Puerto Princesa ~ What a Natural Beauty

The natural harbor that forms Puerto Princesa here in the Philippines is one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. Its people are also very beautiful ~ gracious, welcoming, and so very friendly to the arriving passengers. When the ship reached its berth at 7 AM, there was music, banners, and a large number of school children singing and dancing their welcome to us.

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Barb chose to take the City Highlights tour of Puerto Princesa where their first stop was at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm. It is also known as a prison without walls and is more like a 2,500-acre rural farming community where prisoners work on the farms and are encouraged to become more self-sufficient.

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Armed guards were certainly in evidence, but seemed relaxed and not on alert. The maximum-security prisoners are incarcerated and guarded carefully, but the majority of the inmates live in detached, no-bar window houses that are located around the compound. Just outside the unfenced prison the city has set up a re-location center where ex-prisoners can live, farm, and work until they believe they are ready to re-enter society. Over the years a few men have tried to escape, but the distance, jungle like surroundings, and their appearance usually assists law enforcement officials to find them quickly.

The prisoners entertained the visitors by singing two numbers for them and then a troupe of dancers did a native war dance where there is one victor, but then the people killed in the knife battle, are brought back to life.

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Their next stop was the Crocodile Farming Institute that was established in 1987 whose mission is to preserve and conduct further research studies into endangered species of crocodiles. They have a hospital–type facility for sick and disabled crocodiles. They did see the skeleton and skin of one croc that had taken the right leg off a local fisherman before being captured. The reptile later died in captivity from stress; he was about 60 years old and16 feet long.

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Returning to the city they stopped at the lovely Immaculate Conception Cathedral, which appears blue when you are
inside from the blue colored glass in the windows and the wall color.

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Mary Jane went into the city on her own for a quick walk about. The citizens have unique forms of transportation. Similar to the tuk-tuks in India, they have a three-wheeled variation using a motorcycle for propulsion and a covered sidecar for the passenger. There was a long line of them down at the end of the pier ready for us to use as transport for a short trip or a day of sightseeing with a guide. Each was decorated and named individually.

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Besides the tricycles, the locals use a modified minivan bus style vehicle that has the van portion modified with no glass
In the windows and the passengers enter via the open back entrance. There is a bench seat on each side and many passengers (too many at times) can ride inside if you like being up close and personal. Many of the individually owned buses were named and creatively painted.

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The park in the center of town was featuring a small, neighborhood competition for the skate boarders. It is like a form of dancing when you look at the photographs.

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On my way back to the ship I met three schoolgirls on their way home from classes.

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The Tourist Board is trying very hard to build their tourism industry and we believe they will succeed. The students who danced in front of our ship in the morning set the tenor of the day. At every stop hostesses and guides worked very hard to provide information and answer any questions we might have. Many of the passengers commented what a wonderful day they had in Puerto Princesa

We were not able to visit the Subterranean River National Park that is located about 20 miles outside the city. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the world’s longest navigable Underground River that winds its way through a spectacular cave before emptying into the West Philippine Sea. The dugout canoes they use to make the trip are not easy to negotiate for the two of us with double knee replacements, so we had to forgo that adventure we are sad to say, because the people who did participate said it was a great tour!

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