A few kilometers outside the town proper of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines lies a ghost town of sorts. The Vietnamese Village sits off the side of the road with a small gated entrance.
Arriving in a tricycle after a short drive from town I entered the village and didn’t see anyone. If you have ever ridden in a Philippine tricycle you know they are not built for guys like me that stand 6ft plus and like to eat.
After extracting myself from the caged passenger compartment I notice the church, gift shop, restaurant and houses. I still don’t see any people.
My trike driver runs off to the restaurant and returns telling me we should drive around since they have some dogs running wild that may attack. After a quick ride to the far side of what is appearing more and more like a ghost town we come to the Temple.
Now the Philippines is mostly a Catholic country and it was the Catholic church that helped bring Vietnamese refugees to the country and supported them. I guess that is why the church was built.
Vietnamese however are mostly Buddhist so they built a temple. At least they have a couple of choices.
Deciding to walk around a little and brave the attack dogs I head out down a street and notice a woman in the fields. Being the first person I have seen in town I ask if she speaks English, which she does, and she relates the history of the village.
After the US-Vietnamese War several thousand Vietnamese fled the communist regime and a lot wound up in the Philippines.
Originally the refugees were in places like Bataan and other areas around Manila and Luzon.
Sometime later a village was constructed near the airport in Puerto Princesa in Palawan and several thousand Vietnamese families were relocated there with the help of the Philippine government and Catholic Church.
In 1997 the village was relocated to the present location. Viet Ville, as it is known, is pretty much empty now. I was told at one point there were nearly 2000 people in the village.
A lot of the refugees have been offered political asylum in Australia and the US and have left the village. Some have returned back to Viet Nam and now there are only seven families left.
Most of the people work in the restaurant which offers some pretty good Vietnamese food. A couple of the ladies work in the gift shop and the rest work in the fields or maintain the church and temple.
Lunch at Viet Ville was good with the Vietnamese Ice Tea and fresh spring rolls and was cheap by any standard.
The owner said he originally came to the Philippines in 1979 and although it looks like a ghost town, the restaurant is pretty popular and on weekends they get a lot of business.
If you get to Puerto Princesa in Palawan take a quick trike ride out to Viet Ville and have a taste of Vietnam in the Philippines. Viet Ville is located in Barangay Sta. Lourdes and takes about 15 minutes by trike from downtown Puerto Princesa.