Palawan () or officially , is an island province of the Philippines that is located in the MIMAROPA region or Region 4. Its capital is Puerto Princesa City, and it is the largest province in the country in terms of total area of jurisdiction. The islands of Palawan stretch from Mindoro in the northeast to Borneo in the southwest. It lies between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. The province is named after its largest island, Palawan Island (), measuring long, and wide.
Palawan is composed of the long and narrow Palawan Island, plus a number of other smaller islands surrounding the main island. The Calamianes Group of Islands to the Northeast consists of Busuanga Island, Coron Island and Culion Island. Durangan Island almost touches the westernmost part of Palawan Island, while Balabac Island is located off the southern tip, separated from Borneo by the Balabac Strait. In addition, Palawan covers the Cuyo Islands in the Sulu Sea. The disputed Spratly Islands, located a few hundred kilometres to the west, are considered part of Palawan by the Philippines, and is locally called the Kalayaan Group of Islands.
Palawan’s almost of irregular coastline are dotted with roughly 1,780 islands and islets, rocky coves, and sugar-white sandy beaches. It also harbors a vast stretch of virgin forests that carpet its chain of mountain ranges. The mountain heights average in altitude, with the highest peak rising to at Mount Mantalingahan. The vast mountain areas are the source of valuable timber. The terrain is a mix of coastal plain, craggy foothills, valley deltas, and heavy forest interspersed with riverine arteries that serve as irrigation.
The history of Palawan may be traced back 22,000 years ago, as confirmed by the discovery of bone fragments of the Tabon Man in the municipality of Quezon. Although the origin of the cave dwellers is not yet established, anthropologists believe they came from Borneo. Known as the Cradle of Philippine Civilization, the Tabon Caves consist of a series of chambers where scholars and anthropologists discovered the remains of the Tabon Man along with his tools and a number of artifacts.
Waves of migrants arrived in the Philippines by way of land bridges between Borneo and Palawan. From 220 up to 263 AD, during the period of the Three Kingdoms, “Little, dark people” living in Anwei province in South China were driven South by Han People. Some settled in Thailand, others went farther south to Indonesia, Sumatra, Borneo. They were known as Aetas and Negritos from whom Palawan’s Batak tribe descended. Other tribes known to inhabit the islands such as the Palawano and Tagbanwa, are also descendants of the early settlers, who came via ice-age land bridges. They had a form of indigenous political structure developed in the island, wherein the natives had their non-formal form of government, an alphabet, and a system of trading with sea-borne merchants.
In AD 982, ancient Chinese traders regularly visit the islands. A Chinese author referred to these islands as Kla-ma-yan (Calamian), Palau-ye (Palawan), and Paki-nung (Busuanga). Pottery, china and other artifacts recovered from caves and waters of Palawan attest to trade relations that existed between Chinese and Malay merchants.
In the 12th century, Malay settlers, who came on boats, began to populate the island. Most of the settlements were ruled by Malay chieftains. These people grew rice, ginger, coconuts, sweet potatoes, sugarcane and bananas. They also raised pigs, goats and chickens. Most of their economic activities were fishing, farming, and hunting by the use of bamboo traps and blowguns. The local people had a dialect consisting of 18 syllables. They were followed by the Indonesians of the Majapahit Empire in the 13th century, and they brought with them Buddhism and Hinduism.
Because of Palawan’s proximity to Borneo, southern portions of the island was under the control of the Sultanate of Brunei for more than two centuries, and Islam was introduced. During the same period, trade relations flourished, and intermarriages among the natives and the Chinese, Japanese, Arab, Hindu. The inter-mixing of blood resulted to a distinct breed of Palaweños, both in physical stature and features.
After Ferdinand Magellan‘s death, remnants of his fleet landed in Palawan where the bounty of the land saved them from starvation. Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s chronicler named the place “Land of Promise.”
