Palawan News October 2018

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Palawan - Archived News

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Dietary supplement is a product that contains vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and/or other ingredients intended to supplement the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has special labeling requirements for dietary supplements and treats them as foods, not drugs.

Manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are prohibited from marketing products that are adulterated or misbranded. That means that these firms are responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure that they meet all the requirements of DSHEA and FDA regulations.

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Undergroud River in Palawan
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Underground river in Pureto Princesa, Palawan
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Baracuda Lake, Coron, Palawan

Wars of ancient history were about possessions, territory, power, control, family, betrayal, lover's quarrel, politics and sometimes religion.

But we are in the Modern era and supposedly more educated and enlightened .

Think about this. Don't just brush off these questions.

  • Why is RELIGION still involved in WARS? Isn't religion supposed to be about PEACE?
  • Ask yourself; What religion always campaign to have its religious laws be accepted as government laws, always involved in wars and consistently causing WARS, yet insists that it's a religion of peace?


There are only two kinds of people who teach tolerance:
  1. The Bullies. They want you to tolerate them so they can continue to maliciously deprive you. Do not believe these bullies teaching tolerance, saying that it’s the path to prevent hatred and prejudice.
  2. The victims who are waiting for the right moment to retaliate. They can’t win yet, so they tolerate.
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U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie A. Kenney and USAID/Philippines Environment Office Chief Daniel Moore witness the safe and sustainable collection of ornamental fish by certified Marine Aquarium Council collectors in Palawan

Puerto Princesa deploys more than 400 cops for ‘Undas’

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Over 400 police personnel were deployed here Wednesday to secure the safety of the public during the commemoration of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day.

They officially received their deployment orders to different cemeteries, churches, tourism sites, terminals, and other crowded areas in a send-off ceremony held at the Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) in Barangay San Pedro.

PPCPO director Senior Supt. Ronnie Francis Cariaga said they were sent out under Oplan Kaluluwa and Ligtas Undas 2018 to ensure public security until 8 p.m. on November 2.

“This is a traditional celebration and we know what to do. We just hope we’ll continue to maintain a secure environment for the public. It’s difficult if one untoward incident happens, so we have to be vigilant,” he said.

Cariaga further said the police personnel will provide a 12-hour service that may extend to 18 hours when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declare a red alert throughout the week.

He stressed it is important that they stay alert and cooperate with residents on the reporting of information that would threaten peace and order.

“We don’t want you to relax because if you do and a bombing incident happens, Puerto Princesa City will be similar to other big cities where people might live in fear. This is a city that has not experienced that and we certainly don’t want this kind of incident,” he said.

Earlier, Cariaga reminded residents to secure and lock their homes before they leave for the cemeteries; bring enough food, water, and their own trash bags; and unplug appliances and turn off liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanks to prevent house fires.

He also warned them against bringing bladed weapons and other sharp objects, playing cards, loud speakers, and liquor as these items are prohibited.

Palawan cops ready for ‘Undas’ 2018

By Celeste Anna Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Police authorities here will launch Wednesday “Oplan Kaluluwa” dedicated to the safe and secure commemoration of All Saints’ and Souls’ days.

Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) director Senior Supt. Ronnie Francis Cariaga said Monday the Oplan will be in operation from October 31 to November 2.

Cariaga said it will secure not only the cemeteries, but also resorts, popular tourist destinations, bus terminals, other entry and exit points, and frequented public areas.

“Our intention is to secure not only the cemeteries but also the areas where they take their vacations. The cemeteries are not our security limits because most of us also use this time to go on holidays,” he said.

He noted the maximum number of policemen of the PPCPO will be used to make sure the crowd will get the protection they need.

Cariaga did not specify their number, but he assured all of them will participate in securing the city.

“So far, mula noon, ay wala pa kaming naranasan na kaguluhan sa Undas (All Saints’ Day) at gusto naming mapanatili ito (So far, we’ve not encountered any serious problem during Undas and we want to maintain that),” he added.

Cariaga further said they have already discussed traffic rerouting, cleaning of cemeteries with their administrators, and other issues concerning Undas with specific offices of the city government, and other line agencies.

He said there are materials that are not allowed to be brought inside the cemeteries such as knives and other bladed or sharp objects, liquor, playing cards, and gadgets that create loud noises.

In the province, Palawan Provincial Police Office (PPO) director Senior Supt. Gabriel Lopez, said Tuesday that his policemen are also prepared to secure all cemeteries in 23 municipalities in the province.

Lopez said all municipalities have enough policemen to secure cemeteries and other strategic sites.

“For the smooth flow of security, we advise the families to avoid bringing materials that are not allowed in the cemeteries like blades or sharp objects,” he added. (PNA)

SoKor airline operates first flight from Incheon to Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- South Korea’s low-cost airline Eastar Jet marked the operation of its five-month daily flights in this city early Monday morning, with a Boeing 737-800 maiden flight filled with 150 tourists.

The aircraft navigated by Eastar Jet pilot Joo Jae-Do arrived at the Puerto Princesa City International Airport (PPCIA) at 12:07 a.m. on Oct. 29 from the Incheon International Airport (IIA) in the Seoul City’s Jung District.

Joo said the flight took four hours and 15 minutes from IIA to the PPCIA.

