(This is Part 3 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, click here; Part 2, click here.)
As I walked along Sabang Beach, there was still one question that was loudly reverberating in my head: The Underground River is a sacred place but why is it being treated and promoted just like any other tourist attraction?
“Alam mo, naka-assign ako sa lugar na ito mula pa nung 70’s. Ngayon lang ako nakaengkwentro ng turistang katulad mo ang pananaw. Nababahala nga din ako at natatakot ako para sa lugar na ito. Naaabuso na. Galit na galit na nga ang mga ispirito. Pinagdarasal ko yan araw-araw. Sumulat pa nga ako ng dasal at ipinadala ko yan kay Mayor.” (I’ve been assigned to this place since the ‘70s. You’re the first tourist I encountered with that observation. I also fear for this place. It is being abused. The spirits are furious. I offer my daily prayers. I even wrote a prayer and sent a copy to the Mayor.)
These were the sentiments of Vicente Morello, a staff of DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) who lives in the area. It was so reassuring to find a like-minded individual. And like me, he felt very frustrated, disappointed, almost helpless.
We also shared a great sense of fear for what may happen in the long run, should the place continue to be treated with less respect and kindness. Like him, I felt deep sadness for the spirits occupying it as their sanctuary is being disturbed.
During certain times of the year, the water is not safe for swimming. There is a strong undertow. Visitors are properly warned.
Yet, despite the warning, there are cases of drowning or near-drowning amongst the visitors of Sabang Beach. The locals said that some visitors do not take the warnings seriously. Some guests ignore the warning and insist on swimming (as you can see from the photo above), believing they are skilled enough to handle the rough water. In the five nights that I stayed there, I witnessed two near-drowning incidents!
Could these incidents be a reminder for humans to respect rather than dominate the kingdom of other beings? Are we being reminded that the respect that is to be accorded Nature is beginning to fade from humanity’s awareness? Could the spirits residing in the area be attempting to convey a message?
Other treasures of the Philippines suffering from humanity’s intervention – Boracay and Mt. Banahaw, just to name a few
Like Palawan, Boracay is an island in the Philippines famous the world over for its pristine beaches, powdery white sand and temperate blue water. As with numerous other water lovers who can’t seem to have enough of this exceptional jewel, I also consider Boracay as one of my favorites.
But Boracay is now a far cry from its virginal beauty before it was discovered and became too commercialized. Sadly, its condition has deteriorated over the years. In recent past though, thankfully, the government and the local community have exerted efforts to preserve it and minimize the damage.
Mt. Banahaw is a mountain in the Philippines believed to be sacred and mystical. Locals flock to this pilgrimage site especially during the Holy Week (Lenten Season). It is also quite popular among mountain climbers. It has been declared a protected site in 2009. But because of the misuse and abuse that this “holy mountain” has been subjected to, it has been closed down since 2005 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for major clean-up and allow it “to heal and to recover.” Hiking is currently forbidden.
Elsewhere across the globe, there are many other sacred sites and remarkable nature spots that have suffered from the destruction and abuse caused by humanity.
And now that the Underground River has been named as one of the New Wonders of Nature, will it be treated with the reverence it deserves? Will we learn from lessons of the past, or are we going to be selfish again and use nature only for our personal enjoyment, thinking that we are entitled?
I can only wonder but as we all ponder over 2011, it’s something we can all mull over.
It’s also something we can strive for. And it is something we can do not only for the Underground River, not even only for the other New Wonders of Nature, but to all of creation, mystical or otherwise.
After all, every thing and every being is in fact sacred, seen or unseen. Everything is blessed. Everthing is holy. It only becomes polluted because of human intervention.
It’s an invitation. And I pray that we all head towards the same direction and hold the same sacred intention.
Here’s to respecting Mother Earth & holding our planet in sacredness in 2012 & beyond…
A joyful, spirit-filled and Spirit-led New Year to all! Blessings!
(For other things to do in Sabang, click here.)
Burgos, N. (2010). Removal of statue in Boracay sparks outrage. Retrieved December 29, 2011 from Inquirer.net website: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/regions/view/20100205-251348/Removal_of_statue_in_Boracay_sparks_outrage
Calonzo, A. (2011). Mt. Banahaw remains closed to pilgrims on Holy Week – DENR. Retrieved December 5, 2011 from GMANetwork website: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/218295/news/regions/mt-banahaw-remains-closed-to-pilgrims-on-holy-week-denr
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
Pinoy Mountaineer.com (2010) Mountain news: Mt. Halcon and Mt. Banahaw status updates. Retrieved December 5, 2011 from PinoyMountaineer website: http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/2010/12/mountain-news-mt-halcon-and-mt-banahaw.html
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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