The northern Calamianes Islands were the first to come under Spanish authority, and were later declared a province separate from the Palawan mainland. In the early 17th century, Spanish friars sent out missions in Cuyo, Agutaya, Taytay and Cagayancillo but they met resistance from Moro communities. Before 18th century, Spain began to build churches enclosed by garrisons for protection against Moro raids in the town of Cuyo, Taytay, Linapacan and Balabac. In 1749, the Sultanate of Brunei ceded southern Palawan to Spain.
In 1818, the entire island of Palawan, or Paragua as it was called, was organized as a single province named Calamianes, with its capital in Taytay. By 1858, the province was divided into two provinces, namely, Castilla, covering the northern section with Taytay as capital and Asturias in the southern mainland with Puerto Princesa as capital. It was later divided into three districts, Calamianes, Paragua and Balabac, with Principe Alfonso town as its capital. and During the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Cuyo became the second capital of Palawan from 1873 to 1903.
In 1902, after the Philippine-American War, the Americans established civil rule in northern Palawan, calling it the province of Paragua. In 1903, pursuant to Philippine Commission Act No. 1363, the province was reorganized to include the southern portions and renamed Palawan, and Puerto Princesa declared as its capital.
Many reforms and projects were later introduced in the province. Construction of school buildings, promotion of agriculture, and bringing people closer to the government were among the priority plans during this era.
The Palawan Massacre
During World War II, in order to prevent the rescue of prisoners of war by the advancing allies, on 14 December 1944, units of the Japanese Fourteenth Area Army (under the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita) herded the remaining 150 prisoners of war at Puerto Princesa into three covered trenches which were then set on fire using barrels of gasoline. Prisoners who tried to escape the flames were shot down. Others attempted to escape by climbing over a cliff that ran along one side of the trenches, but were later hunted down and killed. Only 11 men escaped the slaughter and between 133 and 141 were killed.
The massacre is the basis for the recently published book Last Man Out: Glenn McDole, USMC, Survivor of the Palawan Massacre in World War II by Bob Wilbanks, and the opening scenes of the 2005 Miramax film, The Great Raid. A memorial has been erected on the site and McDole, in his eighties, was able to attend the dedication.
For further details, see the Axis History Forum: Massacre at Palawan.
During the initial phase of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, just off the coast of Palawan, two United States Navy submarines, and attacked a Japanese cruiser task force led by Admiral Takeo Kurita, sinking his flagship (in which he survived) , and her sister ship . Darter later ran aground that afternoon and was scuttled by .
The island was liberated from the Japanese Imperial Forces by a task force consisting of Filipino and American military personnel between February 28 and April 22, 1945.
Palawan consists of 367 barangays in 23 municipalities, and two congressional districts that divide the province into north and south portions. Thirteen municipalities are considered as mainland municipalities, and these are, Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, Sofronio Española, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, and Bataraza (located south), Puerto Princesa (positioned in the center), and San Vicente, Roxas, Dumaran, El Nido, and Taytay (found in the north). The remaining municipalities are island municipalities, and they are: Busuanga, Coron, Linapacan and Culion (forming the Calamianes group of islands), Cuyo, Agutaya and Magsaysay (the Cuyo group of islands), Araceli, Cagayancillo, Balabac and Kalayaan (Spratly Islands). The capital, Puerto Princesa is a highly-urbanized city that governs itself independently from the province, but it usually grouped with the province for statistical purposes.
It has a total land area of 14,896 square kilometer (km2), which is distributed to its mainland municipalities, comprising 12,239 km², and the island municipalities, which altogether measure 2,657 km². On the average, each municipality has an area of 620 km². On the other hand, the island municipality of Cuyo (4,003 km²) ranks largest in terms of municipal waters. On the latter, the mainland municipality of Sofronio Española has the smallest marine area with only 485 km².