“We’re very happy to have the inaugural flight from (IIA in) Seoul to Palawan. En route, the flight (has been) bumpy today. I hope South Korea and the Philippines expand their visitors and that more Koreans visit the Philippines and more Filipinos visit Korea,” Jae-Do said.

Eastar Jet has its headquarters in Banghwa-dong in Gangseo-gu in Seoul, South Korea. The airline operates in 14 destinations in the country, including Palawan through the PPCIA.

Eastar Jet station manager in Palawan, Lee Gangjin, said the province is currently their headquarters in the Philippines.

He added they are now eyeing the construction of their own airport to service their aircraft and passengers.

“We are weighing to make an airport for our passengers to this beautiful Palawan," said Gangjin.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) area manager for PPCIA Engr. Percy Malonesio, who led in welcoming the Eastar Jet maiden flight, said the daily direct flights to Palawan from October 29 to March 30, 2019, are expected to bring around 26,350 visitors.

“We are happy that all passengers are safe because of the successful landing. The passengers enjoyed and were happy to arrive here. We wish more flights to come here in Puerto Princesa City from South Korea,” he said.

Earlier, assistant Puerto Princesa City tourism officer Demetrio Alvior said that in 2017, Taiwanese visitors topped the list of foreign guests, followed by Americans, Chinese, Koreans, and British.

However, this trend might change towards the end of 2018 with "either Koreans or Chinese nationals dominating foreign arrivals" because of the direct international flights from their countries, he said.

"The Chinese and the Koreans might top this year's list of the number of arrivals in the city because of the direct international flights we're having now," he added.

North Palawan, Davao airports welcome two new routes

By Eric B. Apolonio

Starting today, two airports—the San Vicente Airport in Palawan and the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City—will welcome new flights to and from Clark and Hong Kong, respectively.

Cathay Dragon will launch its Hong Kong-Davao-Hong Kong route that will fly four times weekly every Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays utilizing an Airbus A-320 aircraft.

The historic inaugural flight from Hong Kong is expected to arrive at 3:50 in the afternoon at the Davao Airport and will be welcomed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The aircraft of Cathay Dragon, the premium, full-service regional airline of the Cathay Pacific Group, will be feted with a traditional water cannon salute.

Meanwhile, Northern Palawan’s San Vicente Airport will open regular flights from Clark via Philippine Airlines.

The new 86-seater Q400s—fitted with six Economy Plus seats and 80 Economy Class seats in a roomy cabin layout—will be utilized on these routes.

PAL’s increased operations at Clark aim to significantly enhance travel convenience and connectivity for domestic travelers, while decongesting Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Miss Earth 2017 favors single-use plastic ban to save oceans

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Reigning Miss Earth 2017 Karen Ibasco is amenable to banning single-use plastics to save the world’s oceans and to protect marine wildlife.

In a security briefing for the Miss Earth 2018 events in Palawan, Ibasco said Thursday that reducing single-use food and beverage containers and cutleries, which account for a notable amount of trash every year, will also be beneficial to the environment and the health of the people.

“Yong mga plastic, kailangan mong matutunan na i-recycle o i-segregate kasi pwede pa natin siya magamit for another purpose pero medyo malayo pa tayo doon. (We have to learn how to recycle or segregate to use them for another purpose, but we are still far from there),” she said.

Ibasco said it is important that waste segregation at home is practiced to reduce the volume of garbage that goes to the landfills.

She noted that when people are careless with their garbage, these would reach the oceans and break down into smaller particles called “microplastics” that are harmful to aquatic life and even to humans.

Ibasco cited studies indicating that microplastics are a problem in the marine environment, and human health too since they can be ingested by fish and crustaceans that are sources of protein.

Ibasco, who was crowned in 2017, said that being Miss Earth enabled her to know the realities about the environment, including the conservation of oceans and aquatic life.

Meanwhile, some 59 candidates of the Miss Earth this year are in the northern municipality of San Vicente Friday to witness the signing of an ordinance that will protect the sea turtles (pawikan).

They represent the fire and water group of the international pageant that has a total of 90 beautiful candidates from all over the world.

On Oct. 27, the candidates will have the chance to personally appreciate the sea turtles in their natural habitat in the waters of San Vicente.

They will be in Puerto Princesa City at the Coliseum on Oct. 28 to join the 31 other candidates of the Miss Earth for the Talent and Long Gown competitions.

BVR El Nido leg fires off Saturday


MANILA, Philippines – A slew of provincial teams will have their opportunity to strut their wares against the country's best sand court players in the Beach Volleyball Republic On Tour, which opens Saturday at Lio Beach in El Nido, Palawan.

Talents from Lio, El Nido and Puerto Princesa from Palawan, Cebu from Visayas and DAF-ARMM of Davao from Mindanao are among the eight women's and men's pairs competing in the two-day spikefest in the one of the country's finest beaches.

Action-packed beach volleyball will start via pool play at 8 a.m.

Also, the BVR is partnering with Lio Beach El Nido on a development that focuses on sustainability, which is the same principle that the group is guided with — creating a sports program that’s self-sustaining and making Philippines bigger on the map.

