|With Marge and Baby at Sabang’s underground river|
I spent most of my sixth week in the Philippines on the island of Palawan, at a UNICEF-supported training session for journalists from the troubled region of Mindanao, where a civil war between government forces and Islamic separatists has been raging with greater or lesser intensity since the late 1960s.
Parts of Mindanao are notorious for the kidnapping and murder of Westerners but the province is equally dangerous for journalists. In recent years, there has been an increase in murders of journalists throughout the Philippines, most of which go unsolved. This had already earned the Philippines the dubious distinction of being the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists after Iraq.
We arrived in Palawan a few days early to do a bit of sightseeing, in particular to visit the famous underground river at Sabang, a UNESCO world heritage site. From the outside, the river looks unremarkable, just a low cave mouth at the edge of a sandy blue-green pool. Once you pass under the rocky archway, however, you are transported into another world. Within a few minutes the cave is pitch black, with the distinctive clicking sound of swifts and bats echolocating all around you in the dark.