a hand reaching for the sky at dusk
Travel Stories,  Travels

My Longest Night in Puerto Princesa City Palawan

a hand reaching for the sky at dusk

My trips are not always as perfect as my travel photos that you see. Behind every detailed travel guide to a province is an untold story. I could actually write my own version of series of unfortunate events for all my misadventures since I have started traveling. About a year ago, I published one of my unfortunate events in Cebu and I truly learn from the experience. Now, I’m sharing another one with you – my longest night in Puerto Princesa City Palawan.

a lady in dress standing at the beach with stilts on the right taken the day before traveling to Puerto Princesa City Palawan
One fine morning at Onuk Island, Balabac, Philippines

The Series of Unfortunate Events

It was the last leg of my 17-day Palawan Backpacking last April 2019 and I went back to Puerto Princesa from almost a week-long trip in Balabac. We left Buliluyan port at 2:00 PM and I assumed that I’d be at Puerto Princesa City Palawan by 8:00 in the evening. However, the driver told me that I had to transfer since the van was overloaded. I got offloaded at Bataraza terminal and waited for an hour for a passenger van bound for Puerto Princesa City. Problem 1, solved – I was finally back on the road.  

The next thing I was worrying about was my accommodation. I was supposed to stay in a hostel I was in collaboration with but I got no response hours before my arrival. Another problem, I have consumed what’s left on my prepaid mobile data. Thankfully, Facebook Messenger lets people communicate online for free so I asked for a friend to book a room for me in a cheap hotel just to have a place to stay for the night. A friend saved me! Problems 2 and 3, solved.

The Black Out

Just when we got into Puerto Princesa City at around 11:00 in the evening, all the lights went out! Okay, so that was a black out. The good thing about the passenger vans in Palawan is that they would drop the passengers off to their exact destinations. The driver told me that I’d be the last to be dropped off since he was not familiar with the location of my hotel. One by one, the passengers went off until there was only me and another guy at the back.

I started getting scared because it’s dark everywhere and there was only me, the guy and the driver. The driver told the guy that I’ll be the first one to be dropped off since we were around the area of my hotel. My friend texted me the location so we kinda knew. However, we’ve been driving around the block for literally an hour and the driver was also losing his patience since it’s already 12:00 midnight but we could still not find my hotel. Out of good will, the guy at the back offered his phone to be used for its map. We asked the locals but they were not familiar as it might be a new one.

For the last time, we drove around and paid attention to every signage. There it was, at the corner, all along! We pulled to the side, I got off and thanked the driver whom I reckoned was mad since he dropped my things off the ground. Problem 4, solved.

Alone in the Dark

I picked up my backpack and hanged it on my shoulder. The van started moving until it turned right to the highway. Darkness started to swallow the whole place and it sent shiver down my spine. The van’s headlight was the only source of light I had minutes ago. Then, it was gone. I was on my own. The bag felt heavy on my shoulder. My breath started getting shorter and faster and my heart thumping as if it would jump out of my chest any moment. I called from the outside of the hostel’s gate and no one answered. When I pushed it, it opened. Okay, so I guess, they’re expecting me.

I clutched at the strap of my backpack with my right hand and pulled my phone out from my pocket with my left. I was about to turn the flashlight on when the warning came out, it’s only 5%.  My tears started to well up but no, it ain’t the time to breakdown. I hurriedly turned off the mobile data and grabbed my small pouch where I put my power bank. That’s when I remembered, what happened to my dry bag during an island hopping activity in El Nido. The salt water came in and got my stuff soaked including the power bank. It failed me.

My heart started beating faster and I could feel my eyes heating up. I kept biting my lower lip, snapping my fingers, curling my toes rapidly and looking up to suppress the tears. Only God knows about how long I was standing in there. The struggle inside me was growing. This ain’t the time to break down, sweetie. Do something.