The largest municipalities are situated in the central and northern mainland, and they are: Puerto Princesa (2,106 km²), Taytay (1,390 km²), and Roxas (1,220 km²). On the contrary, the smallest local government units are the island municipalities of Cagayancillo (15.40 km²), Magsaysay (27.70 km²) and Cuyo (57.30 km²). All 24 local government units have 431 barangays .
In 2001, the residents of Palawan voted in a plebiscite to reject inclusion into an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On 23 May 2005, Executive Order No. 429 directed that Palawan be transferred from Region IV-B to Region VI. However, Palaweños criticized the move, citing a lack of consultation, with most residents in Puerto Princesa City and all municipalities but one preferring to stay with Region IV-B. Consequently, Administrative Order No. 129 was issued on 19 August 2005 that the implementation of EO 429 be held in abeyance pending approval by the President of its implementation Plan. The Philippine Commission on Elections reported the 2010 Philippine general election results for Palawan as a part of the Region IV-B results. , the abeyance was still in effect and Palawan remained a part of MIMAROPA.
People and culture
The province is a melting pot of 87 different cultural groups and races who live together in peace and harmony. Basically, its culture bears a strong influence from China, India and the Middle East. Influx of migrants from other parts of the Philippines, particularly from Muslim Mindanao, accounts for the high population growth rate of 3.98% annually. The native-born Palaweños still predominate the populace. Eighteen percent is composed of cultural minority groups such as the Tagbanwa, Palawano, Batak, and Molbog.
There are 52 languages and dialects in the province, with Tagalog being spoken by more than 50 percent of the people. Other languages are Cuyonon (26.27 percent), Palawano (4.0 percent), and Hiligaynon (9.6 percent).
The predominant religion in Palawan is Roman Catholicism. Although there are many Roman Catholic parishes in Puerto Princesa City, the number of Catholic faithfuls are too scarce for it to be considered a full-fledged siocese. One of the religious orders that had a significant mission in the islands is the Order of Augustinian Recollects.
Protestantism and Other Groups
Several Baptist and other Protestant denominations have a strong presence on Palawan as do the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in the Philippines, and the Seventh-day Adventists. Charismatic groups such as Jesus is Lord (JIL) and the Life Church (formerly known at the Life Renewal Center).
The Members Church of God International popularly called Ang Dating Daan establishes three church districts namely Coron, Northern Palawan and Southern Palawan which signifies strong membership in the province.
Other Christian denominations including the indigenous Iglesia ni Cristo has many locale congregations in the province.The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,the United Church of Christ in the Philippinesor(UCCP), the Jesus Miracle Crusade,the Pentecostal Missionary Church of Christ or PMCC as well as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church or Aglipayan Church) which is standing as one diocese (The Diocese of Palawan).
Because of its proximity to Mindanao and even Malaysia, pockets of indigenous Muslims can be found in the southern municipalities with Muslims making up the majority of the population in some municipalities in the far south like Balabac and Bataraza. There are also Buddhists – mainly Vietnamese refugees who settled in Palawan, as well as some ethnic Chinese Buddhists. One notable Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in Palawan is Vihara Van Phat.
The literacy rate in Palawan is increasing by 2% annually because of expanding access to education. Among these programs are the establishment of schools in remote barangays, non-formal education, multi-grade mobile teaching and the drop-out intervention program.
Public schools in the province consist of 623 elementary schools, 126 secondary schools and two universities. Private schools are as follows: 26 elementary, 19 secondary, 4 private colleges, and 10 vocational schools.
Among the public institutions of higher education are the Palawan State University, Western Philippines University with campuses in Aborlan and Puerto Princesa City, Coron College of Fisheries, Puerto Princesa School of Arts and Trade and the Palawan College of Arts and Trade in Cuyo, Palawan.
