When Dong Ho and I met at the airport of Puerto Princesa I asked him what was our plan. His answer was short and easy to understand “Go as south as possible.” I asked him if he already had breakfast and he answered “I’ll buy something along the way.” With those two answers we were now heading straight to the southernmost municipality of Palawan, Balabac.
First things first, we needed to get to San Jose Terminal, the central hub for land transportation in mainland Palawan. We rode a tricycle to Junction 1 (8 Pesos/person), then rode a multicab (13 Pesos/person) (personally it was crampy) and went straight to Lexus Shuttle Vans to ask what time was their next trip to Rio Tuba, Bataraza be leaving and we were lucky as it was about leave soon. But not that soon as Dong Ho went to a nearby eatery and had breakfast while we were constantly checking if the van was about to leave.
Then the van left for a 5 hour trip going south (450 Pesos/person). Some parts were cemented, some bridges were being fixed and a lot of roads were still uncemented. Passing by the large Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, through palm and rubber trees plantations. 2 stopovers where one, I had lunch. It was only when we reached the town of Bataraza that the road became fully cemented up to Rio Tuba.
During the trip we were constantly asking some of the passengers on where to go and what else to do in the nearby towns so we could select which places we could do a sidetrip to when we are heading back. This was when we met Terrh who was about to end her solo journey around Brooke’s Point. We got lots of information about Brooke’s Point from her. Even after this trip I met her again and her friends and we went to the Tabon Caves Complex in Quezon, Palawan.
When we got to Rio Tuba, we said our goodbyes to Terrh and we were accompanied by another passenger to ride a tricycle going to Rio Tuba Pier (20 Pesos/person). It was a dusty ride to the pier as big trucks carrying minerals were passing by both ways.
We quickly went out of the tricycle, paid our fare, walked on the unpaved road and through the wood planks of the pier. When we got to the end there was no boat. We asked some of the people there and they told us we were late by an hour.
Since we were tired from the fast paced trip to Rio Tuba Pier, we decided to stay for a while in the eatery on stilts. It was the time I was able to analyze the port. I was expecting a cemented port on where we could find the boat to Balabac but I found so much more. The pier was on stilts! It even had houses, a lodging and eateries on stilts. It was an unusual sight for me to see and I liked it.
The pier was inside a cove as we could see a nearby land on the other side, making it ideal for ships to find refuge during strong winds. On the other side of the pier were colorful wooden boats without a katig (balance support on the side usually made of bamboo). It seems to be transporting goods. Usually boats that I have seen around the country have katigs.
We ate instant noodles at the eatery and discussed on how we would go about the day since given our time frame of only 3 days it would be impossible for us to visit Balabac Island, go around there and go back to Puerto Princesa airport for Dong Ho’s flight. We hesitantly accepted the truth and planned our ways to go around.
Remembering our conversation with the different people in the van, they did not recommend any place in Rio Tuba to visit. I doubted it as I think of Palawan as one whole big adventure destination that could offer amazing activities to different types of people. But since we lacked information we decided to go back track and go down at Brooke’s Point so we could start the next day touring around the said municipality and less time wasted on riding vehicles.