What we enjoyed most of the time we were in Sabang, was the sun, the sand, the surf. I don’t think we’ve ever soaked in the Philippines shores as much as we did here. The conditions were ideal: no rocks beneath our feet, just fine powdery sand, warm water temperatures, and rollicking waves that reduced us to little kids, squealing in delight as the waves pounded us silly.
But outside of frying under the sun like rows of daing, our trip had 2 highlights: The Puerto Prinsesa Subterranean River National Park (Underground River) and the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour. We did the Underground River first. From the resort, we did a scenic 5-minute walk along the beach to the port, then we took a short, maybe 5-10 minute boat ride to the River. On the boat, I met a lovely little puppy that I cuddled with all throughout the trip.
When we got there, from the shore, you do a super short hike to the mouth of the cave, and what greets you is a beautiful scene, especially for us, because we were the very first visitors for the day:
No amount of pictures could do justice to how spectacular it looks inside. No wonder it’s our only finalist to make it to the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Speaking of, in case you might want to vote, click here. Trying to take a picture of one rock or stalagmite or stalactite inside the cave would be taking taking a photo of half a toenail of a person: it just do the whole any justice. But anyway, here are a couple that I took anyway:
Part of the “vegetable section” (I think this is the pechay?)
One of the many bats inside the cave. They hang upside down on the rocky cliffs.
The other highlight of the trip was the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour, with the inimitable and unforgettable Lady Mangrove.
Not to be confused with Lady Gaga, Lady Mangrove is one of many valiant volunteers who patrol the ecological treasure trove that is the mangrove. Mangroves are essential to the ecology because it’s like the nursery of many animals and fish. Without it, the ecology will be crippled irreparably. Lady Mangrove with a couple of other volunteers subsist on the 100 pesos per visitor fee they collect. We left a bigger amount to help them out because they do valuable work that we should all be thankful for. They do the dirty job that few of us would undertake as our lot in life. I really hope the government helps out these little not-so-well known nature sites. Scientists from the U.S., Africa, and Europe have all been amazed at what they call one of the oldest mangroves in the world. And they say the mangroves here, called bakawan locally, are unique in all the world. They are candle-shaped, as opposed to the more common branchier types found everywhere else. Plus, they grow tall as the trees in a primary forest, not short like the other mangroves I’ve seen. Plus, they reflect beautifully on the calm water surface:
We also saw different animals like birds, snakes and monitor lizards or bayawak, like this one we found resting on a branch:
Another plentiful denizen of the mangroves are the mudskippers. They litter the banks of the river in droves! And they don’t seem to be scared of humans. They don’t skip away until you’re really close. Lady Mangrove said they also eat the mudskippers as part of their regular diet.
And at the end of the tour, Lady Mangrove even sings a song she wrote to cap off the tour. I have a video of it, and I was supposed to post it, but I can’t seem to rotate the video. I recorded it vertically, but my camera recorded it sideways. Anyone who can help me rotate it so you guys don’t have to watch it sideways? I can seem to rotate it either on iPhoto or even YouTube. Anyway, another nice perk after taking the tour, is that every visitor gets to plant a baby bakawan on the shores of the mangrove during low tide, and as the years pass, it will take root and be part of the whole mangrove network. Nice touch.
And then we get to the wood worm. Known as tamilok locally, it’s a delicacy that’s insanely popular in the area. Visitors are offered to try and eat a bite or two of the supposed aphrodisiac. It’s called a wood worm, but Lady Mangrove said it’s actually closer to shellfish, like oysters. They just wash the tamilok, put it in some vinegar, maybe sprinkle some salt, and off you go!
You’ll find the wood worms burrowed in rotting wood, specifically bakawan that have since fallen and died. Once the wood is chopped open, the tamilok instantly dies. You can then pull out the alien-looking worm easily from the groove it has gored into the wood. We got a live demo on how to find tamilok in the wild. lady mangrove found a branch in a dead stump, chopped it open, and true enough there was one big fat one inside, which died once the air hit it.
It’s got a hard helmet-like head that has what looks to me like a beak-like mouth, and a scissor-like tail that’s pretty sharp. It looks really gross (and in this particular picture, slightly obscene), therefore I refused to taste it. I have worm phobia so it took everything in me to even just touch it, much less eat it. Delle, on the other hand, decided to try it.
She was just posing here, she didn’t eat the whole thing. They just cut a portion of it, she swished it around some vinegar, put some rock salt, and here’s her actual moment of truth:
Blech. No thank you. They said it tasted like gelatinous oysters. *faints*
(Next: The Pictures)