Some of the private institutions are the Holy Trinity University run by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena, Fullbright College, Palawan Polytechnical College Inc., in Roxas, San Vicente and Puerto Princesa City, Systems Technology Institute (STI), AMA Computer Learning Center (ACLC) in Puerto Princesa City, San Francisco Javier College run by the Augustinian Recollect Sisters in Narra, Loyola College in Culion run by the Jesuits, St. Joseph Academy in Cuyo, St. Augustine Academy in Coron, Coron Technical School, Sacred Heart of Jesus High School in Brooke’s Point; Northern Palawan Christian Institute (owned and manage by the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Palawan Diocese) and the unique educational institution called the St. Ezekiel Moreno Dormitory located in barangay Macarascas, Puerto Princesa City founded by Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the present auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Among the many endemic species are the Palawan Peacock-pheasant, Philippine Mouse-deer, Philippine Pangolin and Palawan Bearded Pig. In the forests and grasslands, the air resonates with the songs of more than 200 kinds of birds. Over 600 species of butterflies flutter around the mountains and fields of Palawan, attracted to some 1500 hosts plants found here. Endangered sea turtles nest on white sand beaches. Dugong numbers have fallen seriously, although Palawan still has a larger population than any other part of the country and organizations such as Community Centred Conservation (C3) are working to end the unsustainable use of marine resources in Palawan and in Philippines.
Total forest cover is about 56 percent of the total land area of the province while mangrove forest accounts for 3.35 percent based on the 1998 Landsat imagery. Grasslands dwindled from 19 percent in 1992 to 12.40 percent in 1998. This is an indication of improving soil condition as deteriorating soil is normally invaded by grass species. Brushlands increased to 25 percent of the total land area. Sprawled beneath the seas are nearly 11,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, representing more than 35% of the country’s coral reefs.
Palawan, the only Philippine island cited, is rated by National Geographic Traveler magazine as the best island destination in East and Southeast Asia region in 2007, and the 13th best island in the world having “incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. One of the most biodiverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines… The island has had a Biosphere Reserve status since early 1990s, showing local interest for conservation and sustainable development”.
The province was also categorized as “doing well” in the 4th Destination Scorecard survey conducted by the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, and Conde Nast Traveler magazine voted its beaches, coves and islets as the tourist destination with the best beaches in Asia. Renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau has described the province as having one of the most beautiful seascapes in the world. and Caril Ridley, founder of Palawan Environmental and Marine Studies Center (PEMS) says the Islands of northern Palawan are destined to become a future destination for Asia’s growing economic and environmental conferencing.
In 2012, the purple crab was discovered here along with four other species.
The province has two types of climate. The first, which occurs in the northern and southern extremities and the entire western coast, has two distinct seasons – six months dry and six months wet. The other, which prevails in the eastern coast, has a short dry season of one to three months and no pronounced rainy period during the rest of the year. The southern part of the province is virtually free from tropical depressions but northern Palawan experiences torrential rains during the months of July and August. Summer months serve as peak season for Palawan. Sea voyage is most favorable from March to early June when the seas are calm. The average maximum temperature is 31 degrees C with little variation all year.
Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary
A game reserve and wildlife sanctuary of exotic African animals and endangered endemic animals of Palawan. The reserve was established on August 31, 1976 by virtue of the Presidential Decree No.1578, this was initiated in response to the appeal of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to help save African wildlife when former President Ferdinand Marcos attended the 3rd World Conference in Kenya. By virtue of the Republic Act 7611 (SEP), administrative jurisdiction of DENR was given to the local government of Palawan, effective December 31, 1993. Management of the area is the responsibility of the Office of the Palawan Council of Sustainable Development (PCSD). It is located in Calauit Island in Busuanga.
Coron Reefs, Coron Bay, Busuanga
Seven lakes surrounded by craggy limestone cliffs attract hundreds of nature lovers to Coron Reefs in Northern Palawan, near the town of Coron. Busuanga Island, whose main town is Coron, is the jump-off point for numerous dive operators. The principal dive sites are 12 World War II Japanese shipwrecks sunk on September 24, 1944 by US Navy action. They range in depth from the surface to 40 meters. This large variety offers exciting wreck exploration for enthusiasts, from novice divers and snorkelers and recreational divers to experienced TEC divers.