The women's cast is led by Perlas 1's Charo Soriano and Bea Tan, Perlas 2's Dzi Gervacio and Roma Doromal, Air Force 1's Mariel Legaspi and Mae Crisostomo, and Air Force 2's Coyah Abanto and Jen Acain.

Soriano and Tan, who ruled the Puerto Galera leg last January, are reunited for the El Nido leg — the eighth for the year.

The crack men's field includes former UAAP champion KR Guzman and Ian Yee, Air Force's Philip Nunez and Mike Abria, Army's Joshua Barrica and Randy Flores, Manila Unicorns' Neil Flores and Justin Santos, and Wildcard's Mikhail Shavrak and James Buytrago.

The quarterfinals, semifinals and Finals is set Sunday, as the champions in the women's and men's division will receive P50,000.

Palawan’s ‘hidden tourism gems’ yet to be uncovered by many

By Analou de Vera

The Palawan Island is known as one of the country’s world-class tourist destinations because of its rich biodiversity. While many tourists flock to the main highlights of the island, there are still some ‘hidden tourism gems’ that are yet to be uncovered by many.

Tagged as the Philippine’s ‘last ecological frontier,’ the island of Palawan frequently makes it to the list of “best islands of the world” by international travel magazines due to its exceptional scenic views. Recently, Palawan was named as one of “Asia’s five best islands” in 2018 by Conde Nast Traveler, a US- based lifestyle and travel magazine.

Just one hour away by plane from the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the Palawan island is the home of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, which are both included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But aside from these ‘big names,’ there are budding tourism sites that now help uplift the lives of some of its communities, especially the indigenous people.

Among the lesser-known tourism sites in Palawan that are now aiming at unleashing their rich culture and biodiversity are the Batak Tribe Visitors Center in Barangay Concepcion, Maoyon River Cruise in Barangay Maoyon, the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour in Barangay Sabang, and Hundred Caves in Barangay Tagabinet. These budding tourism attractions are all located in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. These sites are being supported by the Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) that aimed at harnessing the potential of these communities with the help of the local government.

The PSFI has established two programs that promotes environmental sustainability; the TANDIKAN (Turismo at Negosyo Dulot ng Ingat Kalikasan) and ISIP (Integrated Support for Indigenous People). These programs are aimed at mobilizing community involvement, creating alternative income opportunities for the locals, and protecting and conserving the island’s biodiversity. It provides livelihood trainings and other projects that help improve the community members’ quality of life. Alternative livelihood seminars such as handicraft-making as well as integrated bio-farming system were also being conducted.

“The projects empower the beneficiaries to have better lives in terms of being able to earn a living while understanding the ecosystem and why we need to protect the environment. Indigenous People communities are taught to how to read and write, learn other skills to make a living, learn the tenets of healthy living including back yard gardening to ensure they have food on the table instead of just forest gathering,” PSFI rogram manager Marvi Trudeau told the Manila Bulletin.

Trudeau said the communities are organized to ensure that the natural resources of the area are preserved and “make environmental conservation a way of life.”

“For these communities, they do not only gain employment from taking care of their natural resources but they are also taught how to enhance it further through reforestation of mangroves and other terrestrial areas,” Trudeau said.

Conquering a ‘new’ world, building confidence

During the visit at the Batak Tribe Visitors Center, the members of the said tribe, who were then wearing a red woven clothes, offered a native dance for their guests. They energetically showed their moves as other tribe members produce music using their traditional instruments. The women tribe members meanwhile showed their skills in making handicrafts on the other side of the center.

Erlinda Delos Angeles, one of the Batak tribal leaders, said they are not used to conversing with other people because they feel shy about their condition—being members of the indigenous community.

“Our community is very poor. We do not know what really is our condition. We do not know how to manage a business, also we do not have enough capital… If a disease spreads in our community, surely some will die. We lack knowledge regarding these aspects,” said Delos Angeles in Tagalog.

Currently, there are 47 families or more or less 200 individuals who belong to the Batak tribe. Delos Angeles said they do not have permanent jobs before. They just wander in the mountain forest in search for their food.

“When the Shell Foundation came, we realized that we can change our way of living,” she said. Delos Angeles said their tribe is slowly building their confidence to communicate with other people. Through the livelihood trainings set by the PSFI, Batak community now learn how to plant vegetables like string beans, eggplants and pineapples. The women were also taught how to make handicrafts such as baskets, beaded bracelets and necklaces and sell them to tourists.

“Honestly in our tradition, we are really shy in selling our own products. We are trying to improve ourselves and eventually get accustom on how to manage a business for our community to progress even more,” said Delos Angeles.

Ernesto Dagsalyo, 66, a former tribal leader said they somehow overcome their shyness and learned the value of being a member of their tribe.

“Our shyness begins to fade away through the trainings and seminars. That is when I learned that even though I’m a Batak, I will be respected by others if I’m not shy and if I will learn how to converse with them. Our own culture will not vanish just because of these changes… It will remain because we are still Batak after all,” he said.

Coping with changes

Some members of the communities, however, find it hard to cope with the livelihood and environmental changes.

Celestino Santander, president of the Mangrove Paddle Boat Association in Barangay Sabang said that before the PSFI came in to help their community, selling charcoal is the main source of income of the different households in their area. Currently, some of them are now tour guides who introduce the importance of mangroves.

