Monday, August 27, 2012

Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm

The first time I went to Puerto Princesa in 2011, I was not able to visit the place as the van driver and the tour host said that there was an issue between the Jail Administration and the prisoners and it was not safe for tourists to go there. But after a couple of months, I found out that the people who took us there just got lazy and did not want to waste on gas because it was a bit far. So much for the city tour package we paid. Though just recently, they removed this from the city tour and if one wants to visit it, it's an additional fee.  

I got curious with the place that I made sure I must see it . . . which I did . . . not only once but several times.   

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From town, we took the multi-cab bound to Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm. The driver asked for 50pesos each where he dropped us inside the colony. I was able to go here also by a rented van. The ride was about 20 to 30 minutes. 

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You have to register first before you can get in. It's free.
For a prison facility, you'd think there's high security when you enter. Not this one.
Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm is known because it has no high walls or fences. 


Once you enter the gate, you'll see a vast area of mostly fields where you think you'll see ordinary farmers working. They're not. They are the inmates. I did not take photos as it scared me because they may not like it and may do something to me.

This is where the inmates used to work on the handicrafts but it got burnt.

I was able to take this photo from afar. 
Medium security inmates done with work and on their way to their barracks. They are working on the agricultural projects. They walk casually around the place. I even saw one beside the security guard at the gate. They are identified by the color of the shirt they're wearing. Orange shirts which you won't see around are inmates in the maximum security prison. The blue shirts are inmates on the medium security prison. The brown shirts are the minimum security prison and are allowed to stay outside the barracks but still inside the facility.

These inmates are not all from Palawan but majority are from different parts of the Philippines. Since they have no walls here, they have a roll call 3 times a day.  

The hospital.
They have a community inside. Aside from the barracks, you'll see houses with families and mini stores. The people living here are officials and inmates who decided to stay and work for the facility. 
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The guard house

The first time I went here, it was exciting . . . heart beating a bit fast because I've never been inside a facility and I was expecting something that I've seen on TV about prisons. 
I was even hesitant to talk to them but they were the ones who greeted and kept talking to us. I had inmates selling me souvenirs, food etc. They were like those annoying sales people at the market but these ones you can't snap at because they've done something in the past and you wouldn't want that to happen again. I even had one inmate following me around making sure I wasn't hot and too sweaty by using his fan  (he he he)

Guess what??? All my anxiety and my paranoia on the inmates was blown away by the wind when they gave nothing but respect to us . . . which made us comfortable. 

Too comfortable that I blurted out to the inmate "Kuya, ano naman ang kaso mo?
(what is your case?) 
I got surprised when I realized what came out from my mouth . . . scared that it wasn't the right question. 
The inmate answered "nakapatay po ako kase sobrang lasing"
 (I killed someone because I was drunk) 
A few seconds of silence. I was in the middle of two inmates. So I looked at the other one and asked the same question.
He answered "napatay ko po yung asawa ko dahil sa sobrang selos
(I murdered my wife because I got too jealous) 
It took a few seconds before I was able to think and react. I guess it must be fun for them also to see people's reaction.
I just said "Huwag nyo ng gagawin yun ha. pakabait na kayo
(Don't you ever do that again. Be good) in a casual tone like a mother telling her son not to do something naughty again.
I'm glad they said that they have repented.

This inmate was scheduled to go out in 2months when we were there.  

Me as an inmate

We bought shirts and here you'll see my cousins who pretended they were caught. They're from Canada so they were not able to tell a policeman from a security guard (hehehe)

Inside the souvenir shop. My new Swedish traveler friend, Louise being offered different things by the inmates. She tasted siopao and then gave it to the inmate to finish it.

Key chains made out of recycled plastic cups. 
I bought a lot of these and most of them are still with me.
 I should be giving it away. 

Photo shoot  with the dancing inmates

Which part did they not get that it was suppose to be a wacky shot.
 Louise and I looked silly here (hehehe)

We were the only tourists so we got a chance to mingle with them.

They were having lunch when we interrupted them. 
They were getting food from that orange pail.
 I felt sorry for them. No one deserves to be eating from a pail or bucket except if they were KFC or Jollibee buckets. 
They were very funny especially this little guy in blue.


It amazed me to see their tattoos. One inmate even has one on his head. 


Louise and I were like celebrities. They wanted a lot of photos with us.

I finally got my solo shot (hee hee)

I forgot his name but he was really nice to us from the moment we got inside the shop. He just doesn't like talking in english and I had to translate everything to Louise.

I was behind bars in Iwahig :)


Here are video clips of the dancing inmates. My aunts danced with them. 



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Coron Part 2


It took me some time to make a follow up from my first photoblog on Coron. 

You can never put Palawan in just one post *=)

Our next destination was one of my many favorites in Coron

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View from Banol Beach

Banol Beach is a small beach. 
What you see on the photo is the whole beach. 
It has four cottages where tourists can take their lunch.

Coron Palawan
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Since all cottages were occupied, we had our lunch on the boat but docked at the beach


Don't underestimate this small beach because it has a breath taking view

Coron Palawan

The water and the sand was as gorgeous as the view
Coron Palawan


View from Banol Beach
It doesn't look real but it is real.

