Folk dancers hired by the City Tourism Department welcome the passengers and crew of the luxury cruise ship – MS Silver Whisper as it arrives in Puerto Princesa. The 610-foot, 10-storey vessel is touted as a cruise ship for the rich and famous; the first of six cruise ships that will be visiting Puerto Princesa’s shores.
The after-effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic which crippled the tourism industry can still be felt in the Philippines. However, Puerto Princesa, the “Heart of the Best Island in the World,” harnesses its vast potential not only as a destination of choice but also as a preferred center of MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and events) to forge ahead and move forward.
Paradise in Profile
Puerto Princesa is the center of trade and commerce, education, communications, and public administration of Palawan. Its strategic location is within the growth corridor of the BIMP East ASEAN Growth Area.
Known for its UNESCO World Heritage site Underground River, it shares 50 percent of the tourist arrivals in Palawan and in the region, making it the biggest contributor to its economic growth. In 2020, Palawan logged a partial number of 157,051 tourist arrivals, 71,889 of which were visits to PPC.
A tropical paradise with a bustling urban center perfect for business-with-leisure trips, PP is blessed with lush rainforests and white-sand beaches hours away from the city proper, where a banking and commercial boom has made life easier for workaholics and busybodies.
Puerto Princesa is a relatively young settlement, having been established as a city only in 1970. The first settlers arrived on March 4, 1872; a date celebrated every year as the foundation day of the city.
As part of the Philippines’ last frontier, the city is rich in natural resources. It is the country’s largest city with a land area of 253,982 hectares. A chain of mountain ranges runs through the entire length of the city, dividing it into two distinct areas – the East Coast and the West Coast.
A significant portion of the city retains its indigenous vegetation, rainforest, mangroves, and coastal ecosystem, all of which support an amazing array of wildlife. In terms of species biodiversity and its wide range of ecosystems, Puerto Princesa is of national significance.
The famous and must-visit Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which was formerly known as Saint Paul’s Subterranean River National Park, covering a protected area of 22,202 hectares is a haven to endemic flora and fauna. UNESCO has inscribed the park as a World’s Heritage Site on December 4, 1999.
Calendar of Events
The Norwegian Jewel carrying with it around 3,000 passengers and crew is the second of the six cruise ships calling port in Puerto Princesa.
With a tropical climate and the warm welcome of its people, foreign and Filipino tourists can bask in Puerto Princesa’s embrace all-year round. In January is the Chinoy Festival, which celebrates the new year with ground firecrackers at the Chinatown Center, and with dragon dances and lion dances in major malls and hotels. Every February 14 is the Love Affair with Nature, which is marked by a mass wedding as well as letting citizens express their love for Mother Nature through participating in mangrove tree planting activities.
In March is the Balayong Festival, which commemorates the founding anniversary of Puerto Princesa highlighted by street dancing, float parade and planting of Palawan Cherry Blossoms. In April is the Pangalipay sa Baybay, a summer extravaganza at the baywalk. Activities kick off with parade and fireworks display, dance competition, cheerdancing and boat race.
In June is the “Pista y ang Cagueban,” a time when citizens celebrate the Feast of the Forest and plant thousands of different tree species.
September is Tourism Month, which is celebrated with great performances, exotic cuisines and a showcase of various talents and services in the local tourism industry. Every third Sunday of September is Coastal Cleanup Day, an international activity whose objective is to preserve and safeguard Mother Earth’s resources along the shorelines.
November is the Subaraw Festival, which is a fun-and-activity-filled celebration of Puerto Princesa’s very rich biodiversity. December celebrates Light a Tree, a merry event where a giant Christmas tree is lit up to start the Yuletide Season. This comes with Christmas carols, dances, and music.
The Department of Tourism sees the huge potential of Puerto Princesa, a city known for its remarkable attributes in MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), as a preferred location for meetings, incentives, conferences, and events (MICE).
In May, Regional Director Zeny Pallugna of DOT MIMAROPA in a discussion with City Tourism Department (CTD) chief Demetrio Alvior Jr. Said they are pushing for Puerto Princesa as a MICE destination, where tourists can be enticed to stay longer to enjoy the city’s attractions.
