These days, Port Barton is not for those seeking luxury, but rather for travelers who revel in exploring remote, rural villages. The town isn’t as well developed as other destinations of Palawan, and electricity runs on a limited basis, but the charm lies in its simplicity and slow paced lifestyle. It’s a bit of a hassle to get there and away, but the advantage is that there are no hordes of tourists to deal with.
I personally enjoyed our stay here, and thought it was well worth the effort and cost it took to get there and out; I liked that we didn’t have to share the palm-fringed beach with hundreds of other tourists.
It felt like my own private paradise. The glassy bay mirrored the sky and the bangkas, so the beach never looked the same whenever we caught a glimpse of it. The gentle sunrises and fiery sunsets were magnified, producing some of the most dramatic dawns and dusks I’ve ever had the fortune to see. The only flaw was that the bay was filled with giant jellyfish, so swimming is limited to certain roped off areas.
I didn’t mind too much, the bamboo hammocks were swinging pieces of heaven, and Xiker had one helluva time trying to get me out of those things. Though we did go island-hopping on our first day, I spent the rest of our time reading and swinging, while Xiker went off on his own. (In my defense I was hella sunburnt and could barely wear clothes!)
He hiked up to Pamuayan Falls and came back 2 hours later, soaked in his own sweat (definitely didn’t regret not accompanying him). The next afternoon, he paddled to a distant cove in a bangka and came back with a badly cut up foot (again, no regrets).
The town of Port Barton is small, dusty and seemingly empty, until school lets out— then kids fill the streets with laughter. Bamboo huts are tucked into thickets of trees, far from the roads, but closer to the beach the houses are gaily painted concrete, bright shades of pink, blue and green. Pieces of cut up bamboo and rusted engine pieces litter each yard, and dogs wander around poking their snouts in everything.
Dining options are seriously limited to resort restaurants, and we could only find two eateries that weren’t attached to a resort. Fortunately, one of them offered incredible value for their deliciously-cooked set meals, so we headed there every meal, breakfast lunch dinner.
In truth, Port Barton has an abandoned air to it, which didn’t bother me, but it is unfortunate for the resort owners who have had to shut down their places of businesses, and for those who are currently struggling to keep theirs open. Even the bangka owners who have converted their fishing boats into tourist boats are now struggling to keep afloat.
“There is a certain brand of traveler that likes to scorn destinations for being overly touristy, but I can’t help but wonder whether there is anything sadder than visiting a place that was once popular and now sits in the shadow of its former glory, its halcyon days squarely behind it.”
The first day we arrived happened to coincide with the Barangay Friendship Games, a festival coordinated between several barangays in central Palawan. After asking around, we were told to come back around 9 to 10 that night, to catch a performance. Turned out to be a pageant show for ladyboys, and I was so impressed with how many people came out to watch and support the competitors. Everyone was having fun, cheering and egging on the competitors, and their talents were hilarious (for the most part). We didn’t stay long enough to find out who the winner was, because they started taking turns doing karaoke, and it was already past midnight by then!