Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Puerto Princesa [Palawan] underground river in the 1920s.

Front page photograph from Manila Bulletin, 02 July 2011 issue.

Early evening of 01 July, Salem, MA.--We've just opened the online version of the 02 July edition of the Manila Bulletin, and the picture spread on top of the front page reminded us of deferred plans to go nature tripping in Palawan foremost of which is to explore the Puerto Princesa underground river.   

The US Navy officials in the picture above could have nothing else to describe their exploration but superlative praises just like the many local and foreign nature lovers before them. 

Two days ago, we came across a report of a similar journey by Americans in the 1920s [see bibliographic note].  They might not have totally covered the underground river then partly because their guides had some fears arising from superstitions about the dark and forbidding place.  Their report --

 "There are many natural wonders to be seen everywhere in exploring these isles [the Philippines].  Perhaps the most impressive of all is the underground river, which exists on the long and narrow island of Palawan.  Here a good sized river bursts forth from a cave close to the shore.  The natives regard this black cave as something supernatural and terrible.  American explorers have ventured several miles up its hidden depths; but the full passage of the river never has been, perhaps never can be traced. The river fills the bottom of the strange tunnel which nature has made for it.  At some distance up the passage, a mass of great rocks have been shaken by earthquakes from the roof, and almost block the passage.  Climbing over these, adventurers have explored the wonderful passage beyond, piercing its absolute blackness by means of artificial light.  Sometimes the tunnel expands into vast cathedral halls of inexpressible awe and majesty; sometimes it contracts to a narrow hole, almost completely filled by the rushing waters.  The rocks along its edge have been worn into every conceivable, fantastic shape.  The whole cavern seems destined to be exploited some day as one of the chief natural wonders of the world." 

Today, it has become a major tourist attraction not only in Palawan but also in the country.

It is now one of the 28 finalists in the worldwide search for the N7W (New 7 Wonders of the World), and the seven will be officially announced on 11.11.2011 (11 November, 2011). 

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III himself has campaigned for votes.  "We only need a billion votes," he was quoted as saying, "just half a day of texting for all Filipinos who have cellular phones.

From YouTube:  Puerto Princesa Underground River and the Sirenia Fossil


  • Part 56. (c1924). Chapters XXIX-XXX--The Philippines. The World and its People. New York: Ira R. Hiller.
Two days ago, we found this booklet in an antique shop in Salem, Massachusetts.  This is where we usually rest-stop during our almost 2-mile walk from our sister's place to the downtown Essex mall. We take some time to examine old stuffs and rummage through old pictures, books and magazines hoping that we may find something Philippine to bring home.  After all, American trading ships sailed from Salem to Asia including the Philippines in the 1800s, and there may be relics from those years that have found their way to this store.

Part 56 comprises three chapters, two about the Philippines (Luzon and Southern Islands) and the third about Borneo and Celebes. The pages carry labels perhaps to catch the interest of the American readers. The Luzon pages are marked "The Renowned Virgin of Antipolo", "The Friars' Land and Pagsanjan", "Baguio and its Amazing Road", "The Modernizing of the Igorots" and "Baseball among the Head-hunters" while the Southern Islands have "Taal and Mayon, Our Volcanos", "Negritos, Visayans, and Moros", "The Jolly Harbor of Cebu", "An Ancient Idol in Modern Dress" [referring to the Sto Nino of Cebu] and "The Lovely Tropic Town of Zamboanga".

Readers today may not be pleased with some portions of this material like those about the Igorots and about religious practices.


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