Thanks, Puerto Princesa.

Puerto Princesa is sugar and spice and everything nice — a fitting description for the city that was once a port named after a princess.

In a place where tourism has become a huge industry, people are generally genial, well-mannered, courteous and attentive, yet they have a sense of personal space. It feels nice and safe wandering around its clean streets or riding a trike to nearby ecotourism sites. Did I mention that Puerto Princesa is actually carbon negative and the first city in Southeast Asia to be declared as carbon-neutral by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?

We sampled coffee and cake at a local coffee shop named Itoy’s. It’s a fine place to just sit and go slow.

We also discovered that lamayo is another way of enjoying danggit fish. Lamayo is a marination style like “tapa” here in the north. The result is so unlike salty dried danggit. I love it that I am able to feel the texture of the tasty flesh of lamayo.

Having opened its doors to settlers from other regions, Puerto Princesa is multi-cultural. Proof is its unique cuisine — a melting pot of flavors. I’ve seen Ilocano dishes like pinakbet and kilawing kambing in some restaurant menus.

One of the boys bought a kilo of lechon supposedly done the Cebuano way, such a sweet gesture. Still chasing my best lechon.

The skin was not crisp by the time we ate it at the hotel. The juicy and tender meat was a consolation. Always somewhat salty, Cebu lechon is far from my ideal lechon.

There is quite an abundance of cashew nuts in Puerto Princesa. You can find the roasted kind in souvenir stores or in markets. I got yummy cashew tarts, not the kind with very thick floury crusts you’d find at groceries in the north. Theirs are old-fashioned in a good way.

I skipped other places like Iwahig and the butterfly farm for the future. If and when I go back, I’m hoping to see that the next mayor will be as persistent as Mayor Edward Hagedorn, who’s in his last term of office. He is the knight in shining armor that has fought Princesa’s plunderers and polluters.

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved

You may want to read my prevoius posts on Puerto Princesa.

Lunch at Ka Inatô
The Crocodile Farm
Irawan Eco Park
Dinner at Ka Lui
Quintessential Palawan
Quintessential Palawan: Part 2
Exotic Dinner at Kinabuchs
Pass the sunscreen (Honda Bay)
Chao long sa chaolongan

Chao long sa chaolongan

Our longing for seafood fizzles out, and so is our planned dinner at Badjao Seafront Restaurant. Then came the inevitable crack at Puerto Princesa’s Vietnamese influenced cooking.

Viet cuisine, introduced by Vietnamese refugees back in the mid-70s, has seeped through the city’s vernacular diet. Chaolongans (places to eat chao long), originally operated by Vietnamese emigrants, have become consistent crowd-drawers. Our guide recommended Rene’s Saigon, a celebrated Vietnamese restaurant along the bustling Rizal Avenue, but it was closed before we arrived. Who else to ask but our tricycle driver. He brought us to Bona’s Chao Long Haus, a busy no-frills eatery along Manalo Extension. There were more local diners than tourists in the chalongan. They ate noodle soup with what looked like a baguette. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, so we ordered beef stew chao long with plain French bread, an unmistakable French influence in Indochina. The other variations of chao long are buto-buto, pork and beef. I noticed that the diners favor the meat-filled baguettes. It must be good.

The hot beef stew chao long arrived with a separate bowl of fresh bean sprouts, basil, mint and calamansi. It looks and tastes pretty close to a pho bo kho. Minus the flavor-boosting herbs, the dish would be plainly sweet. The hofan-like rice noodles are notably pleasing to the bite The stew’s intense red-yellow color must come from natural anatto oil. I read that cháo lòng in Saigon is rice porridge with pork innards. How Puerto Princesa’s chao long got its name is vague. Suffice it to say, chaolongans and chao long have character worth exploring.

The husband considers the downright cheap 45-peso chao long meal his best chow in Palawan. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Ciao for now.

Bona’s Chao Long Haus Manalo Extension, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved

Pass the sunscreen

On our last day in Puerto Princesa, we went beaching around Honda Bay. “Ocean’s Ten” voted unanimously to go snorkeling in Dos Palmas, a resort on the Arreceffi Island, a little farther north than the more touristy Pandan Island. After two crazy, hectic days, it was difficult waking up at 5 AM. Our neighbor must have knocked on our door three times before I could take myself into the shower. It was only when we were in the boat at Sta. Lourdes Wharf that I realized I forgot to take along my waterproof camera case, ugh. The sunscreen? The sunscreen is never taken out of my tote.In an hour, I could feel the sun on all sides. The beach was alluringly beautiful! The smell of the sea is always evocative.

In Dos Palmas, we boarded a smaller boat that took us to a floating hut in the middle of the cerulean waters. What a blissful sight awaits us.

Palawan is a nature sanctuary. Palawan boasts of abundant and diverse marine life. It has been said that the Philippines is the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity. With strict implementation of all the environment laws in the country, I do hope we will be able to protect and conserve this natural heritage for the next generations to enjoy.

Back to the shore.The snorkeling and kayaking package includes a wonderful seafood buffet lunch. The pechay spring rolls were lovely, but I ate more kutsinta and dudol. Oh, and ararosip.

I hope to be able to vist Coron and El Nido in the future. *Dos Palmas used to be a  posh place until that fateful day of May 27, 2001. (My prayers are with you, Gracia.)

Pandan Island

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved