Woodruff?
The tale is never quite clear on such details, but what is certain is that Puerto Princesa is not lacking in destinations of pure enchantment—particularly that stretch of underground river located about 50 km north, reputedly the longest navigable underground river in the world. The Puerto Princesa Underground River, located within the Unesco-certified natural World Heritage Site that is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, features major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers, all of which is a wondrous sight to behold.
It comes as no surprise then that the Puerto Princesa Underground River secured a place among the “New Seven Wonders of Nature,” based on a global poll organized by Swiss foundation New7Wonders. This distinction, given late last year, certainly ups the tourism ante of this province that already boasts of some of the most scenic natural frontiers, fantastic diving spots, and islands that can only be regarded as paradise.
Thankfully, the provincial capital has been never more prepared to receive the higher traffic of tourists that the “Wonder of Nature” will no doubt bring, especially with the recent opening of gohotels.ph, the value-for-money hotel chain of premier property developer Robinsons Land Corp. It follows the same “early booking, lower rates” scheme that has made the first in the hotel chain, located at the corner of Edsa and Pioneer Street in Mandaluyong City, a rousing success. The variable pricing approach, a first in the hotel industry, was obviously inspired by the scheme commonly practiced by airlines, which rewards the lowest available rates to the traveler with the quickest click.? The only thing the traveler has to do is visit www.gohotels.ph and the earlier one books, the lower the rates one enjoys without sacrificing essential hotel service quality.
The value hotel chain, which has an open and inviting lobby, boasts of particular features unique to hotels in its price category. First is the availability of Windsor beds which has 100 percent cotton sheets and comfy duvet and pillows that can compete with five-star sleepers in assuring every guest of a first-class slumber all throughout their stay. The modern bathrooms also add comfort to every Juan with hot and cold showers, its sleek fixtures and complimentary toiletry kits. Accessing the Internet won’t be a problem as every room has free Wi-Fi access. An added feature is the LCD cable TVs in every room and in the lounge areas. Safety boxes are also available for the safekeeping of every guest’s valuables.
No doubt tourists wanting to experience the many wonders of Palawan will also delight in the knowledge that gohotels.ph Puerto Princesa is also within easy access to key areas like the airport and various lifestyle hubs, with transportation terminals available to take guests around the area. The friendly staff is on hand to assist guests on different tours of the province, as the hotel has partnered with travel agencies like Gulliver’s Travel to ensure that every guest’s travel needs are covered.
Guests can also start or finish off their Palawan adventure for the day with a no-frills but totally hearty meal at Asian Gourmet, located at the lobby of the hotel. On the menu are all-day breakfast staples, hearty soups, healthy sandwiches and refreshing shakes. And to ease those tired muscles after the day’s exhausting but totally rewarding Palawan adventure, guests can surrender themselves to the expert ministrations of trained therapists from Sparkle, which provides spa services right in the comforts of one’s hotel room.
And, yes, there are many adventures to be enjoyed throughout one’s stay in Palawan—bird watchers will enjoy the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which has been designated an Important Bird Area and Endemic Bird Area by Birdlife International; eco-aficionadoes should find a tour down the Sabang River on paddle boats to observe the mangrove forest totally rewarding; and adventurous spirits will thrill to a jungle trek through the different forest formations where the wilderness and the wildlife provide a sensory spectacle. And, of course, what’s a vacation in Palawan without a stop at the Palawan Crocodile Farm and Conservation Center, also known as the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, where there is on display not only the skeleton of a 17-foot-long crocodile but also a far less daunting two-year-old living and breathing croc that you can hold and have your picture taken with it.
Just remember to keep your face not too close to its mouth.
For some years now, we have been hearing from tourism officials that Palawan is going to be the country’s next major tourist destination. Well, given that Puerto Princesa has gotten a major thumbs-up with the “New Wonder of Nature” assignation, and neighboring Coron luring the beach and snorkeling crowd, that time has apparently come.