After our tummies were filled, we headed to the Skeleton Wreck.

Greeted by this man who got our entrance fee


A guide assisting his guests. Good job!


I asked this guide from another boat (who wasn't our guide) to go and touch the ship.

Coron Palawan

This is one of the Japanese ships that went to Busuanga and Coron Island and was attacked by the US Navy around 1944

Coron Palawan

One of the easy wreck dives in Coron. Just around 5 meters deep.


It reminded me of seeing the real video clips of Titanic. It was a bit creepy.



 Some of my travel buddies got freaked out that there is a ship under our boat and so they did not want to go and explore it. Instead this is how they looked at it.


Our last stop for the day was the Twin Lagoons.
This was not new to me since I've seen so many of these in El Nido.
Though, our boat had to stop here and we had to swim to go inside the lagoon.

Coron Palawan


The one with the ladder is the entrance to the lagoon.



Reached the entrance.


It was a tiring swim because we had been swimming since morning.


You can take the ladder to go in rather than swimming under. 
Nothing special or won't really make it easier for you if you take this path.
 You just get to jump.


 Or you can paddle your way in just like this foreigner who flashed his big smile at me.


I don't know what you call this. Our guide wasn't much help. 
But it looks cool and easier than swimming.


We just swam and swam and swam around the lagoon.
Oh . . .  did I mention that we swam? *=)


 We were there . . . in just one of the lagoons *=)



Exhausted but very happy with the day we had.




Sunday, August 5, 2012

Trek at Mt Ampacao and Lake Danum







My first solo travel in Sagada, Mountain Province and the first activity I did was to trek going to Mt. Ampacao.

From town, my guide and I took the easy way going there by taking a motor bike. We passed by the town of Ambassing. We only went halfway up because his bike was just the regular one and not meant for going up the mountains.     

It was just a 20 minute walk from where we parked and it was a pretty easy trail.


My guide leading the way


Along the way, we saw some wild blueberries and strawberries where I had my guide taste it first before I did. I wanted to make sure he he he

This is a Pitcher plant. 
The guide didn't give much information about it and just said that you can drink the juice from it . . . which he did. He insisted that I try it too . . . which he was unsuccessful. I later found out from a mountaineer that this is a carnivorous plant that feeds on insects and even mice. 


Smart Tower. 
They rule over Globe in Sagada I guess.


Not really much to do here. 
Just enjoy the view and you can do soul searching if you want.
You can pitch a tent here and camp.

Below is the ranch and over those mountains you'll see the way to Ilocos Sur and Mt. Tirad 


That's another town over there . . .  Besao


They said that Mt Ampacao has a nice sunset. I've always witnessed sunsets in beaches and it would have been great to see it on the highlands. Unfortunately, it became cloudy. 

Mt. Ampacao is also known for bird watching/hunting. Though it wasn't the season.


The trail 




From Mt. Ampacao, you can trek going to Lake Danum for another 7km which I did not do. Instead I explored going there on my own on Day 3 with the instructions of Kuya Sotero, my guide to just follow the road. He said it will just take two hours total to and fro and around 4km. I passed by Sagada Pottery and  a couple of houses then it was just the road . . . the road . . . and more road. 


I wanted to ask if I was going the right direction but I did not see a single person on the road. There were a couple of jeepneys that passed by. If only calves can talk as they were the only ones I saw roaming around.


I saw this. The road leads to another town which is Besao . . . the one I saw up at Mt. Ampacao.  After more than an hour of walking, I decided to call Kuya Sotero because the roads were endless and I haven't seen a signage that says "Lake Danum" 


It turned out that a signage did not exist and I walked passed Lake Danum. I had to turn around and walk another 30minutes to get to the place. Waiting shed is the landmark. From town, it is on the right side and from Besao, it'll be on your left. Opposite the shed, is a path leading to the lake.


Since I didn't have a guide with me, I don't have much information about the place. I know the word "Danum" means  "water" as it is the same term in my mom's dialect, kapampangan. I also read that it's not really a lake but it's just a big pond.


A group was having a picnic and they invited me to eat with them. I was shy and declined their invitation politely but in reality I was hungry. It was around 2 in the afternoon and I realized I had not eaten since I woke up. Good thing I had water to keep me going. Kuya Sotero then asked if I wanted to be rescued, meaning he will pick me up. Because I did not want to be embarrass and be talked about as "we had to rescue a girl in Lake Danum because she was too hungry to walk back" ha ha ha I did not stay long as there wasn't anything to do, no one to talk to, no food to eat and the sun was hurting my skin.


There were a lot of land mines :)


Back to the road again and I met another family roaming around



 Though this time I got lucky. I got surprised when a tricycle (which you don't see around Sagada) stopped in front of me and the kind driver said to hop in . . . and the bonus part is . . . he did not let me pay.

My guide was surprised to see how fast I got back . . . I hid the part at first that I got a ride but told him the truth after :)

UPDATE:
My second time to visit Lake Danum. This time I did a bike tour!


More of my Sagada experiences, click here