Palawan is one of the best tropical destinations in the world, if not the best. There are so many reasons why people come here – sun, sand and beach. Shopping in Puerto Princesa is not so bad either.
In the city, there are lines of assorted shops that include all sorts of local fruits, shell crafts, local handicrafts, and jewelry, the most famous of which are freshwater pearls.
Local Palaweños and small businessmen culture and sell freshwater pearls, which, unlike saltwater pearls, are not very expensive. Most of these businessmen hand over their pearls to local vendors who walk around the city from one hotel to another selling the pearls at very affordable prices. This means you do not need to go very far to buy a pearl earring, necklace or bracelet. These are not fakes, by the way, only of a cheaper kind.
The second most popular commodity in the island is “kasoy” or cashew nuts. Local snacks using cashew nuts come in different forms of finger-food delicacies. Roasted, fried or dried nuts sell for about a hundred and fifty pesos (P150) for a half kilo. People living in Manila and other major cities in Luzon long for these nuts.
Third, people leave Palawan usually with pieces of wood carving for souvenir. The most common pieces are antiques, figures of the Holy Family, and musical instruments like bongo drums, flute, and a rainmaker. A rainmaker is just a simple piece of varnished bamboo with pieces of tiny pebbles inside. It produces the sound of a distant rain as you turn it upside.
Going to the airport, there is a row of shops in Puerto Princesa that sell all sorts of wood carvings and handicrafts. There are plenty of handy souvenirs such us pearl jewelry boxes, wooden coasters, and rattan accessories that are tiny enough to carry on the plane.
As a final reminder, if you are looking for a big, major shopping mall in Puerto Princesa, you won’t find any. There are rows and rows of tiny stalls and kiosks, but not one major department store.
The most unique place to go shopping in Puerto Princesa is in Iwahig Penal Colony. It is a fully functioning penal colony that houses 2,000 prisoners. What is there to shop inside a prison colony? Well, this is unlike any correctional facilities in the world, perhaps the only borderless prison camp. Prisoners get minimum security and are encouraged to farm and fish. They also make use of indigenous materials to make intricately designed wooden and plastic crafts that sell very well. Tourists come here to mingle with the prisoners, get to know them and the history of the colony, and buy their handiwork.
There is no point of building a walled perimeter around Iwahig because there is nowhere to go. The colony is surrounded by malaria-infested mountains. If given the chance, tourists should make it a point to visit Iwahig.
Shopping in Puerto Princesa is convenient and has plenty of choices for tourists who really intend to do some island shopping. For those who just want to get something to show off to friends back home, there are plenty of trinkets and accessories to choose from in a variety of local stores.