“Hey man, wassup?” shouted the two young boys on a bike as they saw me walking on the street of Brooke’s Point with my camera and backpack.
I was already on my sixth day of Palawan exploration, and the sight of a six-foot man in unwashed clothes, unshaven and sunburned must have looked odd to the people of this southern town that they mistook me for another foreigner on his way to take the backdoor boat to Malaysia via Rio Tuba. I have gotten used to being mistaken as a foreigner since I started backpacking many years ago, and I always enjoy watching people’s reaction whenever I reply in Tagalog “Ayos lang!”
If there is one province in the Philippines that is best explored on a backpack it is Palawan. The country’s largest province is also considered one of the remotest because of its geographical location. Its western shore hugs the South China Sea and the southeastern shore breathes the rich Sulu Sea. Its narrow archipelago of 1,700 islands, coastline stretching almost 2,000 kilometers long and land area of 1.7 million hectares offer endless prospects for adventures.
Backpacking in Palawan is not just going to the usual destinations like El Nido or Coron, it is discovering many unknown towns like Brooke’s Point where visitors get to experience the real Palawan outside the usual tourist trails.
Brooke’s Point was actually named after an Englishman. His name was Sir James Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak, who founded the Kingdom of Sarawak in Borneo, and ruled the island from 1841 until his death in 1868. It was during one of his travels that he landed on the southern tip of Palawan. Brooke established trade between Sarawak and southern Palawan, and this helped gained the trust of the people. His name became so popular that when the residents elected to give the name of this town, it was called Brooke’s Point.
Brooke’s Point officially became a municipality of Palawan on June 28, 1949, under Executive Order 232.
How to get there
Going to Brooke’s Point is already an adventure. First, one must get on a plane from Manila flying to Puerto Princesa. This takes about an hour. From the airport, take a tricycle to the central terminal in Barangay San Jose. This will take about another fifteen minutes.
Brooke’s Point is 219 kilometers south of Puerto Princesa. This means getting there on a bus or on a UV Express Van. The road south takes visitors on a journey through the scenic towns of Aborlan, Narra and Sofronio Espanola before finally arriving in Brooke’s Point, about five hours later.
What to see, what to do
Those who opt to go on a journey to Brooke’s Point will be rewarded. It has many attractions waiting to be discovered.
Start at the town center where the new municipal building is located. Fronting it is a small plaza where most of the town’s activities are usually held. A few steps from the municipal hall is the Saint Joseph’s Parish Church and the beautiful Parish Center with its attractive semi-circular building. Scattered around towns are many old houses probably built during the 1940s to 1950s when Brooke’s Point officially became a municipality.
A short walk from the plaza is the Port Miller and Lighthouse Tower. Port Miller is a cemented water tank reportedly built by Sir James Brooke himself. It used to function as the source of potable water for the natives. At the back of the water tank is the remnant of the old lighthouse. Now built beside it is the new lighthouse that welcomes the boats coming from Sulu Sea into the bay of Brooke’s Point.
The town also has several waterfalls. Popular among picnickers is the Sabsaban Falls located in Barangay Aribungas. It can be reached from the town center either by tricycle or on foot. It has natural pool perfect for cooling off on a hot afternoon. There is also the Bakbakan Falls and Mainit Hot Spring located in Barangay Mainit. It has a 50-foot waterfalls and a natural hot spring.
Mount Mantaliangajan in Brooke’s Point offers opportunities for trekking in lush forest cover.
Where to stay, what to eat
In Poblacion, there are some basic accommodations available for those who wish to spend a night or two in Brooke’s Point. There’s Brooke’s Point Pension House, Elizabeth Pension and the popular Sunset Lodge.
One can also stay in a resort-farm called Mt. Maruyot Farm and Garden Resort located at Barangay Tubtub. It is about 8 kilometers from the town center, and offers bungalows for only P500 a night.
During my stay in Brooke’s Point, I just stayed at my friend’s farm house for free. At the farm, we would take a short drive to the cool Sabsaban Falls to take a bath. We would often the visit town center where we buy seafood such as alimango (crabs), which are sold only P120 per kilo, or big saba banana for only P1.25 each. There are also many carinderias (small restaurants) at the back of the market where one can get a full meal of rice, fish and vegetables for less than P50.
I will forever remember Brooke’s Point because of the lovely couple I met while visiting the Saint Joseph’s Parish Church. The old lady selling candles called me and asked me to take a photo of her and her husband. “Para naman kahit retrato man lang ay makarating sa Maynila [So that at least our picture will reach Manila],” she joked. I was touched by what she said. All their life they have been living in Palawan and their eyes showed that they are happy and contented. This is one chance encounter I always treasure most whenever I travel. And I would never trade this experience for all the treasures in the world.