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THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE ISLAND OF PALAWAN: PART II

There is no denying that the island of Palawan is truly a place of wonders. Its cultural and historical relevance is as rich as its natural resources. It is for this very reason that the province was once dubbed the Cradle of Philippine Civilization after the discovery of the Tabon Man in Tabon Cave, Lipuun Point, Quezon, Palawan.

Tabon Cave
Tabon Cave, Lipuun Point, Quezon

The Tabon Man is one of the oldest proofs of human inhabitants in the Philippines. In fact, it was once considered the oldest Filipino settler until the discovery of the Callao Man (50,000 to 67,000 years old) in 2003, the oldest known settlers in the country. The Tabon man was discovered on May 18, 1962, by Dr. Robert B. Fox and a group of researchers. Studies suggested that the remains found in the Tabon Cave date back 30,000 to 40,000 years old.

The discovery also solidified the theory that early humans traveled to the islands from Africa, the Cradle of Life, through a land bridge from Southeast Asia. If you recall from Part I of this article, Palawan was connected to mainland Asia millions of years ago. However, the Tabon Man is believed to come from Borneo. This links to the fact that Balabac, the southernmost part of Palawan, was one of the remnants of the land bridge connected to Borneo.

The Land of Promise

Photo from Palawan News

Out of the 7,107 islands, 1,780 is in Palawan. From north to south, it beams with not only abundance in resources but also in natural preservation. This was proven, no less, by the chronicler of Magellan’s expedition, Antonio Pigafetta, over half a millennia ago.

In the book Magellan’s Voyage Around the World by Antonio Pigafetta: The Original Text of the Ambrosian MS., the remaining members of his fleet described “Palaoan” as a land of promise. They called it so when they set foot on its shores after suffering great hunger that nearly pushed them to abandon their ships. They described the large island as filled with victuals and was abounded with pigs, goats, bananas of various kinds, and cocoa nuts, among others.

Pigafetta also shared how the good-natured ruler of the island welcomed them and offered friendship through blood compact. He described the natives as battle-ready and fond of brass wire with which they bind their fish hooks. Considered the earliest documentation of the game, Pigafetta also mentioned the natives’ affinity to cockfighting.

Palawan
Photo from National Geographic

Apart from its vast resources, 25 million years old limestone formations, and the home to 87 cultural groups and races, Palawan is undeniably an island of unique cultural and historical relevance. It is only a matter of time before another discovery will be unearthed from its majestic land.

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