The first time I visited Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan, long ago in the mid-90’s, I described my visit as “made in heaven.” This, despite the fact that our trip to the town of Sabang, the jump off point to then already famous Underground River, located about 80 kilometers north of the city center, took us at least 2 hours of travel over rocky, unpaved and dusty road. This also, despite that when we got to the Underground River, armed with a local permit, there was a long line of at least 100 people waiting to get inside.
Apparently, local tourists even at that time were already flocking to the Underground River, long before it was declared as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012.
For someone who lived a harried lifestyle in a first-class but rather polluted city like Makati, where tall, grey buildings outdo each other in height, and going to the mall to eat or shop is the easiest past time, a nature getaway was always a welcome respite.
In Puerto Princesa then, there was no heavy traffic on the roads. The city roads were clean, the people were polite and friendly and I and my friends felt safe walking on its quiet roads even at night. We also enjoyed eating freshly caught seafood like crabs and fish in its local restaurants.
And most of all, we enjoyed swimming in its clean and crystal clear waters and being awed by the colorful underwater flora and fauna that abound around Honda Bay as we went hopping from one island to another. Also, after patiently waiting and floating on a banca for about an hour, we got to see an almost infinite number of bats come out of Bat Island at dusk.
Unfortunately, my photos of the first visit are already gone. However, good memories of that brief escape from a harried lifestyle linger.