Philippines is hidding a real gem. In fact, scratch that, they are hiding some of the most amazing islands for vacation in the world. I’ve been to the main island a couple of times, but it was this intentional visit to go see the 7 natural wonders of the world that brought me to the little gem of an island of Palawan. Puerto Princesa Underground River started with a motor boat ride to the nearby beach to an outfitter to provide us with smaller boats bright mandatory big orange life jackets and shiny hard hat helmets.
The puerto princesa national park is a limestone karst mountain landscape. The actual St. Pauls Underground River Cave is more than 24 km (15 mi) long and contains an 8.2 km (5.1 mi) long underground section of the Cabayugan River. The river system of the cave flows into the West Philippine Sea and is navigable by boat up to 4.3 km (2.7 mi) in from the entrance. The cave includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers, including the 360-meter-long Italian’s Chamber with approximate 2.5 million square meters of volume making it one of the largest cave rooms in the world.
Tourists getting ready to enter the cave
Just inside the cave system
On the first boat headed to the beach with the smaller boats
The island of Palawan has many uniquely styled canoe boats designed to move quickly over the water
The boat captains love and live on the water. It is life.
Bats, snakes, birds, there’s a lot of life going in and out of the caves.
Chili crab. Some of the best food on a banana leaf.
The boats are a very important part of life on Palawan island
I stand back to back with our guide and she’s next to one of the indigenous oldest elders. They are known as pygmy people due to their height.
Palawan not only has an underground river cave system, but also native tribes! This friendly looking tribe recently emerged from the forest. They danced with us and taught us about their mythologies and shared traditions. A young guide who is from another nearby tribe can speak their language and helped us communicate with them. The young ones are now attending a school built right next to the huts, the teacher resides nearby.
There are 70 indigenous peoples and the Bataks are thought to come from Asia 50,000 years ago. The island of Palawan, the largest province in the Philippines, is home to several indigenous ethnolinguistic groups namely, the Kagayanen, Tagbanwa, Palawano, Taaw’t Bato, Molbog and the Batak tribes. They live in remote villages in the mountains and coastal areas. We drove as far as we could and then walked across 6 streams to this remote village. We visited this small tribe of about 17 individuals, some of the last of the Batak tribe. The Batak tribe is a group of indigenous people who reside in the rugged interiors of the northeast portion of the province of Palawan. These group of people lives close to nature and are extremely peaceful and shy, traditionally they believe in nature spirits with whom they communicate with through the aid of a shaman. At present, there are only about 500, or less, Batak people remaining in the Philippines. This group is now Christian and preferred not to talk about the old beliefs, but did tell us how much their lives changed when they found rice. It was rice ultimately that drove them from hiding in the forest to coming out and coexisting with the other people.