“Some of us who previously sell charcoals find it hard to accept this change in our livelihood. When Shell Foundation promoted this kind of livelihood and some of us saw that there is enough income for our families, we eventually stop selling charcoals… besides it is more clean,” said Santander.

Santander, meanwhile, said that their very own attraction is not yet well-known to the tourists. He said that at least 60 people a day visit their area to ride the 45-minute boat tour. Through their trainings, Santander and his co-workers are able to provide interesting facts in the area while they paddle down the river surrounded by mangroves and wildlife animals such as monitor lizards, monkeys, squirrels and snakes. He then recommended that it is best to ride the paddle boat tour at 6 a.m. because one can spot a number of native birds and can hear their melodious tone.

‘Take courage to stand alone’

The residents of Barangay Tagabinet strive to learn how to stand on their own as this is their way to give back from all the learning they are receiving. The barangay’s caving destination–the Hundred Caves is also being supported by the PSFI. “One of their advocacies is for you to learn how to stand alone,” said Bong Yatco, the head guide of Hundred Caves.

Yatco said the maze-like cave began operations two years-ago. Before entering the cave, tourists are required to wear helmets and gloves for safety. The more than two-hours of exploration inside the cave reveal the unique stalagmite and stalactite formations that are named after some animals and objects due to its resemblance.

To further boost their budding tourism industry, the residents also rolled out their sleeves as they ventured on soap-making and t-shirt design printing.

An appeal to tourists

Safeguarding the natural areas, meanwhile, is among the priorities of the members of the Maoyon River Cruise Association. Maribel Binas, the president of the association said they need to maintain the cleanliness of their area to further drive growth and profitability among its members.

Binas said the 45-minute cruise attraction, which highlights lush green landscapes and a visit to a century-old giant Dao tree, has improved their lives.

“To our potential tourists, we appeal that when they visit us here they should avoid littering. Our area is of great help to our community because this is our source of livelihood. We should help each other take good care of our natural resources that God has given us,” said Binas.

Solon: PH-China partnership crucial to develop West Palawan natural gas field

By Meanne Rosales

Developing the Sampaguita natural gas field as an energy source for the Philippines will need the support of both the government and China.

This was the sentiment of House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza when he talked to Manila Bulletin reporters.

“The Sampaguita gas discovery is vital to our future energy security. It has become absolutely imperative for us to quickly develop Sampaguita, before Malampaya’s gas production starts to fall off in 2024,” Atienza was quoted as saying.

“We really wish that the Philippines and China, through effective diplomacy, can arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement that would expedite the resumption of all work around Sampaguita,” he added.

The Malampaya deepwater gas-to-power project still provides up to 3,400 MW of power for the Luzon grid.

However, Energy officials predicted that by 2024, Malampaya would decrease its output to just one-third of its current capacity.

This will result in just 1,100 MW of electricity for Luzon, according to Atienza.

“Clearly, if we are unable to harness the gas from Sampaguita in time, Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces might reel from considerably higher electricity rates,” Atienza said.

According to assessment done by Weatherford Petroleum Consultants, the Sampaguita gas field “is estimated to contain 2.6 trillion cubic feet of in-place contingent resources and 5.5 trillion cubic feet of in-place prospective resources.”

Sampaguita is part of Service Contract 72 Recto Bank in offshore West palawan, a part of territorial waters challenged by China.

The Aquino administration in December 2014 ordered a cease of operations to the private consortium operating SC 72 in deference to the maritime case that the Philippines filed against China before The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The PCA eventually ruled in 2016 in favor of the Philippines and recognized the Recto Bank, where SC 72 lies, as part of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, as defined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

However, despite the favorable PCA ruling, the Energy department has not lifted the suspension of all work on SC 72.

10 pangolins rescued from illegal wildlife trader in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A fisherman was arrested Friday by environmental authorities for illegal collection and possession of some 10 critically endangered scaly anteaters or pangolins in the northern town of Taytay.

Voltaire delos Angeles, forest technician and team leader of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office Quick Response Team (CENRO QRT) in Taytay, identified the fisherman as Danilo Demolar, 49, resident of Purok Masagana, Barangay Liminangcong.

He was arrested at 4 p.m. in Sitio Panikian, also in Liminangcong, for violation of Section 27 (f) of Republic Act 9147, or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

The particular section in the Act states about the illegality of “collecting, hunting or possessing wildlife, their by-products, and derivatives.”

“Itong si Demolar ay matagal na naming minamanmanan dahil siya ay namimili ng balintong na siya naman niyang ibinibenta sa kamag-anak ng kanyang asawa na taga-Mindoro (We have been monitoring Demolar for quite sometime now because he is the buyer of the pangolins, which he will later sell to a relative of his wife who is from Mindoro),” delos Angeles told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

Demolar said a Mindoro buyer allegedly peddles the pangolins, locally known as “balintong,” to Chinese buyers.

He said he buys from collectors the pangolins weighing 4.2 kilos for PHP1,000 to PHP1,200 a kilo and sells them at PHP1,500.

“Binibili din niya sa mga nagkokolekta ‘yong mga pangolin tapos pinatataba niya at pinakakain ng anay sa may bundok kung saan siya may kubo-kubong bahay. Itinatago niya ang mga pangolin sa drum at saka ibebenta kapag napataba na. (He buys them from pangolin collectors and then he will farm them for a while in a mountainous area where he has a hut by feeding them with termites. He will sell them after he has fattened them up),” delos Angeles said.

