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I woke up earlier than the ringing of my alarm clock. It’s a brand new day and I’m all psyched up and energized because, finally, my dream of going inside Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) has come true. I have been dreaming about this vacation even before PPUR made it to the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

HANDY-DANDY GADGET

I had everything prepared the night before, especially my camera, my handy-dandy Nikon D5100; it’s the most important thing to bring, aside, of course, from my wallet and iPhone. I definitely have to document this vacation because it’s a once in a lifetime trip!

I have been a shutterbug ever since I can remember. My dad introduced me to this small rectangular device that has a magic button that captures significant moments with just one click; and I’ve been addicted to it ever since. I believe there’s more to pictures than what meets the eye; I’d also like to think that there’s a precious story behind every picture.

GETTING THERE

these colorful bancas will transport you from the port of Sabang to the entrance of PP’s Underground River

It’s a winding 2-hour drive from Puerto Princesa City going to Sabang, we need to stop somewhere in the middle of the trip for a little pee-break. Sabang Port is where the colorful bancas (pump boats) that will take us to the entrance of the Underground River are located. When we arrived, there were dozens and dozens of people, young and old, who are all like me, waiting for their turn to go aboard the 10-seater paddle boat that would journey inside the heart of the cave.

THIS IS IT!

orange helmets and life vests are a must before getting inside Puerto Princesa Underground River

When the final moment came, I had to calm my overexcited heart; the last thing I want is to have a heart attack inside the limestone cave and eventually drown in the dark river. I sat in the last row of the boat directly in front of the boatman. The boatman will navigate us through the underground river and will also serve as our comic tour guide.

I was clutching my handy-dandy camera ready to take aim while listening to our boatman for some quick FIYs. It was as though Mr. Sun decided to take a day off because once you enter the cave leading to the underground river, it’s a total darkness. But human eyes are really amazing because we can quickly adjust to be able to see better in the dark. And how I wish my camera was as quick as my eyes because when I tried taking a picture of the beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formation it, all of a sudden, it wouldn’t work.

THE GRUELING 15 MINUTES

I was beginning to get frantic because I’m already living my dream and suddenly my not-so-handy-dandy-anymore camera decided to take a break. I tried all the little tactics I know in order to revive it, but I was really getting frustrated. We were almost halfway through the maze and I couldn’t even appreciate all the beautiful formations the boatman was talking about. For 15 long minutes, I was sweating, big cold sweats. I wanted to cry and make the boatman stop for awhile for me to work on my camera, but unfortunately that couldn’t happen because I was with 9 other passengers who were now having the time of their lives.

As I was about to give up, a feeble idea hit me. The main reason that my camera won’t capture anything is because it’s too dark inside so I tried using the flashlight on my iPhone and positioned it near my lens so that the camera can capture light as much as possible. I’m hoping against all hopes for my weird plan to work, and boy, oh boy, it did work!

CLICK-HAPPY

I captured pictures of different stalactite and stalagmite formations to my heart’s delight. I started appreciating all the amazing patterns coming from the precipitation of limestone and water that was made a thousand or more years ago.

the one big candle inside the cathedral of the Puerto Princesa Underground River

I was smiling like crazy while clicking and clicking my now-working camera; and I can’t explain the happiness I felt during the remaining 30 minutes of our ride.

the white lady inside the Puerto Princesa Underground River

Looking back, that grueling 15 minutes inside Puerto Princesa Underground River, made all the pictures I took more precious. The photos I captured maybe lovely but the memory and experience I had before I was able to take all those was what made the pictures more worthwhile.

the holy family inside the Puerto Princesa Underground River

the three kings on top of the big candle inside the cathedral of Puerto Princesa Underground River