Underground River spawns bustling trade
The tourist trade has been on the upswing in Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan, and along scenic Sabang Beach, gateway to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (popularly known as the Underground River), one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature.
One of the establishments benefiting from the popularity of the Underground River is the Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa, about 15 minutes away from the famed ecological wonder.
Business has been good since the Underground River was declared a New Wonder of Nature, says resort resident manager Michael S. Villegas (contact us- @sheridanbeachresort.com). “And so we want to give back to the community. This is the first time that we have exercised our corporate social responsibility,” Villegas adds.
Star of Hope
The hotel’s means of giving back is a project called Star of Hope, a special fund drive in cooperation with the National Park that will conclude on Jan. 6.
The beneficiaries are members of two peoples’ organizations: The Community Park Warden of the Jungle Trail and the Bird Guide Association of the National Park.
Most of the beneficiaries of Star of Hope are members of the indigenous Tagbanua.
Visualize a romantic, candle-lit dinner for two, luxurious room accommodations and spa treatment. Add bottles of wine, pastries and other delectable gift items for sale in the lobby, with the guests invited to look these over and hopefully make a purchase.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of all these will go to the beneficiaries.
Villegas says the resort has always tried to do what it can for the community. But this time, through Star of Hope, it identified specific beneficiaries.
The hotel’s accommodations range from a spacious suite that cost P24,000 to P25,000 a night to superior rooms available for P7,500-8,500 a night.
Its market is mixed, from Europeans to Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, balikbayan (returning Filipinos) from North America, and domestic tourists from Davao and Cebu.
Part of the hotel’s appeal is its extensive use of solar power and renewable energy.
Is this good economics?
“Definitely,” asserts the resident manager, “The owners have invested so much in renewable energy, and we are now producing our own electricity. We are the first green resort in Palawan.”
Aside from well-appointed rooms, the hotel also has a convention center, which can accommodate 450 persons, three ballrooms, a business center, meeting room and, inevitably, a karaoke room.
Frequent users of these facilities are multinational and pharmaceutical companies, most of which are based in Metro Manila.
Also, an average of eight to 10 weddings are held here annually.
“We would like to have more,” says Villegas.
Another unique feature of the resort is its organic farm, which is a 15-minute drive from the resort proper.
For hotel guests, especially foreigners, the main attraction here is the fiber-rich black rice, which sells at P300 a bag (with two kilos).
The product is also marketed to the cities of Iloilo, Cebu, Bacolod and Manila.
“Because of the soil, agricultural production is very challenging,” observes farm manager Ray Teraza. “But we had a good yield this year.”
And don’t forget the Jungle Trail, a special project of the National Park headed by Elizabeth Maclang.
“We have provided employment for the katutubo (Tagbanua),” says community organizer Mike Ollave (09095616461). A trek through the jungle, guided by a Tagbanua, will cost P300 for three trekkers.
So what are you waiting for? Take the ascent to Mt. Bloomfield and help the low-income indigenous Tagbanua earn a living out of their knowledge of the forests around the fabled Underground River.
Having fun while helping others is indeed a great way to spend a vacation.
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