Wednesday, June 12, 2024


Where your horizon expands every day.


Four days in a Palawan paradise: Its many peoples

(Part 4)

During the diff

During the celebration, we were able to witness the diverse cultures of the entire island through various activities. The indigenous tribes, including Tagbanua, Batak, Palaw’an, Tau’t Bato, Molbog, Agutayon, and Cuyunon, showcased their rich traditions. These cultures coexist peacefully with Christianity, and some have even influenced the practices of the religion. The Cuyunons, in particular, have effectively adapted to modernization and seamlessly integrated into Palawan society. This has also enhanced the agri-tourism efforts of the province, which is the largest in the Philippines.fferent indigenous tribes.

The Tabon Man and other significant findings are believed to be approximately 22,000 to 22,400 years old, with physical characteristics similar to those of Homo sapiens.

Research has revealed that Palawan has been given the designation of “The Cradle of Philippine Civilization” due to its findings in the region. Additional studies suggest that the Tagbanua and Palaw’an may be descendants of the original inhabitants of Tabon Caves. Their cultural similarities include language and alphabet, farming techniques, and shared belief in soul relatives.

their economy revolving around fishing

The Batak people, known as “mountain people” in Cuyonon, are an indigenous group who live in the rugged interior of northeastern Palawan. They have a deep connection to nature and believe in communicating with nature spirits through a shaman. The Palawenos, who are native to the lowlands, include sub-groups such as the Cuyunon and Agutayanen. The Cuyunons, originally from the town of Cuyo in northern Palawan, are considered the elite class and are known for their discipline and strong community spirit. Their beliefs blend animistic traditions with Christianity, which is the predominant religion among the Cuyunon. The Agutaynon have a simpler island lifestyle and rely on fishing as their main source of income. fishing and farming as their main source of livelihood.

The Tau’t Bato, also known as the “people of the rock,” are a small community of traditional Palawenos who reside in the crater of an extinct volcano during certain seasons of the year. They live in houses built on raised floors inside caves, although some have built homes on the open slopes. Their primitive lifestyle is evident in their clothing, with men wearing bark and cloth G-strings and women wearing cloth skirts to cover their lower body. They are often seen half-naked, although some women may wear blouses obtained from local markets. This unique community is a popular destination for tourists interested in indigenous cultures.

Due to their distinctiveness, the Philippine Government has designated their land as restricted to outsiders in order to safeguard them from unjust exploitation. This community primarily relies on hunting, gathering fruits, and cultivating crops and rice near the forest. However, they are currently facing a threat from mining companies that have obtained concessions. The Government, in collaboration with civil society and private enterprises, must take action to address this issue.find creative ways of raising their living standards through rural development based on small-scale farming and the establishment of micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) while at the same time allowing responsible mining, especially of nickel and copper which are indispensable inputs into the Industrial Revolution 4.0.

ficantly contribute to the economic development of the Tagbanua tribes.

The Tagbanua tribes are located in central and northern Palawan and play a significant role in promoting MSMEs that specialize in traditional decorative materials. They are known for their skill in creating baskets and wood carvings, as well as their expertise in producing intricately designed body accessories such as combs, bracelets, necklaces, and anklets. These items are typically made from materials like wood, beads, brass, and copper. The products of these MSMEs have the potential to greatly contribute to the economic growth of the Tagbanua

Significantly enhance the tourism sector.

The Molbog people, who live in the towns of Balabac and Bataraza in southern Palawan, hold special significance in terms of religious diversity. They are the only indigenous group in Palawan where the majority of the population is Muslim. The land has been the ancestral home of the Molbog people since before the Spanish colonization. During my four-hour trip from Puerto Princesa to Rizal town, I noticed a strong Muslim presence with many mosques along the highways, interspersed with various Christian churches. Along with the natural beauty of the island, its cultural and religious diversity make it a potential tourism hub not just in the Philippines, but in the entire ASEAN region.

In fact, the dinner that was held in honor of the Church dignitaries during the 400th

The commemoration of Christianity’s establishment served as a reminder of the fusion of Western, Filipino, and indigenous cultures. The event featured local musical talents, such as the Church choir who performed during the Mass led by the Papal Nuncio, showcasing their skills on par with Manila-based or internationally recognized choirs. Renowned violinist Brian Cimafranca also graced the event with his renditions of pieces by Antonio Vivaldi and Brazilian composer Zequinha de Abreu, as well as local compositions by Louie Ocampo and Ogie Alcasid. Adding to the evening’s entertainment were the Nightingales, composed of former members of the prestigious Madrigal Singers, Bernadette Mamaug and Keiko Cayanga, who have wowed audiences in various countries around the world. The performance was capped off by tenor Erwin Notes Lumauag, also a former member of the Madrigal Singers. The combination of Palawan’s natural beauty and the Filipinos’ artistic talents will surely attract millions of tourists in the Indo-Pacific
This is the geographical area where the most rapid economic growth is expected to occur in the upcoming decades.

During my four days in Palawan, I experienced the potential impact of a strong partnership between the government and private businesses. This collaboration can bring necessary infrastructure to the entire province, as outlined in the Build, Build, Build program which the BBM Administration is dedicated to continuing with the support of foreign direct investments. One way to begin is by seeking assistance from Spanish, South Korean, and Japanese infrastructure companies, among others, to enhance the airports in Coron, Puerto Princesa, and San Vicente to a world-class standard similar to Mactan International Airport.


Bernardo M. Villegas holds a doctorate in Economics from Harvard University and currently serves as a professor emeritus at the University of Asia and the Pacific. He is also a visiting professor at the IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Additionally, he was a part of the 1986 Constitutional Commission.

[email protected]