Look It Up!

20 February 2012

Puerto Princesa - Paradise? - Days 3 and 4

Day 3 - Honda Bay Tour  

Day 3 was for the Honda Bay Tour. Our tour guide was RJ. 

We left Raq's at around 7:30 a.m. We were with the following tour-mates:

1. The Leanos - the 3 Aussies and 1 American balikbayans from day 1. We had more time to bond with them. The Aussie couple was Tito Rolly (who was fond of taking videos of everyone, asking them if they loved Puerto Princesa and capping it off by saying he's Rolly de Castro. Super funny guy who's still so strong, flexible and healthy at 71) and Tita Auring (a quiet but very caring lady). They were with their daughter Hazel, who's now my Facebook contact. Yey. Hazel's just like her dad, super adventurous. In our group, she and her dad were the only ones who went snorkeling. The US balikbayan was I think, Tita Auring's sister, Tita Baby. She's super machika and maalaga.

2. Tita Linda and her husband. Tita Linda reminded me so much of Nanay. Makulit and very motherly. Hehe. Her husband was a funny guy who provided most of the comic relief. They were with the husband's brother and the brother's wife (Tita Luisa). Tita Luisa and her husband are also balikbayans from the US.

3. The Cebuano couple. They are dealers of San Miguel in Cebu. They were very nice and simple (even if they looked like rich people from the province).

This tour group was the best we got. Of course there will be dominantes but they were caring dominantes. I felt as if we were traveling with our families. The Titas made sure we were well-fed and that we took advantage of all the attractions that the places we visited had to offer. Tita Linda even called us "anak." And yes, like typical mothers, they would tell us to join the group and not to isolate ourselves.

We got to the wharf around mid-morning for the boat ride to the first island.

First stop was Pandan Island. Next to Dos Palmas, they say this is the most beautiful island in Honda Bay. It was okay. White sand (but again not as fine as Boracay's). The waves were kinda big so everyone was advised to swim with life vests on. Rhuel hated it. Nasasakal daw siya. As for me, I was relegated to the lifeguard post. Boo. 

We had lunch on that island too.

We were staying until early afternoon, so we decided to explore the island a bit.

Speaking of Dos Palmas, Rhuel and I think that we might have enjoyed Honda Bay more if we went to Dos Palmas instead of going island hopping. It would have been more relaxing. And Rosanne's blog post states that food there was superb. We wanted to do it initially. We just need to pay additional Php700.00 per person. But when we were booking the tour packages, we were informed that Dos Palmas increased its rates for locals to Php2,500.00, similar to what they charge foreigners. That means we need to pay additional Php1,400.00 per person. Too much naman ata. So we decided to skip it.

Next island was Starfish Island. The island was small. There were only cottages there. It was not ideal for swimming according to Rhuel because there were lots of pebbles. The saving grace of the island were the photo op attractions. 

You can do magic tricks with the buko, starfish, etc. 

The Titas enjoyed taking pictures as the island has this nice picture frame-like structure that you can posed in. They even tried doing jump shots. Unfortunately, one tita fell on the ground after attempting her jump shot. Tsk.

Final stop was at the Pambato Reef. It's not an island. It's a popular site for snorkeling so they put up some floating cottages there. The roof of the big cottage is shaped like a turtle. 

Getting to the cottage was quite complicated though. You had to cross a bridge that was floating too. When we got there, things were even more complicated because all of the docking sites in front of the bridge were occupied. Those who wanted to get to the cottage had to cross over to the boat in front of us before finally getting to the bridge. 

We didn't even try. Less than half of our tour-mates tried doing it. Tito Rolly, who was probably the oldest in our group, did it! And he didn't even use the bridge to go back to the boat from the cottage. He swam all the way. He had a hard time getting on the boat though.

 We stayed in the boat and took in the surroundings.


Then it was time to go back to the port. The waves were not that bad this time. Whew!

Dinner was at Blue Ginger. Initial plan was to eat at the Badjao Seafood Restaurant. But Rhuel thought it was too far. We were told that we had to pay around Php100.00 for one-way trike fare. Rhuel looked for a nice restaurant on the internet. He was craving for non-Filipino food this time. So we ate at Blue Ginger. It's owned by an American and a Pinay couple. 

Rhuel ordered the hamburger. He loved it. 

 I ordered some pasta. Chicken parmigiana something. I did not like it. Tasted Indian to me. And I'm not fond of Indian food. The chicken was not that bad actually, but the pasta was not edible. But the Pinay owner was so friendly. She made the rounds and made sure she entertained all the guests. Small talk stuff, like how we learned about the restaurant, etc.

Day 4 - Home Sweet Home

It was time to go home on Day 4. Kuya driver brought us to the airport so we can catch our 9:10 a.m. flight back to Manila.

Some observations. Raq's Pension is okay for non-choosy people like me and Rhuel. But if you're on the sensitive side, you might not like it there because it's kinda old. 

We were okay with it because they gave us lots of souvenirs (may souvenir for every tour), there was free wi-fi, the breakfast was not continental (read: just bread and butter) and the driver was always at your service. So, pwede na rin.

Tour guides and the pension house staff reminded us to apply Off Lotion and bring extra clothes for the Honda Bay and the Underground River tours. Yes on the Off Lotion but not really on the extra clothes. You'll be taking boat rides anyway so you'll have some time to dry up before you board the van. I'm guessing this is a self-serving requirement for them so their vehicles would not get wet. Hehe.

The tour guides were okay in general but can still improve. The boatman in the Underground River was totally not okay. I know they need to be funny and interesting but they should not be rude or disrespectful especially to foreigners.

Puerto Princesa seemed like a peaceful and orderly place. Sabi nga ng tour guide namin, there is no crime rate in Puerto Princesa. Hihi. 

The city proper no longer had the probinsya charm that Rhuel and I love. But the outskirts still gave us the probinsiya feeling. The air was so fresh. It was super green everywhere too. Rhuel wants to see more landscaping though. I really think they need to exert extra effort in beautifying the place because more tourists will definitely be going there due to the inclusion of the Underground River in the Wonders of Nature list.

All in all, Rhuel and I feel that Puerto Princesa was not as lovely as the other provinces we've visited in the past. We were both excited to go home. Hehe. But you still need to visit it, if only to see for yourself if the Underground River's the real deal as a wonder of nature. ;-)