Culture and History

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Palawan became a part of the world map when Chinese traders and other migrants reached by shores of the Philippines using the land bridges that could be found between Borneo and Palawan. In fact there was a Chinese author who called these islands, Kla-ma-yan for Calamian, Palau-ye for Palawan and Pki-nung for Busuanga. This area was said to be filled with ridges and cliffs. The caves in these areas were also said to be laden with pottery and artifacts. Because of this, Palawan became a center for trade between the Malays and Chinese.

During the 12th century, Malay migrants began settling in Palawan. Their chieftains began to rule many of the settlements there. Because it was near Borneo, the south of Palawan became under the power of Borneo for over two centuries after the Spanish arrived in the Philippines.

Prior to the colonization, the settlers in the Philippines lived off the land. The people would plant their own food, such as palay, ginger, coconut and camote. They also planted sugar and bananas. Apart from these, they also kept pigs, goats and chicken for food. Aside from farming and raising livestock, they also went fishing and hunting to be able to feed their families. The language of that timewas a dialect that consisted of only 18 syllables.

Spanish Rule

When the Spanish arrived, the Northern Calamianes Islands was the first area to be colonized. That island ceased to be a part of the mainland Palawan island. During the earlier part of the 17th century, the friars tried to reach out to people in Cuyo, Agutaya, Taytay and Cagayancillo. However the Moro groups were too strong there, so their attempts were futile. However during the 18th century, the Spanish started building churches with garrisons in the towns of Cuyo, Taytay, Linapacan and Balabac. These churches served as protection against the Moro raids. As the structures of these forts were very strong, these forts are still in existence even in the present time. In the year 1749, the Sultanate of Borneo gave the southern part of Palawan to Spain, making the entire vicinity of Palawan under the Spanish rule.

Initially, the area of Paragua, the former name of Palawan, was identified as one province called Calamianes and its capital was Taytay. Later on, it became three provinces namely, Castilla, Asturias and Balabac Island. Castilla was the northern part of the province and the capital was Taytay. Asturias covered the southern part of the Palawan and Puerto Princesa was the capital. Lastly Balabac Island had its capital in Principe Alfonso.

American Rule

After the 1898 Revolution, the Spanish colonization ended. A new civil government was enacted on the 23rd of June in the year 1902. New provincial boundaries were made and old ones were revised during 1903. The name of the province was changed from Paragua to Palawan. Its capital became Puerto Princesa.

The American government took over what the Spanish government had left off. They created reforms and different programs that promoted the development of the province. Schools were constructed all over Palawan. The Americans promoted agriculture.

The People of Palawan

There are various ethnolinguistic groups that consider Palawan as home. These are the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Tau’t bato and the Bataks. The mountains and coastal areas serve as their homes. These groups have built villages in those areas and have been staying there for quite some time already. It has been said that they have been occupying the province even before the Malay settlers from Indonesia set foot there during the 12th or 13th century. During 1962, there was a team of anthropologists who went to Lipuun Point or the Tabon Cave. Headed by Dr. Robert Fox, this team was able to get fossils that belonged to Homo Sapiens that were 22,000 to 24,000 years old. Because of this finding and many more that succeeded, this place was known as the Cradle of the Philippine Civilization.

This discovery led way to research that shows that the Tagbanua and Palaw’an could be the descendants of the Tabon Cave men. They have many similarities in terms of their language, alphabet, beliefs and even in their way of farming as they use kaingin.

The tribes of the Tagbanua can be found in the central and northern part of Palawan. They are known to practice the shifting cultivation of upland rice and are known for a rice wine ritual called Pagdiwata. The Tagbanua tribes also believe in a lot of deities that they believe can be found in their surroundings.

The tribes of the Palaw’an are said to belong to the linguistic groups that are Manobo based. They are said to originally come from the areas of South Apuruan and Abo Abo.

The Batak or “mountain people” are said to live in the northeastern part of Palawn. They are generally shy and peaceful people as they are known to live with nature. They believe in spirits and commune with a babaylan or a religious person.

Another group of people found in Palawan would be the tau’t bato. They are a sub-group of the Palaw’an tribe that live in the Singnapan Valley found in the southern part of Palawan. They live in the caves during rainy seasons and farm using the kaingin system during dry seasons. As compared to the other tribes, they are familiar with business or trading concepts like wages, labor and money.

The Palaweños would include the Agutaynons, Molbogs and Cuyunons. The Cuyunons are said to be an elite class of people. They come from the town of Cuyo in the northern part of Palawan and are religious and disciplined. They are very community oriented. The Agutaynons, on the other hand, are a more simple group. They fish and farm in order to derive income. Lastly the Molbogs are said to be the first people to actually stay on Balabac. Their name comes from the word, malubog or turbid water. Among the other groups, this group’s culture is the one closest to that of the Islamic race.

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