Self Check-in Shenanigans

For a minute, I adjusted my sight to the dark and walked to the receptionist’s desk that is just by the stairs. I looked around, knocked, called but no one was there. Then, I hovered my phone to the desk and saw sticky notes with keys on top. Great, the receptionist must have been off from work and they are instructing the guests to do self check in. Time check: it was 12:30 AM. It was only thirty minutes but it felt like forever! I approached the desk and checked what’s written on the notes. There were three papers with a key on top of each. The notes include names and room numbers. Matt, Helen and Henry. But, wait, my name was not there! Where they able to accept my booking?  

You’ve got no choice, young lady. I took the key to Matt’s room and ran up to the stairs. Thoughts started running in my head as I take steps up to the stairs. What would I tell the management if they find out? I got nothing to worry about. These people would totally understand my situation. They can just check the guest whom I got the keys from in to another room.

The Borrowed Room

The room was on the fifth floor so I struggled my way up, my bag getting heavier in each step. After five flights, I ended up in a narrow corridor. I took my phone out, brought the screen to life and hovered it where the room numbers were written. I found room 503 and opened the door. The whole room smelled like a fabric softener. It’s supposed to be comforting except that it didn’t have an effect on me. There was a single bed with a table on its side and a cabinet beside the door. I put my stuff down on the table and lay down on the bed.  

I was so tired. Weary. Helpless. It was pitch black in there. There was no moon outside the window nor sign of light. My whole body felt tensed against the cold and soft mattress I was lying on. The silence was also deafening. It was driving me crazy. What if a hostel staff came knocking on the door with Matt? I tried to shut my eyes close but there was no difference compared to when I opened it. It’s the same darkness. If there’s one thing that I could only hear that time, it was my heart beat. It was as if the walls of the room was beating in sync with the nervous heart of mine.

The Last Straw

I shut my eyes close and prayed hard to every saint that I knew regardless of whatever patron were they. No one knows about what’s happening to me. Just the heavens and I.   I couldn’t take it so I turned my phone on and tried my luck. I’ll ask help from anyone who’s online. It was 1:00 AM. I wished someone’s still awake.   My friend who booked my room was trying to reach me earlier through messenger asking if I was able to check in. That’s when I learned that my booking was declined. My heart sank. I couldn’t feel my extremities – my arm, my legs and I felt nauseated. My head throbbed and my whole body started to shake out of nervousness.

I checked who’s online and found out that my tour guide in El Nido, Kuya Elfer, was online so I sent him a message,   “Hello, Kuya Elfer. Kamusta po?” [Hello, Kuya Elfer. How are you?]

The Ultimate Divine Intervention

No response. Kuya Elfer left it on seen. I felt hopeless. Just when I was about to turn the mobile data off, Kuya Elfer replied,   “Okay lang po, ma’am. Dito kami Puerto Princesa kasal ng inaanak ni Ma’am Neri,” [I’m okay, ma’am. We’re here in Puerto Princesa for Ma’am Neri’s goddaughter’s wedding]. Ma’am Neri is the owner of the travel and tours I worked with in El Nido.   I felt sign of hope. My tears started falling and my hands were shaking. I was thanking the gods from above.   WHAT. A. FREAKING. DIVINE. INTERVENTION. 

The Way Out

I checked my battery, 3%. Gotta freaking make the most out of it. I told Kuya Elfer what happened to me and he was so shocked. He offered to pick me up and take me with him where Ma’am Neri and her family also was at the moment. I gave him the address and he told me to stay outside the hostel as he was just looking for a tricycle. In no time, I hurriedly picked my things up, grabbed the keys from the table, locked the doors and rushed down the stairs. Before I almost forgot, I left the key from where I got it, looked around and saw a CCTV camera. I’m fucked, well, except that there was no electricity so I doubt it was recorded. Regardless, I looked at the camera and mouthed the word, “sorry” with my apologetic face. Whatever, the whole night was crazy.  

In the middle of the night and at the dark, I waited. 2%. I told Kuya Elfer what I could see around. Thanks to the lights of the tricycles passing by. I turned the mobile data off first and stood there. The adrenaline rush made me forget that I was carrying a 12-Kilogram backpack and another 6-Kilogram bag with my diving gear.

