Random thoughts, experiences, photos about my crazy, wonderful life on this planet.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Living in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines
We moved to Puerto Princesa, Palawan in October of 2009. It's a small backwoods type of town, but the people are mostly friendly and helpful. It's quite inconvenient as there are no repair shops for our Ford Expedition truck, and only 1 supermarket in the entire town. Yet somehow, it brings me back to the time I while I was growing up in the then sleepy town of Batangas, Batangas, which was not yet a city when I lived there. It's easy to make friends here and those we have made make it worth the daily inconveniences. I like the small town community feel and I am hoping to get more involved with projects that will help educate and move the population to Zero household waste, sometime in the future.
We met the esteemed and well loved mayor of the city, Mayor Edward Hagedorn, back in May of 2009; it was love at first sight for all of us. He is very concerned about keeping the city (one of the largest cities by way of land mass in the entire Philippines) and does something about it. He's quite the legend in his own time and has turned out to be a very good family friend whom we all cherish.
Puerto Princesa Underground River tour
When one hears of Palawan, the first thing that comes to mind usually is El Nido, a tourist spot with pristine beach with emerald green waters, a 6 hour drive north for us. Puerto Princesa is not about beaches, although about an hour out of the city there are a few good ones. It's a city in a forest. We do have beaches but not the clear placid and emerald green coves that can be seen in the north. Most of the population of Palawan live in Puerto Princesa. We have a lot of Mangrove forests here which dot the shoreline. I've learned so much about how mangroves protect our land mass in a short time.
One of the major tourist attractions here is the Puerto Princesa Underground river, also known as the St. Paul Subterannean river. It is a Unesco World Heritage site and has voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Before it was well known to the rest of the world, Puerto Princesa used to get 7000 or so tourists per year. Now that it's one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, tourism has jumped to over 240,000 in one year. (UPDATE- July 2012- Tourism well over 600K this year) The investors cannot build hotels and services fast enought to accomodate them. It's attracted people like me to move here and it's also created a rather large housing shortage. As in all places that see a lot of tourists, housing prices are up and skewed, and I believe it's creating quite an imbalance in the economy, or soon will.
My elderly, but spry parents moved as well, and they have already bought a house near us. My dad, Ramon Limjoco, is 90 and mom, Helen Limjoco is 84. They are still adjusting to the little nuances of the town and the lack thereof of many little conveniences we take for granted in the larger cities like Makati, where they onced lived.
One of the bigger annoyances while driving are the ubiquitous tricycles with a sidecar. They are like an infestation of ants. In most large cities like Manila, it's the jeepney that is everywhere. Here, because most everyting is just about 15 minutes away and the streets are narrow, the tricycles rule. They drive at night without headlights or brake lights making the roads unsafe for all. They don't even bother to look when merging into traffic! Their street manners are non existant. How there are not more accidents is beyond me.
We hope to replace every gas powered tricycle to these electric versions someday so that Puerto Princesa city will not become a smog ridden place like many other places in the Philippines. We have a showroom called Green Tech EcoCenter and it's being prepared now to recieve the first prototypes of the new eTrikes ordered up by Mayor Hagedorn on behalf of the City of Puerto Princesa. We will also sell electric motorcycles, because it seems that is the second most popular way of getting around town, and gas bikes are everywhere belching fumes and creating lots of noise.
I miss my friends in the city, but having lived in Subic Freeport in Olongapo, Zambales, I am used to the solitude. We lived in a housing subdivision high on a hill overlooking the beautiful forests, but it was isolating for me socially. Most of my family and friends live in Manila, Makati or Alabang, all within the Metro Manila area. One nice thing is that it's only a 1 hour flight away.
I think one of the big reasons we moved here is that it's much easier to get around to take her places like the little beach down the road. Even with the gas Tricycles everywhere, most everything is only 15 minutes away and we felt that this would be a healthier place for Alysha to grow up in. In a couple of years she will be going to school and it will be easier for us to take her to and fro in a healthy environment and clean air.
Raising a child at my age is challenging enough. I have never been much for kids. Even when I was a kid I didn't like kids!!! But she is teaching me patience and she's good for my parents and Dave adores her!
Update July 2012: We have bought our own 2 hectare slice of land and are learning and practicing sustainable living and recycling trash into useable items.