The aquatic views from the sunken Japanese warships off Coron Island are listed in Forbes Traveler Magazine‘s top 10 best scuba sites in the world.
Dive operators offer PADI dive courses ranging from Discover Scuba to Assistant Instructor, Technical and Enriched Air Diving, as well as other specialty courses. Dive operators offer day diving, snorkeling trips, and overnight dive safaris. Live-aboard and charter boats also offer diving in the area.
El Nido Marine Reserve Park
The January 2008 issue of international magazine Travel + Leisure, published by the American Express Co. (which partnered with Conservation International) listed El Nido‘s sister hotel resorts El Nido Lagen Island and El Nido Miniloc Island in Miniloc and Lagen Islands as “conservation-minded places on a mission to protect the local environment.” Travel + Leisure‘s 20 Favorite Green Hotels scored El Nido Resort’s protection of Palawan’s giant clam gardens and the re-introduction of endangered Philippine cockatoos: “”8. El Nido Resorts, Philippines: Guest cottages on stilts are set above the crystalline ocean. The resorts are active in both reef and island conservation.”
Malampaya Sound Land and Seascape Protected Area
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
This park features a large limestone karst landscape with an underground river. One of the river’s distinguishing features is that it emerges directly into the sea, and its lower portion is subject to tidal influences. The area also represents a significant habitat for biodiversity conservation. The site contains a full ‘mountain-to-sea’ ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia.
The Tubbataha Reef Marine Park covers 332 km², including the North and South Reefs. It is a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100 m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands.
This game refuge and bird sanctuary is situated near the Municipality of Brooke’s Point in southern Palawan. The islet is a migratory and wintering ground for shorebirds and seabirds.
The crust of northeast Palawan was derived from the Eurasian Plate of mainland China. It is the exposed portion of a microcontinent that drifted southward with the opening of the South China Sea. This microcontinent also forms the shallow water north of Palawan in the Reed Bank-Dangerous Grounds area of the southern South China Sea. Some of the oldest rocks of the Philippines are found in northeast Palawan (Permian-Carboniferous age). Southwest Palawan exposes primarily ophiolitic material (rocks derived from uplifted oceanic crust and mantle). This oceanic material appears to have been thrust upon the continental crust. The transition from “oceanic” ophiolite in the southwest to “continental”-type rocks in the northeast occurs in the area of central Palawan around Ulugan Bay. In the Dalrymple Point area, on the east side of Ulugan Bay, are several exposures showing that the Palawan ophiolite has been thrust on to the continent-derived clastic rocks (“Sabang thrust”).
Specific rock types in the “continental” northeast, include clastic rocks (sandstones and mudstones). Good exposures of these rocks types can be found on the main road running along the southern coast east of Puerto Princesa all the way up to Malampaya Sound. These rocks probably formed the continental shelf, rise, slope or even deeper marine deposits on the southeast margin of China prior to the opening of the South China Sea. The Palawan Trench is a deep ocean element of the South China Sea.
Further north, around the Malampaya Sound area and up to the El Nido area, one finds deep marine chert and limestone. Based on the structure of these sedimentary units, it is thought that they formed part of an accretionary prism on the southeast margin of China at a time when that part of China was an Andean-type plate margin (an ocean-continent subduction zone). The chert and limestone were scraped off of an oceanic plate and accreted to the margin of China (again, prior to the opening of the South China Sea). Some of the limestones are also thought to be of olistostromal origin (i.e., they formed in shallow water but were transported to deeper water by submarine slides).
It is interesting to note that the spectacular karst limestones in the St. Paul area and El Nido area that Palawan is somewhat famous for, are of different origin and age. The limestones in the St. Paul National Park east of Ulugan Bay (where the famous Undeground River is located) are relatively young. Based on their fossil content they are assigned an Oligocene-Miocene age (~30 to 15 million years old). These younger limestones formed largely as reef structures on the bit of continental crust that drifted south from China during the opening of the South China Sea. These are the same limestones that host most of the oil and gas that is being extracted offshore in the South China Sea. In contrast, the limestones in the El Nido area are largely Permian in age (~300-250 million years old). They are related to the karst limestones of Vietnam and China.