Delos Angeles said Demolar has been engaged in the illegal wildlife trade for three months already before his arrest and has, in fact, made a lot of shipments.

“Kapag binibili iyong mga balintong parang iniikutan na lang noong buyer sa Liminangcong kasi marami daw sila na bumibili sa mga kolektor. Ang bangka niya kumpleto sa gamit, may timbangan pa. (When it’s already time to sell, it’s like the buyer just goes around Liminangcong because there are many of them who buy from collectors. His boat is complete and even has a weighing scale),” he added.

Delos Angeles said Demolar’s arrest was due to the CENRO’s stepped up campaign against illegal wildlife trading in Taytay where there is a good population of pangolins, particularly on Barangay Tubod Island, Taytay.

The arrest, which was assisted by forest protection officers (FPO), has made them more alert in Taytay now against illegal wildlife trafficking, he said.

“Talagang palalakasin ang monitoring at pagbabantay lalo na dito sa Taytay kung saan nangongolekta sila ng balintong (We will really step up our monitoring, especially here in Taytay where they collect balintong),” he added.

Why the banh mi in Puerto Princesa is flavored with history

By Paolo Vergara

Not pan de sal nor goto, but a Filipino spin on two Vietnamese dishes make everyday fare for this city’s residents.

The scene at the main gate as class hours end at Palawan State University, Puerto Princesa, is like that of any campus in the Philippines today: tricycle drivers rev their engines after a lazy afternoon waiting for passengers now just arriving; the sound of basketballs dribbled on concrete punctures the din of chattering students as teachers swap uniforms for jogging clothes. And then there's the smell of myriad frying foods wafting from a row of stalls and eateries amidst the background odor of burning petrol and midsummer sweat. Amidst the usual fare – kwek-kwek, siomai, siopao, and isaw, as well as halal snacks (the city has a sizeable Muslim population)—there is one peculiar dish that stands out to the non-local: banh mi, or Vietnamese bread.

It’s been Filipinized, and rightfully so. Across Puerto Princesa’s neighborhoods, banh mi, at least the localized version of it, is as ubiquitous as pan de sal in Metro Manila and the rest of the Philippines. The banh mi sold back in Manila’s Vietnamese joints combines the fresh flavors of vegetables and herbs like wansoy, lettuce, and carrots with the savory taste of meat and pâté. Meanwhile, in Puerto Princesa, our sweet-and-savory tooth unabashedly comes out to feast on hotdogs, mayonnaise, ketchup, and garlic sitting on the bread.

Served plain and freshly baked, Puerto Princesa’s banh mi has a distinctly less “bready” flavor than pan de sal, owing to the latter's main ingredient: rice flour. Palawan is also an exporter of rice to other provinces, and rice grown in the area could be the reason behind the unique notes of Puerto Princesa banh mi. The bread's appearance is of a whiter, smaller cousin of the beige-brown baguette. Banh mi sold at bakeshops here is not often baked to brownness though customers may request for toasted banh mi.

Perfect pair

As it is with the limited appearance of pan de sal amidst the prevalence of banh mi, there is also a surprising – at least for the newcomer – lack of mami and goto shops, which are widely known as staple Filipino comfort food. In their stead, public transport drivers, office workers, and students converge at a “chaolongan,” or eatery specializing in “chao long,” the local name for pho, or Vietnamese noodle soup.

This is somewhat of a misnomer, as chao long in Vietnam is closer to our goto: rice porridge seasoned in ground pepper with pork offal and a garnish of scallions. For better or worse, the name has stuck, and the Vietnamese diaspora in Puerto Princesa seems to ride with it. Like in Vietnam, Puerto Princesa pho is anchored in rice noodles cooked in beef or chicken broth, with bean sprouts and basil on the side. Instead of lemons, however, local calamansi offers a citron kick. The soup stock also uses less herbs.

Walk into any chaolongan and it’s highly likely you’ll find banh mi in the menu. Banh mi served plain, toasted banh mi with garlic and margarine, a banh mi sandwich with hotdogs or longganisa with mustard optional. For around a hundred pesos, one can get a hearty carb fix with a steaming bowl of rice noodle soup paired with rice flour bread.

Missing Saigon

One can trace the presence of Vietnamese fare in Puerto Prinsesa to a migration of Vietnamese locals to the Philippines in the mid-1970s. In 1975, the Vietnam war was reaching its violent conclusion. Escaping the shelling, many South Vietnamese citizens chose the open water over Communist “re-education camps” and haphazardly boarded boats to cross the South China Sea. The exodus continued well after the war years and peaked in 1979. Refugees continued landing across South East Asia, a good number reaching Bataan. In 1990, many were subsequently transferred to Palawan as the exodus continued into the middle of the decade.

One of the pioneer Vietnamese hubs in Puerto Princesa was the Viet Ville restaurant at the Vietnamese Village refugee facility on the city’s northern outskirts. Vietnamese refugees opened the restaurant and introduced what would be the city’s comfort food.

