Monday, September 24, 2012

Dancing Inmates in Iwahig Prison of Puerto Princesa

Whenever I hear the term “prison,” one thing that comes to my mind is a small suffocating room with bars. It is an obnoxious place of murderers, rapist, and all other kinds of evils.  Prison is a place of convicted people who mostly are bald with yellow teeth and covered with tattoos. Forgive me but that actually is an exaggeration.  But hey! If you have that kind of thinking or understanding that is somehow (even slightly) similar to that, I encourage you to visit the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

I failed to visit this place last year (
I Fell in love with Palawan) since I did not have enough time then to wander around; so I promised myself that I would crash into this famous penal place the next time I visit Puerto Princesa. (you can include this on your city tour by the way, just negotiate with the driver or your tour organizer). A city tour if (you will rent a tricycle) usually cost Php500 for several locations such as: Crocodile Farm (closed on Sundays), Baker's Hill (closed on Mondays), Mitra's Ranch, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Plaza Cuartel, and/or Puerto Princesa Baywalk.

Most tricycle drivers will ask for an additional charge if you want to go to Iwahig Prison as the road that leads there is dusty, rough, and bumpy. It is also far from the main road. But I say, go. You have to. Check it for yourself.

The entrance of the Penal Farm
Do not think twice to visit this place. Also, do not get intimidated by the thought that prisoners live here. In this prison after you cross the façade, the things that you will see are greeneries, shelters, ponds, and people in color-coded shirts. You are able to identify if a certain individual is under maximum, medium, or minimum security through the color of the shirt he wears. You will see a community of prisoners that are roaming freely in approximately 20,000 hectares of farming land.

Vast farming lands.
A common side inside when you enter Iwahig Prison
You might ask, why they are not leaving if there are no walls or barriers to keep them from escaping? The answer is because the location itself will discourage them from doing so. Why? Because unless they are Bear Grylls who knows how to stay alive amidst wild forest, they should also have some sort of superpower to avoid malaria - which I doubt. Iwahig prison is surrounded by mountains, and there is a small chance that escapees will successfully cross the forest without acquiring the deadly disease brought by thousands of mosquitoes that awaits them into the wild. Moreover, if ever they luckily crossed the mountains and forest of Puerto Princesa, they have yet to grow gills so they can swim the vastness of West Philippine Sea and find a place to hide. Now you decide for them. :)
The place itself is a nice rehabilitation center that can serve as the place for them to repent and realize their luck for having the second chance. So why leave? It is just fair that they pay their sins through farming, fishing, souvenir making, and others. 

The Other Side of the Story

Some say that inmates here are allowed to live with their families until they have finished serving their sentence. They said that the government provide them with different livelihood programs so they can earn money. Many think that Iwahig is one of the best places to penalize convicts, but I got different stories from five prisoners I had a conversation with.
  • They said they are not getting a single cent from farming. They are required to till the land, plant rice, harvest them; and they do all of these for free. As part of their punishment. There are instances also that guards do not allow them to leave the farm, they take their lunch under the sun with hands covered with mud.
  • The five prisoners I spoke with already came from New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, and I was kinda surprised of what they said. They said that their life in New Bilibid Prison was better. They had better rooms. Although surrounded with bars, their rooms are spacious and comfortable enough. Furthermore, they are able to see their families since most of them are within the area.
  • Given a chance to choose between New Bilibid Prison and Iwahig, the five opted for New Bilibid Prison.
Whatever the truth is, I am glad that I was able to visit this place. I am glad that my impression of “prison” was changed. I am glad that I was able to spoke with people who are deemed notorious by the society and realized that they too have the right to live a normal life; that they too are human who need understanding and acceptance. They might have done wrong once, but their sins do not mean the end of their existence.

With some of the inmates.
All of them were all charged guilty of murder. 
If after all the things I wrote I still failed to convince you to visit Iwahig prison, I hope with my shameful video below you will decide to include it in your itinerary when you visit Puerto Princesa. :D

I challenge you to go and do a better record. Aja!


  1. I always had an idealized picture of Iwahig before, probably because they came from the administration. It's very nice to know what the prisoners themselves think about their stay there! Have been to PP but never to Iwahig. Should go back there one of these days :)

    1. Đại La Kiếm Tông lập tức sáng ngời. Hai người bọn chúng vẫn chưa lập tức tiến vào bên trong sơn cốc mà là cẩn thận đánh giá. Cuối cùng ánh mắt hoàn toàn tập trung vào một đám cỏ dại cách Diệu Kim quả tầm một trượng bên ngoài.

      Bên trên đám cỏ dại này, chỗ mấy cành lá khô vàng, nhìn thoáng qua thì cũng không có gì kỳ dị. Dù sao bên trong sơn cốc nơi nào cũng có những chỗ cành lá khô vàng. Nhưng lúc này, không biết từ đâu có một cơn gió nhẹ thổi qua. Cơn gió này hơi xoay tròn, tạo ra âm thanh sàn sạt của cỏ động.
      dong tam mu lậu cho thuê nhà trọ cho thuê nhà trọ nhạc sàn cực mạnh tư vấn pháp luật qua điện thoại công ty luật ở hà nội số điện thoại tư vấn pháp luật dịch vụ thành lập doanh nghiệp
      Trong khi cây cỏ chuyển động, những cành lá khô vàng không khỏi đung đưa, tuỳ theo cơn giá mà sạt xuống hết. Nhưng ngay khi lá khô phập phồng lại khiến những người này đều hít sâu một ngụm lãnh khí.

      Chỉ thấy bên trái chỗ có vô số cành lá kia, nháy mắt khi không khí phiêu đãng lộ ra một tảng lớn những điểm đỏ rậm rạp. Những điểm đỏ này lặng yên bất động, Như kiểu những đoàn lấm tấm này hoàn toàn sinh trưởng bên dưới những chiếc lá khô.


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I wish you luck and happiness. Keep on travelling, find your happy place. :)