During the “Amos Ta Ren sa Puerto Princesa” radio show, Pallugna said that the city is well on its way into becoming a MICE location because of it is capable of hosting events such as Ironman 70.3 Puerto Princesa and an international dragon boat competition.
“Aside from that, maybe in the future we can conduct a 101 on MICE. We can do that, and then identify the different function facilities for the MICE market,” Pallugna said, as quoted by Palawan News, so the regional tourism office can start promoting the city at the end of the year, or next year.
Another goal for Palawan, Pallugna emphasized, is to train more community tour guides, and recalibrate their skills continuously, so they could help promote and showcase the “Filipino brand of service” globally.
“The second thing is—MIMAROPA is, whether they like it or not, we are the cruise capital of the Philippines. Imagine it, we have 139 cruise calls in the Philippines, 22 of them is in Puerto Princesa; 41 total within the MIMAROPA Region,” Pallugna pointed out.
The regional director of the DOT also mentioned that they plan to introduce the national program called “Philippine Experience” to the city, which includes the well-received Suroy-Suroy sa Sugbo, which the local tourism body plans to replicate.
Alvior, meanwhile, said that Puerto Princesa’s main focus is on the MICE industry. As such, City Mayor Lucilo Bayron actively encourages investors and venture capitalists to build convention centers in strategic areas such as Quito and the environmental estate in Barangay Sta. Lucia.
“Actually, we were discussing tourism activities, and the mayor suggested that we should expand the Quito area. There is a focus on MICE, so we are working on establishing convention centers,” Alvior was quoted by Palawan News.
This November, Puerto Princesa City enjoyed a surge in tourist arrivals with the celebration of the Subaraw Biodiversity Festival, which drew international participants, and the scheduled arrivals of more cruise ships as Christmas approaches.
During the opening ceremny of the Subaraw Biodiversity Festival, Mayor Lucilo Bayron said that the aim of the city to make the event international is once again gaining momentum after being adversely impacted by the pandemic. In recent years.
“We need to add more international events to attract more tourists from other countries. And this year, we have incorporated international events in the celebration – wild bird photography race, Ironman 70.3 challenge, and international dragon boat race. Our Miss Subaraw is already a national event with the winner coming from Angeles, Pampanga, and this year, we already have 10 foreign candidates,” Mayor Bayron said, as quoted by Palawan News.
Meanwhile, a luxury ocean liner called MS Silver Whisper dropped anchor in the city in early November, indicating greater opportunities for the local tourism industry to prosper.
Touted as a cruise ship for the rich and famous, the MS Silver Whisper brought 382 vacationers and a crew of around 300. Registered in Nassau, Bahamas, the 610-foot, 10-storey vessel is operated by Monaco-headquartered Silversea Cruises.
The MS Silver Whisper is the first of six cruise ships that will be visiting Puerto Princesa’s shores this November, the City Tourism Department excitedly announced.
CTD chief Demetrio Alvior, Jr. said that guests aboard the ship will tour several key attractions in Puerto Princesa, with the underground river in Barangay Cabayugan on top of the list. The ship will then sail off to their next port of call in Coron, also in Palawan.
The city anticipates heightened tourism and overall economic activity with upcoming cruise ship arrivals scheduled on November 4, 8, 16, 18 and 28, Alvior shared.
Five more massive vessels are scheduled to arrive in November and December will welcome the MV Norwegian Jewel and the MV Aida Bella. The MV Norwegian Jewel will bring in about 2,500 people; the MS Westerdam, 1,964 individuals; and the MS Star Breeze, around 327 passengers.
Alvior noted that unlike in the past when international tourists arrived mainly by airplane, the city’s expanded tourism program has paved the way for more visitors to arrive by sea.
The city official said that stakeholders in the tourism sector are being encouraged to provide exemplary service that will showcase the renowned Filipino hospitality to solidify Puerto Princesa’s place as a tourism center and give the local economy a much-needed boost.
Alvior also encouraged Puerto Princesa’s tourism frontliners to treat all visitors with the highest level of care and to exemplify the unique Filipino standard of service.
“The influx of tourists will keep us on our toes, but it’s a bustling pace we look forward to,” Alvior told Palawan News.