History of Palawan


Traders and waves of migrants from China arrived in the Philippines by traversing land bridges between Borneo and Palawan. Once Chine author referred to these islands as Kla-ma-yan (Calamian), Palau-ye (Palawan), and Paki-nung (Busuanga). The area was described as having many lofty ridges and high ranges of cliffs. Pottery, china, and other artifacts recovered from caves and the waters off Palawan attest to the flourishing trade between the Chinese and Malays centuries ago.

Malay settlers began arriving in Palawan in the 12th century. For some time, Malay chieftains ruled many settlements. Because of its proximity to Borneo, southern Palawan was placed under the control of the Sultanate of Borneo for more than two centuries after the arrival of the Spaniards.

In pre-colonial times, the local people had a dialect consisting of 18 syllables.



The northern Calamianes Islands were the first to come under the sphere of Spanish influence and declared a province separate from the Palawan mainland. In the early 17th century, Spanish friars tried to establish missions in Cuyo, Agutaya, Taytay, and Cagayancillo but met stiff resistance from Moro communities. Towards the 18th century, Spain began to build churches enclosed by garrisons for protection against Moro raids in the towns of Cuyo, Taytay, Linapacan and Balabac. Many of these forts still exist, serving testimonies to a colorful past. In 1749, the Sultanate of Borneo ceded southern Palawan to Spain, which then established its authority over the entire province.

At first, the territory of Palawan (or Paragua as it was called) was organized as a single province named Calamianes, with its capital in Taytay. Later, it was divided intro three provinces: Castilla covering the northern section of the province with Taytay as capital, Asturias in the southern mainland with Puerto Princesa as capital, and Balabac Island with its capital in the town of Principe Alfonso.



When the Spaniards left after the 1898 revolution, a new civil government was established on June 23, 1902. Provincial boundaries were revised in 1903; the name of the province was changed to Palawan, and Puerto Princesa became its capital

The American governors who took the reins of leadership introduced reforms and program to promote the development of the province. These included the construction of school all over the province, the promotion of agriculture, and bringing people closer to the government.


The first Filipino governor of Palawan was Ambrosio Pablo, who took office in 1914.

During World War II, Palawan was divided into two parts– the Free and the Occupied, each with a governor. Gaudencio Abordo was governor for the Commonwealth while Inigo Peña was for the Japanese-occupied portion.


PALAWAN is home to several ethnolinguistic groups: the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Tau’t bato, and the Bataks

They live in remote villages in the mountains and coastal areas. Their ancestors are believed to have occupied the province long before Malay settlers from the Madjapahit Empire of Indonesia arrived in these islands in the latter 12th or 13th centuries. In 1962, a team of anthropologists from the National Museum led by Dr. Robert Fox unearthed fossils at Lipuun Point (now known as the Tabon Cave complex) that were classified as those of Homo Sapiens and believed to be 22,000 to 24,000 years old. With the recovery of the Tabon man fossils and other significant findings in the area , the place came to be known as the Cradle of Philippines Civilization.

Research has shown that the Tagbanua and Palaw’an are possible descendants of the Tabon Caves’ inhabitants. Their Language and alphabet, practice of kaingin , and common belief in soul relatives are some of their cultural similarities. Tagbanua tribes are found in central and Northern Palawan. They practice shifting cultivation of upland rice, which is considered a divine gift, and are known for their rice wine ritual called Pagdiwata. The cult of the dead is the key to the religious system of the Tagbanua, who also believe in countless deities found in the natural environment.

The Palaw’an belong to the large Manobo-based linguistic groups of the southern Philippines. Their original homes were located in the interior regions of South Apuruan on the West Coast and south of Abo- Abo on the East Coast.

The Batak, which means “mountain people” in Cuyuno, live in the rugged interiors of northeastern Palawan. Living close to nature, they are a peaceful and shy people. The Batak believe in nature spirits, with whom they communicate throught a babaylan or medium.

The Tau’t Bato or “people of rock” is a sub-group of the Palaw’an tribe living in the Singnapan Valley in southern Palawan. They stay inside caves during the rainy season and cam out to engage in kaingin farming during dry season. The tribe is familiar with certain concepts of the market system such as wages, labor, and money.

Native- born Palaweños include the Cuyunons, Agutaynons, and Molbogs. Originally from the island town of Cuyo in northern Palawan, Cuyunons are considered an elite class. They are religious, disciplined and have a highly developed community spirit spirit. The Agutaynons practice a simpler island lifestyle, with fishing and farming as their main source of livelihood. The Molbogs, the original inhabitants of the southernmost island group of Balabac, derive their name from the word “malubog” which means turbid water. Among Palaweños, the molbogs are the ones most exposed to Islamic culture.

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