The Philippines was a major player in the Pacific Theater of World War 2. Thus, it is not really surprising that many remnants of the Great War remain. Dark, bleak remnants that remind us of untold suffering and horrible destruction. Remnants that remind us of the costly sacrifice that our warriors suffered to preserve our freedom.
Earlier, we went to a reliquary of some of these remnants, the Palawan Special Battalion World War 2 Museum. As the sun neared her bedtime, we visited another bastion of World War 2 in Puerto Princesa, the Plaza Cuartel.
Built sometime in the 1940s, Plaza Cuartel once served as a stronghold of American and Filipino soldiers until they were overrun by Japanese invaders. The stronghold, once a haven of our brave warriors, became a prison.
As we entered the Plaza, we immediately saw this menacing, foreboding looking iron gate. Behind it is a story of horror and incalculable suffering.
That is the entrance to a tiny, stuffy, narrow tunnel, which is behind the iron gate. 143 American prisoners were routed and stuffed in this tunnel with virtually no food or water. Then on December 14, 1944, soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army poured fuel on the prisoners and set them on fire. 11 prisoners narrowly escaped the massacre.
In the middle of the park stood this memorial, which lists down the names of the 143 POWs who were burned alive and the 11 survivors.
The emaciated bust vividly showed us how the starved and abused prisoners must have looked like. We offered a salute for these heroes.
Despite the gloomy history of the place, Plaza Cuartel has become a popular haven for the locals. The plaza is designed as a classic, verdant Pinoy-style park that can be seen in many towns and cities nationwide. Large trees provide cool shade for those who want to seek refuge from the burning tropical sun.
Well-maintained gardens delight the eyes.
You can stroll around Plaza Cuartel easily thanks to these paved pathways. Ooops, don’t step on the grass.
Check out the amazing leaf imprints on the concrete pathways. And notice how clean the park is.
Don’t expect a lot of fun attractions in Plaza Cuartel, although we did have a little bit of fun with this calesa. Remember that this is a memorial and a remnant of a bastion. So even if you did manage to have a bit of fun like we had, please do mind your behavior as this is a place of reflection.
Many plazas have water features, most commonly a fountain that shoots water up in the air. Plaza Cuartel’s main water feature is different; it’s in the form of a cascading waterfall with a bridge in its foreground.
Across Plaza Cuartel is this neo-classical church called the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. It was built in the late 1800s in tribute to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, who is the patron saint of Puerto Princesa.
It is considered to be another tourist spot, but we did not go in; there was a mass going on. And taking photos of everything in the middle of mass would be a bit sacrilegious, don’t you think?
From Plaza Cuartel, we went on to the last stop of our city tour, the Puerto Princesa Baywalk where locals and tourists can witness beautiful sunsets while relaxing on top of the dikes, jogging around its pathways, chatting with friends, having a drinking spree, or eating dinner. Just look at the place. It’s brimming with activity!
For a small fee, you can rent a bike or a bike with side-car. That’s cool! We can see Puerto Princesa’s potential as a green, clean, bicycle-friendly city.
If you choose to avail the firefly watching tour, you will ride on these outrigger boats, which will take you across the sea to Iwahig River. Iwahig River is surrounded by thick mangrove forests where fireflies display an enchanting dance of sparkling lights in the night.
However, we didn’t avail of the firefly watching tour. Aside from its hefty sum of P600 per person, it was a full moon that night. Sir Jhun said that it’s best to take the firefly watching tour during a new moon.
After a few minutes, Puerto Princesa’s sun began to call it a day. Spectacular sunsets like these never fail to enthrall us. As travelers, mountaineers, adventurers, and climbers, we are grateful to Mother Nature for giving us the opportunities of witnessing stunning sunsets, each different from one another.
Sunsets simply uplift the spirit and make you realize that you have just witnessed one of Mother Nature’s beautiful smiles.
Friends, families, and lovers shared a peaceful, tender moment as they witnessed a daily natural spectacle.
As dusk grows darker, more people come to the esplanade to cool off, take photos, or simply relax in Mother Nature’s splendor.
This particular fishing boat was impounded by Puerto Princesa authorities for illegal, harmful fishing practices. The crew of this boat used cyanide to kill and harvest fish, but thanks to the vigilance of Puerto Princesa’s arm of the law and the Philippine National Police, the offenders were arrested.
Esplanades such as the Puerto Princesa Baywalk are excellent places where people can have a drink or grab a bite to eat. Thus, enterprising locals set up small food stalls here to serve the populace. Simply walk around until you find a place whose array of mouthwatering delights and ice-cold beverages suits you.
1. Plaza Cuartel, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, and the Baywalk are public places, so everyone knows how to get there. Take a tricycle at the city proper and tell the driver to take you to any of these places. The fare is usually P8 from the city, a little bit more if you’re farther from the city center.
2. If you’re on a tight budget, then having dinner at any of the food stalls at the Baywalk should be in your itinerary. Food that is sold here—barbecues, snacks, carenderia viands, etc.— is very affordable. You can cap your day with a drink or two with your travel companions at the Baywalk.