Viet Ville as well as the rest of the camp was closed to visitors for the duration of my month-long stay at Puerto Princesa. Nonetheless, online reviews coming out this year indicate that Viet Ville continues to serve Vietnamese favorites.

Today, most of the 2000 refugees who moved to Puerto Princesa from Bataan have since returned home to Vietnam or migrated to the United States, where a lot of South Vietnamese settled after the fall of Saigon. Still, a good number of refugees intermarried with locals and moved deeper into the city, bringing their cooking to a wider Filipino audience.

Rene’s Saigon

Rene Sabio is a second-generation Vietnamese-Filipino. He speaks fluent Tagalog, but photos with Vietnamese diplomats and military officials in his restaurant hint at familiarity with his heritage. His Rene’s Saigon is conveniently a seven-minute walk from the Puerto Princesa International Airport. Despite being at a direction away from the city center, people welcome the detour to dine here as the restaurant is known for its homemade banh mi.

Sabio apprenticed as a teenager under a Vietnamese baker based in the city, together with three other young men. In the end, it was he who was selected to learn the banh mi recipe. Today, Rene’s Saigon is a popular destination for those looking for authentic Vietnamese fare in Puerto Princesa. Whereas most chaolongan serve only pho and banh mi, Rene’s also has a “secret menu,” where goi cuon (spring rolls,) fresh or fried, are served upon request.

A few kilometers north, the banh mi, goi cuon, and pho recipes at Pho Saigon, situated at the city center and run by a Vietnamese woman, corroborates the flavor profile found at Rene’s Saigon. The price, ingredients used, and expressions of bread, soup, and spring rolls served at these two establishments have similar flavors.

A meal shared

As I boarded the plane bound for Manila, the customs officers seemed amused as they let me through, seeing me carry two grocery bags worth of frozen banh mi, enough to last our household a month with enough to spare for pasalubong to a good number of friends. Perhaps for these officers, this was a sight they never tire of: tourists touting what for them was everyday fare.

The prevalence of banh mi in this corner of the Philippines only proves that cultural exchange often finds its anchor in the tangible, the edible, in the visceral immediacy of a hot meal shared between tired citizens after a day’s work, as demonstrated in the works and travels of epicures like Doreen Fernandez and Anthony Bourdain. Vietnamese refugees sought a new home and life away from war, and in the process, pioneered a dialogue between flavors: between our sweet tooth and their love for herbal notes. Puerto Princesa’s banh mi and pho, across its incarnations, show that definitions like “authentic” or “genuine” are better as descriptors of origin, or closeness to origin and tradition--rather than as value judgments of a certain cuisine or the people enjoying it.

PAL's San Vicente route begins Oct. 30

By Ma. Cristina Arayata (PNA)

MANILA -- Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) will start offering flights to and from San Vicente, Palawan on Oct. 30, its spokesperson announced on Friday.

"PAL is the first commercial airline to launch services to San Vicente. This will be a milestone service," Cielo Villaluna told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

San Vicente Airport (SVA) officially opened for commercial flights last May. Previously, the airport only catered to light aircraft, as well as Air Juan's chartered flights. "In terms of commercial operations, PAL is the first to bring tourists in San Vicente," Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesperson Eric Apolonio said.

He added that World Vision and Air Juan used to be the only ones offering services to and from SVA. The two companies use seaplane and general aviation aircraft, Apolonio added.

Villaluna said PAL has considered having the San Vicente route since the SVA is envisioned to be a gateway to El Nido, which is two hours away from the airport.

Days after the SVA's inauguration last May, Apolonio said San Vicente could be an alternative destination to Boracay.

The SVA would serve as the alternative destination's main gateway, he added.

PAL's weekly flights are scheduled every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Villaluna said daily flights will be offered starting December 18. The airline will initially offer services between San Vicente and Clark.

"There's no plan to have a Manila-San Vicente route at the moment. The priority is to build passenger traffic between Clark and San Vicente," Villaluna said.

New bridge opens in southern Palawan town

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A new reinforced concrete deck girder bridge, which can accommodate heavy equipment and other bigger vehicles, has been inaugurated in Aborlan town, southern Palawan.

The PHP7.8 million Apis Bridge, which replaces the ordinary wood overpass that connects barangays Plaridel and Cabigaan, was inaugurated by Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez last Oct. 17 with acting Aborlan Mayor Lito Tito.

Tito said Friday they are thankful to the provincial government for implementing the construction of the new bridge that can help improve trade and commerce in Aborlan and keep its residents safe while plying the route.

“Maraming issue ang tulay na ito, laging may nahuhulog na sasasakyan at maging ang mga batang tumatawid dito ay hindi ligtas. Kaya nagpapasalamat kami dahil ngayon ay ligtas nang madaraanan ito ng mga residente, lalo na ang mga nasa barangay ng Apoc-Apoc at Cabigaan (This bridge has a lot of issues. Vehicles often meet accidents here, and children are not safe when they cross it. Now, it’s safe to pass on the bridge, especially those living in Apoc-Apoc and Cabigaan),” he said.

Alvarez, in a separate interview, said the provincial government has a lot of infrastructure development plans for Aborlan, including the provision of anti-poverty livelihood initiatives.

Alvarez said nothing is impossible in development if Aborlan works with the provincial government.

