THE SOUTHERNMOST PALAWAN COMMUTE

by - 9:30 PM


I had butterflies in my stomach as I saw the relatively thin and narrow strip of wood fleeting in an elevation without hand bars connecting to the passenger boat.  

This might sound exaggerated but that wood was my passport to reach the perfect paradise in the Philippines – to the farthermost and southernmost portion of the province of Palawan.

The world is indeed small for any persistent traveler.  Traveling by air, land and water, unmindful of the long hours of butt-numbing experience, I set foot on one of the best island destinations I have been to in the Philippines as of writing.

I was at Balabac, South Palawan, where the last setting of the sun of the old millennium was witnessed in the Philippines.

Disregarding issues on health and security disseminated on all forms of media, a two-day trip was embarked by this lakwatserong tsinelas.

With a hangover, I arrived early at the NAIA Terminal 4 bound for Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  Major airlines in the country from varied key cities offer flights to and fro Puerto Princesa City.  Travel time by air is an approximate of an hour and 15 minutes.


A colleague and classmate of mine from law school, Atty. Emil Marañon, a traveler as well by the name of 13thfool (wish he would do blogging next time), was my initial point person for this trip.  Upon arrival at Puerto Princesa, we immediately met our friend and daughter of the Mayor of Balabac, Ms. Fatima.  Mayor Shuaib Astami fortunately was there as well and so we discussed our plans of exploring the municipality of Balabac and the National Geographic haven, Onuk Island, which the family owns.

at Onuk Island, Balabac, Palawan
Note that there are no fees imposed to be able to visit the island of Onuk (bold for emphasis) as of the moment. The operative word is to coordinate, that is, with the proper persons. 

We arrived at Puerto Princesa from Manila at noon time, and since we were told that the only trip from Rio Tuba to Balabac via a passenger boat is at 10:30AM to 12 noon, we decided to have an overnight stay at Puerto Princesa and leave early morning the following day at around 4AM.

Packed for a new adventure, we arrived at the San Jose Bus Terminal of Puerto Princesa City before 5AM, hopped on an air-conditioned shuttle van (400-450 pesos fare) bound for Rio Tuba and the trip lasted for almost five hours.

Rio Tuba shuttle van terminal
From the shuttle van terminal of Rio Tuba, we rode a tricycle towards the port of Rio Tuba (20 pesos fare).  The port is a rural community in itself with houses on stilts surrounding the vicinity.  We arrived early.  We were advised that the passenger boat to Balabac will leave around noon time.  Trip schedule to Balabac is not fixed, but one thing is certain though, passengers should enlist and be at the port before 1030AM to be sure or you’ll end up waiting for another day.  Going back to Rio Tuba from Balabac, one should wake up early and the passenger boat leaves at around 6-7AM, depending on the number of passengers and the current sea condition.

port of Rio Tuba
We loitered for two hours at the port, had our lunch at a nearby eatery on stilts, watched the local children play with their improvised fishing rods while I calm myself and calculate the steps to cross on that narrow path towards the passenger boat.  No one was there to assist you except your travel buddy.  As I glance on every passenger, they walked gracefully and cool.  Should they be thinking of what I am thinking?  How do I look if I fall off? I must just be so exaggerated.  I want to think otherwise but my knees were relatively shaking. (hahahaha!)

busy with his toy
too easy to catch for them - crabs!
let's cross the ladder while singing and dancing

I made it! hahaha let's do this again.
And finally (around 1130AM), after waiting for two hours at the port, the passenger boat loaded all the passengers (including myself), engines started and now we’re en route to our final destination, Balabac, Palawan (350 pesos fare for each).  It’s finally time to take a nap. 

finally leaving
The scenic boat ride made a temporary stop at around 4PM.  We were at the Bancalaan port of Balabac.  With the coconut trees standing straight, white sand and clear turquoise waters on sight, Carla, hypothesized that there must be less typhoons passing by this southern part of Palawan.  I agree Ma’am!

The Bancalaan port area I must say is the cleanest and most pristine port I have seen in the Philippines as of writing.  Turquoise is a color commonly used by travel writers to describe clear waters, but the sight at this port is truly what it should be – a mixture of pale blue and green.




Bancalaan port
After an hour from the Bancalaan port, we arrived at the main town of Balabac.  On our way to search for the town mayor’s residential house and not far from the docking area, I heard someone called my name.

It was Ma’am Lorna, MSWDO for the LGU of Balabac, Palawan.  We were ushered to the mayor’s house for some refreshments and with such a warm welcome - this will be the start of living in a paradise for a week.

with Carla, Mayor Astami and Ms. Lorna

LGU-BALABAC PALAWAN
Contact Person:  Lorna A. Gapilangco
Mobile:  +639175532845

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2 comments

  1. Astig! :D I had no plans of visiting the Southern part of Palawan, but it all changed when you mentioned this trip to me. Hope to visit din soon :D

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    Replies
    1. you should visit the island soon. it's so scenic. hehe

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