Puerto Princesa Underground River, 1 of the 28 finalists of the on-going search for the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World, is undoubtedly one of the natural attractions in Palawan Island, Philippines worthy of a visit. It is a natural wonder featuring an 8.2-kilometer navigable underground river, reputedly the longest of its kind in the world, that winds through a spectacular cave, which hosts a variety of species of flora and fauna, before emptying out to the West Philippine Sea in Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan in the West Coast of Palawan, some 81 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa City.
Puerto Princesa Underground River had really captured my imagination since my childhood days. I can still vividly remember the time when my Grade III Philippine geography teacher would ask each and everyone of her pupils to name 5 of our favorite Philippine attractions and I could not wait but sprang from my seat after recognition to tell that my favorite list included Puerto Princesa Underground River, Mayon Volcano, Banawe Rice Terraces, Maria Cristina Falls and Pagsanjan Falls. Candidly, my favorite attractions were not only ordinary illusions then, they formed part of my dreams to finish my studies despite being just a product of an indigent family, so I can have a better quality of life and have the means to see the spots myself someday.
Nevertheless, 2 decades had passed since my college graduation, I was deeply swallowed with other priorities that I have had found the chance to see only a single spot in my list courtesy of my visit to my eldest son studying in a prestigious higher educational institution in Iligan City that I was able to savor the beauty and grandeur of Maria Christina Falls.
Failure I might be in seeing personally the other 4 dreamed attractions but I never missed following their progress especially the Puerto Princesa Underground River. I beamed with pride when the natural wonder was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site on December 4, 1999 and being declared as a National Geological Monument in December 2003. Meanwhile, I supported and followed with interest each and every bits of news about its inclusion in 2007 in the New 7 Wonders of Nature (N7WN) global polling campaign in search of the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World by an independent, Swiss-based, government-controlled New7Wonders Foundation headed by Canadian-Swiss Bernard Weber. Moreover, I felt ecstatic when, out of the over 440 participants representing over 220 countries around the world, the Puerto Princesa Underground River had emerged as the lone finalist from the Philippines and among the 28 Official Finalist Candidates selected by a panel of international experts led by no less than Prof. Federico Mayor from a list of 77 contenders via the first round of global voting from 2007 to 2010. Candidly, my heart always pounds faster whenever I surfed the net to monitor the global voting trend which is up until November 11, 2011. Recently, I rejoiced with the international scientific community with the discovery by an Italian research group La Venta of the fossil remains of a sea cow belonging to the species of the Order Sirenia that lived during the post dinasour Eocene Age 20 million years ago, locally termed DUGONG, and scientifically named Trichechus manatus in a limestone rock above the waters of the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
As voting is about to end, I felt duty-found to visit the Puerto Princesa Underground River and contribute in my own little way for the garnering of votes for my number 1 favorite Philippine attraction.
Hence, I finally found time to visit Palawan last September 30, 2011 with Puerto Princesa Underground River as primary destination. Right after the early morning breakfast, the Toyota Hi-Ace Tourist Van that we boarded headed north of the city traversing through a finely paved highway. We passed by rolling and winding terrains with captivating sceneries of nice limestone formations like this . . . .
After one and half hours of travel, we finally reached Sitio Sabang and dropped at the Information Office . . .
Tourist handling in Puerto Princesa City is exceptionally organized courtesy of the excdellent local governance of Mayor Edward Hagdorn. For one, permits clearly stipulate the time that a tourist is allowed entry to the Puerto Princesa Underground River. While waiting for their turn, tourists are advised to stay at the community stage fronting the Information Office before being assisted to board their assigned 6-seater outrigger pump boat . After a 15-minute bumpy boat ride, which seemed just normal for me but already scary for the others, we dropped anchor at a comely beach fronting the Puerto Princesa Underground River Station. After the usual registration procedures, an exceptional feeling of contentment engulfed in me as I affixed my signature on a piece of paper signifying my vote for the candidacy of the natural wonder that I was about to conquer for a slot in the global search for the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Following the hand signal of the tour guide, I slogged for a few minutes on a catwalk amidst a thick mangrove forest until I reached this place . . .
I then read with interest and took time taking pictures of these 2 signages within the vicinity of the paddle boat station . . .
While waiting for my paddle boat assignment, I took time to pose at the platform built for the purpose with the Puerto Princesa Underground River entrance as background. . .
This group of tourists en route to the natural wonder cave entrance deserved a shoot more so that the background showed the river mouth where the underground river water flows out to the Saint Paul Bay towards the West Philippine Sea. . .
As it was already our turn, I positioned myself in front of the 10-person capacity paddle boat. As the boatman cum tour guide started paddling slowly, my heart beat intensity became erratic due to excessive excitement. I then made a mental conversation with the natural wonder… here is your number one admirer who always wonder how beautiful are you whenever I saw your pictures … get ready, I am going to conquer you. I then took a video shoot to document our entry to the cave . . .
But Alas… a pungent smell of bats’ dung greeted my nose. My eyes were wandering in the dark which made me think twice if my visit was worth the spooky environment that we were heading into. But, thanks to the slapstick jokes of the boatman that my second thoughts were calmed down little by little. A few minutes later, my senses were re-energized as I saw these spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations I have never seen before that really amazed me most. . .
Puerto Princesa Underground River – Final Thoughts
The Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour took us 45 minutes to complete. And candidly, those were among the most fulfilling moments in my whole life. I entered the cave with mixed feelings of excitement and hesitation, strolled and marvelled the grandeur of creation inside, and came out a totally renewed man with faith in the Great Creator soaring to greater heights. For Filipinos and foreigner-friends reading this piece, the Puerto Princesa Underground River really deserves a slot in the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World, a distinction that will only be materialized with your valuable support. You can vote via the following modes:
1. TEXT VOTING (Domestic Reach)
-Vote for Puerto Princesa Underground River by SMS from the Philippines.Each SMS sent counts as one vote for the PP Underground River in the Official New7Wonders of Nature.
-Text PPUR/ send to 2861 (Smart,Globe and Sun subscribers)
1 vote = text PPUR
7 votes= text PPUR7
15 votes= text PPUR15
Cost per SMS sent:
PHP2.50 (Globe, Smart)
2. INTERNET VOTING (Domestic and Global Reach)
LOG IN at www.new7wonders.com and follow the 5 easy steps
Step 1 Choose your 7 candidates (Mandatory, choosing only 1 would stuck your application up)
Step 2 Register
Step 3 Confirm your e-mail link
Step 4 Confirm your vote
Step 5 Voting confirmed
3. VOTE BY TELEPHONE
a. Dial one of these international telephone numbers:
+1 869 760 5990
+1 649 339 8080
+44 758 900 1290
b. At the end of the message, after the tone, dial PPUR’s four digit code 7723
c. When you hear the thank you message, you are all done – you have voted by telephone.
Time is running out as voting officially ends on November 11, 2011. Let us act now or we will loss the opportunity of placing the Philippines in the global map of natural wonders. Stand Up and be counted, vote for the Puerto Princesa Underground River.