By Anna Valmero
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN — Puerto Princesa typically serves as a stopover for tourists headed to the white sand beaches of Palawan or to visit the world-famous Underground River.
If you are spending an extra day at the city proper, you can make the most of out of it by visiting the following places that highlight Palawan’s ethnic diversity and history.
Palawan Heritage Center. The newest museum in the capitol compound offers a unique look at the cultural heritage of Palawan. Opened in 2011, the museum features interactive displays and houses centuries-old artifacts, including replicas of the Tabon man skull, said to be one of the earliest inhabitants in the archipelago, and the Manunggul jar, which depicts the ancient belief in the afterlife.
You can also see hundreds of pictures taken during the Second World War and of landing sites of ships surrounding Palawan, artifacts including hunting implements and jewelry, Tau't Bato and Batak natives. You can also listen to Cuyonon folk songs and read about their stories on the origin of life and fire, among others.
Plaza Cuartel. The quiet and manicured lawn many locals know today as Lover's Park was witness to how 150 prisoners of war (POWs) were burned to death by the Japanese in 1944 at the height of the Second World War.
The names of the POWs were inscribed in a marker donated by war veteran Don T. Schloat, one of 11 survivors of the massacre in Plaza Cuartel. Before he died in 2008, Schloat told park goers that there is a tunnel below the park that heads straight to the sea. The POWs were drenched in gasoline before they were burned while running to reach the end of the tunnel to survive. At night, the wails of the soldiers can still be heard according to the plaza’s caretaker.
Immaculate Conception Parish. Just opposite the Plaza Cuartel is a century-old cathedral frequented by locals. Its Gothic design and its blue color makes it a standout. The original church, made of nipa hut, was built in the same site during the late 1800s.
As you enter the church, look up and see the native decorations of the ceilings, one of the cathedral’s unique features. Puerto Princesa has one thing in common with the town of Sta. Cruz in Laguna – their patron saint is the Immaculate Concepcion of Mary.
Crocodile Farm. The Palawan Crocodile Farm and Conservation Center is open for visitors to learn about crocodile farming and how to conserve these reptiles. Since the news about the discovery of Lolong in Agusan Marsh, tourist vans have been entering the farm non-stop.
Attractions include the huge skeleton of a crocodile and its leatherette skin, baby crocodiles (grouped under “salties” and freshwater types), and the resting cages of the adult crocodiles. Turn off your camera’s flash when taking photos because this causes undue stress to the animals. Tours are held every 30 minutes. Entrance fee is P50, which helps fund the maintenance of the farm
Baker's Hill. If you are looking to buy pasalubong before heading home, drop by Baker's Hill. It is actually a compound that includes a handful of pizza houses, restaurants and bakeries. There are also statues of famous Disney characters and even Marilyn Monroe wearing a red dress.
Don't forget to bring home boxes of their hopia and chocolate crinkles
How to get there:
Major airlines in the country have daily flights to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. From the airport, you can ride a tricycle (P8 one-way) to get to the capitol or hire one to tour you around the city.
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