Fight or Flight

I froze when a motorcycle stopped in front of me. The guy riding it asked me, “Miss, gabing gabi na. Bakit nandiyan ka pa?” I held three-way monopod of my action camera tightly on one hand and took out the perfume bottle from my bag with the other. Don’t dare come near me or I’ll spray perfume to your face and hit you hard on the head with my monopod. I told him that I was waiting for a van to  pick me up. “Ah okay, ingat ka diyan” he said and left.

The Danger in Waiting Game

I waited for another ten minutes. Another motorcycle stopped, this time with three minor guys reeking of alcohol as its riders. I held the monopod so tight that it hurts but I gotta be alive. They stopped in front of me, a meter away, and asked,

Miss, may hinihintay ka ba? Hatid na kita kung san ka papunta,” [Miss, are you waiting for someone? Let me take you to wherever you need to go,”    The other replied, “Gag* wag mo takutin. San ka ba papunta, miss? Hoy bumaba ka nga diyan ipahatid muna natin si ate,” [You jerk, you’re scaring here. Where are you heading to, miss? Hey, get off there and let him send the girl to wherever she needs to go.]   I took two steps back and told them that I’m fine in there. They insisted. I told them that I was waiting for someone and he would come around any minute. Carefully, I let go of the perfume, took my phone out and turned the mobile data on.

Okay, Queenie, you can do this. I held it against my ear and pretended to be talking to someone when it pinged so loud against my right ear. It was Kuya Elfer saying that he can’t find it. He described where it was and it looked exactly like how the block from where I was standing was. A tricycle was there, too! I told the boys, that it was him even if I was not so sure. The two guys told their friend to stay there with me and they roared the motorcycle’s engine back to life. They drove to the tricycle on the next block.

The next thing I knew, they were heading to where I was standing and I was crying so hard the moment I saw Kuya Elfer seated inside. He took my things, put it in and told me to get in. He thanked the three boys and we left.

Safe, At last

I have been mouthing “Thanks, God” until we reached the hotel where Ma’am Neri and her family was. We went to Ma’am Neri’s room and I hugged her. I did not have the energy to tell the story of how my night went. What I knew was that I only cried. She accompanied me to the front desk and we booked a room for me.

I checked in at 1:45 AM.   At 2:00 AM, the electricity went back. I changed into a more comfortable sleeping clothes, tucked myself and curled in the bed. It was indeed a long night. I recalled what happened until everything went on a blur. Then, I drifted off.   At around 6:00 in the morning, I woke up with a knock on the door. I was supposed to explore Puerto Princesa City Palawan that day but I decided to go back to El Nido instead with Ma’am Neri and her family.  

a lady standing at the summit with a view of the ocean and mountain ranges
Taraw Cliff, El Nido, Palawan

Lesson Learned

If there’s one thing that I have learned from this experience, it’s how we should keep our composure and stay strong amidst all the unexpected events in our life especially in the ones that are beyond our control. A series of it would take us down only if we would let it.

How about you? What are your misadventures?

The series of unfortunate events during my longest night in Puerto Princesa City Palawan is a chapter of my never-ending series of misadventures. Tales of Untold Misadventures is a series of my unfortunate experiences while traveling. Let these stories entertain at the same time inform you of what might go wrong when traveling, how can you deal with it or what can you do to save yourself from the inconvenience of the mishaps.

Anne Elizabeth Gumiran, also known as Queenie, is a 20-something, full-time public school teacher, a part-time travel blogger and a freediver. She started putting her stories of adventures and misadventures into words and pictures in 2017 and continues to do so as she shares her advocacy, Sustainable Traveling.


  • Unknown

    2013. Went to hundred islands with a friend. We thought it's far but it only took 4hrs to get us to alaminos. It's only 12am and we know no one from the place, good thing there were tricycles at the terminal and asked kuya to drive us to our hotel, kahit magbayad na kami ng kung magkano haha we had to pay early check in at the hotel. Paiyak na yung kaibigan ko. Di na ulit kami nag adventure after nito. Haha

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