06 September, 2008

Iwahig Prison & Penal Farm

“When we’re in Palawan already,” Jean intoned. “Let’s go to Iwahig.”

“Huh?!” I said, my face a look of complete hesitation. “Isn’t that the one were prisoners are? What are we going to do there?

“Well, it’s going to be part of our itinerary for our city tour.” And she did not elaborate. I kept my silence but inwardly, I quailed. Really, what are we supposed to do there? Would it be safe?

Iwahig Prison & Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa is a place where offenders sentenced to banishment were exiled. It was originally established during the American occupation to house Philippine prisoners who had fought against American colonization of the Philippines. Now, Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm is one of seven operating units of the Bureau of Corrections under the Department of Justice.
The place is the first stop we went to during our city tour. After checking in at Puerto Pension and having our lunch at Haim Chicken Inato, our tour guide, Ate Alma, brought us there. The place was sprawling and did not look like a prisoner’s place at all. It’s built much like a community, with its own church and school. The drive there was actually pretty relaxing. The sky was prettily blue as clouds scurry by. I was reminded of Aklan, the place I grew up in, by the ricefields and trees that we passed by. I even saw a herd of goats. I saw cows grazing too and carabaos taking a dip but we were driving by so fast and the windows were closed so I wasn’t able to take photos.

cottony clouds, with the blue sky as their backdrop


As the driver parked the van and everybody was rushing down to go to the souvenir shop, my initial hesitation about the place vanished. Ate Alma said that some of the guests she toured here, especially the foreign ones, were actually afraid to go down but she said it’s really pretty safe as the prisoners in Iwahig have already undergone rehabilitation.

The sweltering heat of the sun greeted me as I stepped down. Ate Alma pointed to the old prisoners’ building and I promptly took photos of it.

Inside the souvenir shop, there are many things on display which are for sale of course. There are rainmakers, key chains, paperweights, pens, wall decors, ashtrays, bracelets and other native stuff.

the souvenir shop's welcome signage

tourists buying all sorts of "pasalubongs"

I bought three paperweights and three pens for my officemates and colleagues. Some items are for sale at Php35 each but if you buy three, they will sell it at 3 for Php100. They’re okay with “combinations” thus instead of buying 3 turtle paperweights, I bought just one turtle paperweight, along with one each of crocodile and reindeer paperweights. They said the paperweights are made from Jollibee plastic cups. Cool.

crocodile and turtle paperweights

Rudolph, are you here?


The shop was also selling bottled water and some snacks and I was so thirsty (God, the heat was almost unbearable!), I bought bottled water for only Php10 as we were about to leave.

There’s really nothing much to do here so I really did not enjoy this tour. But I did enjoy the drive even if it’s like 30 minutes from the city proper basically because the view is really very rustic.

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