Intruding these rocks in central Palawan (Cleopatra’s Needle area) and northern Palawan (Mount Capoas or Kapoas area) are young granite bodies (true granite to granodiorite) of Miocene age (13-15 million years old based on zircon and monazite U-Pb dating). In the Taytay area of northern Palawan, a young basaltic cinder cone is another manifestation of young magmatic activity. The granitic magmatism and basaltic magmatism are both expressions of what has been identified as a widespread post-South China Sea spreading magmatism that has affected many areas around the South China Sea. Hydrothermal activity associated with mercury mineralization near Puerto Princesa is yet another sign of recent magmatic-hydrothermal activity. Surprisingly though, Palawan is relatively “quiet” in terms of seismic activity. Very few moderate-sized earthquakes are recorded in the area in contrast to the rest of the Philippines east of Palawan which are very seismically active.
Spearheading the maintenance of the peace and order situation are the Armed Forces of the Philippines–Western Command in Canigaran and the Philippine National Police-Palawan Command with headquarters in Tiniguiban, Puerto Princesa. Military units in the province under the Western Command are the Philippine Air Force 4th Naval District IV, Delta Company and 10th Marine Battalion Landing Team located in Tiniguiban, Puerto Princesa.
Palawan’s economy is basically agricultural. The three major crops are palay, corn and coconut. Mineral resources include nickel, copper, manganese, and chromite. Logging is also a major industry. Palawan has one of the richest fishing grounds in the country. About 45% of Manila’s supply of fish comes from here. Having natural gas reserves of approximately 30,000 trillion cubic feet, the province is the only oil-producing province in the country. In addition, tourism is also a thriving sector.
The economic and agricultural business growth of province is at 20% per annum. Coconut, sugar, rice, lumber, and livestock are produced here.
Four telecommunication companies provide local and international direct distance dialing and fax services. Inter island communications is available through the government’s telegraph network and the Provincial Radio Communication System. In addition, there are 19 post offices, a number of cargo forwarders provide air parcel and freight services.
The province has access to two satellite-linked television stations. Cable television in the City of Puerto Princesa offers dozens of foreign channels while smaller firms provide cable services in selected towns. Individual cable facility (Dream Cable) is available locally. Seven radio stations are based in Puerto Princesa, four on the AM and three on the FM bands. Community-based radio stations operate in some of the municipalities in the north and south of the province. Additional stations are expected to set up local affiliates in the capital city of Puerto Princesa.
There are three Internet Service Providers in the Province-Kawing Internet, Mozcom Puerto Princesa and Pal-Isla Globelines Broadband, PLDT My DSL and Smart Amazing Wireless Broadband are also available.
AM Radio stations
FM Radio stations
105.5 MHz in Puerto Princesa, owned by VTV
Cable Television Companies
There are nine provincial government hospitals, two national government hospitals, one military hospital and nine private hospitals in the province. The Ospital ng Palawan, managed and administered by the Department of Health (DOH), and the Palawan Adventist Hospital are located in Puerto Princesa. The Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital in Culion is also a DOH-run hospital.
Hospitals in Palawan
;Rural Health Units with Lying-In
The National Power Corporation has 14 electric facilities all over Palawan. It operates with a total of 51.363 megawatts of electricity. These electric facilities include:
Water facilities in Palawan are classified as Level I (deepwell, handpump), Level II (communal faucet), or Level III (house connection). Among all of these types, Level I has the most number of units, accounting to 17,438; this is followed by Level III, with 1,688 units; and Level II, with only 94 units.
Palawan is served by several airports, landing airstrips and military airfields such as the following:
;Airstips and Airfields