Part 2 – The Underground River: Wondering about this Wonder of Nature(This is Part 2 of a three-part narration of my first experience at the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan in November 2010. Having been newly named as one of the New Wonders of Nature, the number of tourists is anticipated to increase. It is my desire that its sacredness and beauty be maintained and not be subjected to abuse as with other famous places of destination. For Part 1 of this narration, click here.)
It was raining heavily yet there was a huge crowd waiting to experience the Underground River. I’ve been told that rain or shine, numerous people visit the Underground River. Averaging 1,200 daily tourists, that number is sure to increase with the Underground River now named as one of the New Wonders of Nature.
Sadly, I didn’t experience the solemnity and serenity that I was told earlier by a local who frequents the place.
I was disappointed about the boat ride itself, especially how the tourist guide conducted the tour. He was injecting humor unnecessarily instead of highlighting the magnificence of the site. Perhaps he just wasn’t properly trained accordingly.
There are six to eight passengers per boat. The person seated at the front end of the boat is tasked to hold the flashlight and direct the light to the cave formations. The foreign lady tourist seated in front didn’t understand English so she wasn’t following instructions correctly. When the boatman/guide would ask her to point the flashlight upwards, she’d point it to the left side. When asked to point to the right, she’d point it elsewhere. So we didn’t get to see much of the formations.
The boatman/guide and the rest of us tried to humor ourselves to lighten the situation. Nevertheless, it was still quite disappointing. And I was asking myself, so what am I being taught to learn from this situation?
I was starting to feel restless but I still opted to take photographs. Without any proper lighting because the flashlight wasn’t directed to the formation, not to mention the flash of my camera malfunctioned, I just knew I wouldn’t be able to capture any image. But I still continued to just click my camera away, for lack of anything else to do. And out of sheer frustration, part of me was starting to wonder why it was being nominated (at that time) as one of the new wonders of nature.
I was also disappointed with the time we spent cruising the Underground River. It was too brief. There wasn’t enough time to truly experience and marvel at this wonder of nature. We didn’t have much time to be bathed by her healing energies.
There were a lot of tourists that had to be accommodated. Perhaps that was why the time for the tour was limited. Not only was the tour too quick, it focused primarily on appreciating only the physical beauty of the Underground River. Yet it had so much more to offer. And there wasn’t time allotted to contemplate on its majesty and appreciate it in sacred silence.
The journey could be quite healing and touching at a deep, spiritual level. But then perhaps it could only be so for those who are ready for that kind of experience.
While relaxing after my tour, I reflected on my disappointing experience.
When I was still in Manila and I prayed to be shown a sacred place in Palawan, I was given the vision of the Underground River. Yet why did I not even have the chance to truly feel the solemnity of the place? Why did I not feel the presence of Mama Mary or other Divine Beings? Although at some level, I do know for sure that it is indeed magical and enchanting.
Could it be that I was too focused on all my disappointments with how the tour was handled and conducted that I failed to take a moment of silence? Did I get caught up with my own frustrations that I missed out on the chance to be enveloped by the sacredness of what was clearly a work of God? Was I distracted with the sad realization that the people do not seem to see or appreciate the Underground River beyond its physical beauty?
I then looked at the photographs that I captured in my camera although I wasn’t expecting much to see. I was so sure that I wasn’t able to capture any images which of course even added to my frustration.
Yet, lo and behold, of the 30+ photographs that I had taken, to my surprise, there were two that clearly stood out.
One was the formation of the Madonna (Mother Mary),
The other, was the Holy Family.
And having captured these two images, against all odds, was enough to give me some sense of peace.
Yet I still had this one thought about the Underground River that continued to linger in my mind, a thought that I couldn’t be at peace with.
To be continued
Malasa, I. (2011). Underground River’s entry to wonders of nature list hailed. Retrieved November 15, 2011 from ABS-CBN.com website: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/11/12/11/underground-rivers-entry-wonders-nature-list-hailed
Ordinario, C. (2011). Palawan underground river to increase arrivals by 40%. Retrieved December 12, 2011 from Business Mirror website: http://businessmirror.com.ph/home/top-news/20554-palawan-underground-river-to-increase-arrivals-by-40
Piechnick, J. (2011). Sabang and the new wonders Puerto Princesa Underground River. Retrieved November 15, 2011 from Travel-Philippines.com website: http://www.travel-philippines.com/locations/palawan/3-sabang.htm
Puerto Princesa Underground River (2011). About us. Retrieved December 15, 2011 from the Puerto Princesa Underground River website: http://www.puerto-undergroundriver.com/management/
Santos, T. (2011). PAL to use bigger jets to boost underground river tourism. Retrieved November 30, 2011 from Inquirer.net website: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/19057/pal-to-use-bigger-jets-to-boost-underground-river-tourism
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