” Passing thru the mountains”
…Although the weather was harsh on me, this did not prevent me from pursuing my desire to unravel the beauty of Palawan. On our way back to Puerto Princesa, going up the mountain was an enrichment of travel experience as well as a revelation of what was not seen during our night passage through that unpaved cavity laden mountain road. What was hidden by darkness last night will be revealed on our way back to the capital.
I was really awed at the sight of the clouds drifting very low when we were traversing the rugged blind curves of the road. I couldn’t resist the hypnotic magic that lured me to alight from the tricycle. Ecstatic about the primordial effects that rains, cloudy skies, cold mountain breeze and a little sun light, had brought, I was taken into puberty stage once again. Being playful was the order of the day. I ran, jumped, kicked, and swallowed the clouds that’s on my way. They were cool to the skin and were like smoke or cotton candy clustered and meandering all over. My eyes had a feasting mood at this once-in-a-lifetime panorama unfolding within the vicinity of paradise.
Minutes later, we were already tracking downhill as the trike’s driver kept on pressing frequently the brake handle so as not to plunge at the side ravines. Setting my eyes on the spectacular slopes, different hues of greens contrasted by millions of raindrops was like a painting that came into life on a stormy day. With one hand gripping the iron railing of the tricycle roof, I stood and watched the changes of the landscape while we were descending. Banana plants with ripened fruits, ferns making a life on branches and trunks of trees, species of unknown flora lining the shoulder of the road and ravines, tall and sturdy trees swaying with the howling wind, sounds of birds foreign to my ears, and clear raindrops falling, all made a perfect presentation and sketch of a different kind of paradise on earth.
Reaching the plains downhill revealed another form of poetry in action unfolding its dramatic secrets under the dark shadows of the storm. White herons on the rice fields made their virginal debut by flying and posing at the carabao’s back making their presence felt.
Under the cover of rain, the highway became a repository of mountain rocks of different colors that stood majestically along the road. Blackish, grayish, greenish, brownish, and golden colors of flat rocks and boulders formed as mountain ranges cut through by the stretches of highways that passes through it.
Slippery road, dull visibility, and bogged down trike caused some delays in our trip back to Puerto Princesa. Hours and hours of travelling cost us some unexpected loss of energy but the stunning scenes that abound surpassed and fully made up for the squandered time. After some tinkering of the trike’s motor we sped off fast making an early arrival at Puerto Princesa’s Honda Bay, toeing my itinerary.
Despite the continuous rains we proceeded with the island hopping at Honda Bay. Luli ( Lulubog-Lilitaw )island, Starfish island, and Snake islands are white sanded islets that own the distinction of being one of the premier tourist attractions in Palawan. You can go fish-feeding, snorkeling, or just for a swim at the crystal clear waters of the beach. I was offered to add an additional one thousand and five hundred pesos for the Dos Palmas resort visit just a distance away. I could have grabbed the offer if not for the bad weather we were encountering. So we returned back to the pier partly drenched with sea water and rain.
We drove to Iwahig Penal Colony after my driver changed his rain soaked clothes at his house. Yes, it is a penal colony. A colony of prisoners but without walls or barriers that enclosed the area. It is a low security prison but no reported escapee has been reported. I think the reason is that families of prisoners live with them and they are provided with vocational activities.
At the entrance gate, a relative of a prisoner hitched a ride with us. As I’ve seen, both sides of the road were irrigated rice fields. Houses were not as many as a regular community may have and, as the relative told us, those houses are owned by ranking officials of the colony. Iwahig has a plaza of its own as big as a regular poblacion, a Rizal monument, a church, a souvenir shop, and other buildings.
As curious as I was, entering the souvenir shop was uncanny enough as I still felt the silence permeated with soft pop music. Items made by prisoners from ball pens, key chains, paintings, T-shirts, and other vocational products were on sale. During the course of my selection process of what to buy, a prisoner talked to me secretly and offered some T-shirts . I was caught off guard of being nervous as he continued to offer the T-shirt costing three hundred pesos a piece. After some lengthy convincing by him I nodded, then he told me to wait outside the shop for my payment. Accepting the shirt did not only made him happy but also spawned a way to open up his life story. He was due for release a year from then on. Honestly, the shirt smelled some body odor, presumably it was already used by him before the selling.
My curiosity didn’t end there as I could hear the mass from the nearby street. Apprehension was felt but I continued to have a look-see of what was really going on. I went inside the church and found out that there were only five people attending. I wanted to take pictures of the altar but was scared that I might disrupt the solemnity and one of them would chase me away.
Leaving the Penal Colony for Puerto Princesa was a tense exit. We were reminded not to let anybody hitch a ride with us in going out until we reached the exit gate. So we drove fast and stayed at the center of the road hoping nobody would flagged us down for a hitch out. I guess this was to prevent prisoners from making a way out from Iwahig at night for some reasons and come back in the morning.
The time for me to leave one of the country’s paradise has come. It’s hard for me to leave for home because I still wanted to have more places to visit on my itinerary listing. I still wanted to have some more experience enrichment treks.
Sitting by the window of the plane, I wonder if after five years Palawan will still be the same as it is today. Would it remain as raw as it is? Would the beaches remain as clear and pristine? Would the mountains still be green or be bald and prone to landslides? As the citizens are fighting against some mining activities I hope government officials will be sensitive enough to resist mining and deforestation activities in Palawan. I do sympathize with them in joining their cause, “SAY NO TO MINING IN PALAWAN, SAVE THE LAST FRONTIER”.