“Marami pa akong plano sa bayan ng Aborlan lalo na ang magpalago ng hanap-buhay o livelihood ng mamamayan. Nauna na natin ang ospital, patubig at mga kalsada at marami pa tayong gagawin (I have so many plans for Aborlan, especially in the uplifting of livelihood opportunities for its residents. We have constructed the hospital, water system, and bridges and roads, and we have a lot more to do),” he said.

Palawan’s new tourism gems

By Antonio Delos Reyes

PALAWAN has been a perennial favorite for tourists who want to explore nature. Over the years, it has made a name for itself as one of the country’s top destinations due to the numerous activities that can be done in the province.

Places like the Puerto Princesa Underground River and the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park – both designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites – or the beaches and dive sites in El Nido and Coron are the ones that come to mind when Palawan is mentioned.

However, the province has more to offer than these popular destinations.

Much like the Cordilleras, Palawan is also home to several indigenous tribes.

The Batak is one of these tribes but unlike the more populous Tagbanwas, the Bataks are in real danger of disappearing entirely.

Today, estimates of the Batak population put them at less than 300 individuals.

The Batak Cultural Center is located about an hour’s drive from the city proper. Here, guests can visit the Batak museum which shows the Batak’s way of life, from their attires, to customs, to different handicrafts that the tribe produces.

Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI), as part of its outreach program, is helping the community form a cooperative in which they could sell products that they create.

The project was initiated by PSFI through its Integrated Support to Indigenous People Program for the Indigenous Peoples in Palawan, Philippines and in partnership with Department of Social Welfare and Development-Sustainable Livelihood Program.

The result was the TatakBatak handicrafts which offer products such as bamboo straws, woven baskets, necklaces and bracelets as well as other environment-friendly products.

Currently, the items can be bought at the Batak Cultural Center, but a stand-alone store is nearing completion and when this opens, the Bataks hope to share their products to a larger audience.

Several provinces offer river cruises and Palawan is no exception.

Patterned after the famous Loboc River Cruise in Bohol, the Maoyon river cruise offers travelers a chance to enjoy the scenic ride while feasting on crabs caught in the river as well as other local seafood.

This new tourist attraction is a Community-Based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) Project supported by PFSI through its Turismo at Negosyo Dulot ng Ingat Kalikasan (TANDIKAN) program, which aims to give livelihood opportunities to the residents of Brgy. Maoyon.

The 45-minute river cruise’s main destination is the Dao tree located in the middle of the forest surrounding the river.

The tree is said to be centuries old, with a tree trunk that dwarfs humans in size and tree roots that snake to and fro.

For those who prefer to get up close and personal with nature, Sabang has a mangrove paddle boat tour.

Guests are taken through the river by knowledgeable guides who point out several animals that might appear as they row through the surroundings.

If one is lucky, birds such as kingfishers, herons and the like may fly by or reptiles such as monitor lizards and snakes can be seen.

Since there is no motor involved, visitors can fully immerse themselves in their surroundings and get lost at the sight of rows of mangroves as far as the eye can see, and the chirp and calls of the insects and animals living in the area.

For those who prefer an adrenaline rush and some physical exercise, the Hundred Caves is one such destination.

It is the first caving destination in Palawan and also a CBST project supported by PSFI through its TANDIKAN arm.

The entrance of the cave is roughly 80 meters above sea level and a short but strenuous hike will bring visitors into the unassuming entrance of the cave.

The cave gets its name from the multiple areas that that guests pass through as they explore this multi-level cave. There would be areas where guests would walk down stairs and ladders, or even crawl on all fours to get to the next chamber.

All throughout, there are interesting stalagmite and stalactite formations with whimsical names such as the cow’s head, fish mouth and many more.

Tourism has always been a big part of Palawan.

These new attractions allow the province to offer something new to travelers, whether first-timers or returning guests.

5 reasons Culion in Palawan deserves your attention

By Kara Santos

It may be the last quarter of the year before the busy Christmas season, but the weather lately feels more like summer is in full swing. The months of October and November are some of the best to enjoy beach vacations in the country.

With tourists flocking to the most popular spots, it can be hard to find a beach where you can enjoy peace and serenity, especially in Palawan.

For those looking for an off-beat destination, here are some reasons why Culion, dubbed Palawan’s Last Frontier, should be on your bucketlist.

1. Fascinating history

Culion is part of the Calamian group of islands situated at the northern part of Palawan. Long overshadowed by popular tourist hotspots like Coron and El Nido, Culion offers a different kind of destination.

Formerly a leprosarium, Culion remained isolated to the outside world for over a century. The leper colony was established in 1906 and patients from different parts of the Philippines and hospital staff were brought to the island and placed under quarantine. The cure for leprosy was developed in the 1980s and the island has been declared leprosy-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2006.

Culion has several historical sites of interest, including the Culion Museum & Archives which provides a glimpse of the painful yet hopeful history of the island and its people, 17th-century La Inmaculada Concepcion Church and the remains of Fort Culion, which offers an excellent vantage point of the town and surrounding islands.

With the island’s rich history and raw, natural beauty that has remained untouched for decades, Culion is ready to emerge from its dark past. This mysterious island will appeal to curious travelers looking for a memorable destination.

2. Underwater paradise

One good thing that came out of the island's long period of isolation is that natural sites in Culion have remained pristine and unexploited. Culion offers some of the most surreal and remarkably preserved underwater landscapes for snorkelers and divers.

Three ecosystems sustain the rich marine life of Culion including mangroves, seagrass, and corals. Culion offers some of the most spectacular snorkeling sites in the country. Culion’s marine parks including Buyang Lutang, Punta Dinamita and Crowning Glory Reefs are among the best in the country.

Crowning Glory Reef is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) with amazingly clear and shallow water leading to rainbow colored corals and schools of fish. Sea turtles and dolphins also have been spotted in the area. From Culion, boat trips to wreck diving sites that popularly associated with Coron like Lusong shipwreck are easily accessible.

3. Beach camping

When going on day trip island-hopping tours, the time you actually spend on the beach usually gets limited because of the number of islands you need to visit and the long boat travel time in between. Tours from Culion allow visitors to access some remote islands which are not usually included in package tours and stay longer or camp out overnight.

Instead of heading back to the poblacion for the night, overnight beach camping trips can be arranged making your visit more relaxing. Imagine falling asleep with just the sound of the waves and waking up to gorgeous sunrises.

4. Peace and serenity

In an increasingly fast-paced world, Culion still offers that feeling of remoteness, isolation, peace and the back-to-basics island life that everyone craves for once in a while. City folk can go off-the-grid, learn how to fish the traditional way, reflect and just recharge from the urban grind.

5. Meaningful journey

Aside from than the place itself, what makes Culion special is the genuine community spirit and hospitality of the people. I’ve found that in more remote and rarely visited places, it’s where visitors are genuinely welcomed by locals. Many of the island’s older inhabitants were cast off by their families onto the island and have lived most of their lives on the island so they welcome interactions with visitors.

[Kawil Tours] (The Coron-Culion Palawan Expeditions), the only Culion-based tour operator, works with locals from the island in operating historical, cultural and island-hopping tours there.

Kawil Tours is managed by young and dynamic operators and partners who believe that promoting tourism on the island will help provide livelihood and progress for the island and its people.

For those who looking for a truly memorable journey before the year ends, Kawil Tours is offering a special 5D-4N live on-board expedition around Culion and Coron from October 25-29, covering everything that will be needed for the trip (including fees, meals, etc.).

This includes a 2-night accommodation in Hotel Maya a night before and after the trip on a room-sharing arrangement and roundtrip service between Coron and Culion a day before and after the trip.

Palawan thankful for inclusion in ‘2018 Best Islands in the World’

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – The Palawan provincial government on Monday expressed gratitude for being voted as the “3rd Best Island in the World” in the Condé Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards, despite lacking in infrastructure development.

Provincial information officer Gil Acosta Jr. said the Palawan government is also thankful for the inclusion of El Nido Resorts on Pangulasian Island in El Nido and Amanpulo on Pamalican Island in Cuyo on the list of “Top Resorts in Asia.”

“Masayang-masaya tayo sa naging resulta na muling naisama ang Palawan at ibang mga spots sa pinakamagandang lugar sa mundo (We are very happy with the result that Palawan and some of its island spots have been included in the list of the most beautiful vacation spots in the world),” Acosta said.

For this year, Palawan was voted as the third best island after Boracay (2nd place) and Siargao (1st place) by more than 429,000 avid readers of the US-based luxury and lifestyle travel magazine.

El Nido Resorts’ Pangulasian Island, which ranked ninth, was selected for being an environment-friendly vacation place that offers a pristine view of the waters and a serene tropical forest backdrop.

Amanpulo, which ranked 25th, was chosen for its miles of white sands that are embraced by calm turquoise waters that teem with rich marine life.

"Isa itong testamento na kahit hindi pa tayo 100-percent developed lalo na sa infrastracture, talagang dinarayo pa rin tayo (It is a testament that although we are not yet 100 percent developed in infrastructure, people still come here to visit)," he added.

Palawan highlights products in Mimaropa agri-trade fair 2018

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Palawan provincial government will again highlight in the Mimaropa Naturally Agri-Trade Tourism Fair this year its cashew products and wood artisan crafts.

Bethel Wyeth Asag, a representative of the Provincial Economic Enterprise Development Office (PEEDO), said Friday the agri-trade tourism fair will be held on October 17-21 at the SM Mega Mall, Mandaluyong City.

Other Palawan products that will be showcased in the event are rice coffee, peanuts, lamayo (dried fish), suman sa bulo (sticky rice in bamboo), honey, coco jam, sampalok (tamarind) candy, banana chips, tablea, rattan baskets.

Asag said there will also be a regional consumer quiz bee and a Zumba hour during the event.

“Muling ibibida ng Palawan ang mga natatanging produkto, kultura at atraksyon nito sa event (Palawan will again bring the spotlight to its local products, culture, and attractions in the event),” she said.

The agri-trade tourism fair is an annual activity to give the region the opportunity to showcase its products and attractions in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan which compose the Mimaropa.

“Layon rin nito na mapalakas ang mga micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME’s) upang mas dayuhin ito ng mga nais na mamuhunan (It also aims to strengthen the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) so investors will take interests),” she said.

Asag said they expect around 86 exhibitors to participate in the trade fair to display their products.

A Negosyo Center will also be set up, which will open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.