Palawan history

The Palawan Island is among the most historically significant islands in the Philippine Archipelago. This elongated piece of land in the westernmost part of the Philippines, plays a major role in the discovery of ancient Philippine inhabitants and their way of living. Even its name is arrayed in a colorful history of evolution.

The Chinese named it as “Pa-La-Yu” which means “land of beautiful harbors.” The Indian called it “Palaws” which meant “territory.” The natives of the Palawan Island named it after a plant which was called “Palwar” and the Spanish referred to it as “Paragua” which means umbrella, due to its shape. Over the centuries, the different names it got from different groups of people have converged into one name: Palawan, a name which connotes paradise for the many people who hear of its amazing natural wonders.

In the ancient times, it was said that Palawan was a land-bridge connecting two bigger bodies of land, Borneo & Mindoro.

Even before the invasion of the Spaniards, one big influence to the country’s civilization, the Palawan civilization was already blooming. They were developing their own language, had their own government and their relations with countries like China and other Asian nations were growing steadily.


During the 333 years of the Spanish colonization, Palawan was called Paragua. In 1818, the big Palawan island and the smaller islands surrounding it were formed into a single province named Calamianes with Taytay as its capital. In 1858, it was divided into two provinces named Castilla (the northern area) and Asturias (the southern area). Later, it was split into three districts Calamianes, Balabac and Paragua. In the year 1902, Paragua was again restored as a single province and its capital was Cuyo. In 1905, Paragua was changed to Palawan and Puerto Princesa was made the capital. Another significant event in the History of Palawan is the Palawan Massacre on December 14, 1944. After the WWII, the Japanese invaded the province to eliminate the American soldiers who were at that time seeking refuge in the trenches built near Puerto Princesa City. The Japanese set fire on the 150 prisoners of war. Only 11 of those American prisoners managed to escape. This provoked the Americans who then attacked Japanese and, in 1945, drove them away from the Island.


Today, Palawan is known for the historical artifacts found in its territories. After finding some bone fragments in Tabon Cave, it had been established that human beings had lived on the island for more than 50,000 years. Many tools and artifacts have also been discovered in the Tabon Cave.

Many migrants had lived in Palawan during the period of the Three Kingdoms, from 220 to 263 AD. The Tagbanwa and the Palawano tribes are considered to be descendants of the ancient-most settlers of these islands.

The Chinese merchants arrived on the islands for trade purposes in 982 AD, a historical fact which has been confirmed by studying the remains of Malay and Chinese traders.


During the settlements of the Malays on the island in the 12th century, the civilization flourished to new lengths. The Malays started producing crops like rice, bananas, coconuts etc. They also farmed animals like pigs, chicken and also did fishing. The Sultan of Brunei ruled the southern area of the Palawan Island, due to being geographically close, for two centuries.

The basic economy of the province is based on agriculture, most of the province’s income being through the trade of coconut, lumber, livestock, rice and sugar. They also have mineral resources like copper, manganese, chromite etc. Being a coastal area, fishing is also a good source of income. They also have reservoirs of natural gas. The thriving business of tourism also stabilizes their economy.


One of the most common and oldest religions prevalent in this region is Roman Catholicism. There are plenty of churches which have been established over the years in Palawan islands like the Baptist churches, UCCP, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Jesus Miracle Crusade etc.  Muslims are also residing mostly in the southern part of Palawan.

There are many other religions in the area like Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, and Vietnamese Buddhism etc.


There are almost 52 languages spoken in the province. The most spoken one is Tagalong and the others include Cuynon, Palawano and Hiligaynon.


There are many national airports and airstrips or airfields on the island. They also have a wide range of community airports. Public transportation in the form of busses and vans take guests from one part of the island to another. When travelling short distances, tourists and locals also enjoy some cheap tricycle rides.


Palawan is best known for its beauty and the water that surrounds it. The water hides amazing wildlife and aquatic animals in its depth. It’s one of the most lightly-populated islands of the Philippines. Tourists find it a little difficult to travel to this island because of a silhouette which stretches to 650km and deceives the travelers into finding a better route.

Puerto Princesa, the capital, is the entrance way to the serene and scenic rural areas and oceanfront.  A variety of tourists and travelers go snorkeling and diving into the depths of the surrounding waters. They also go for adventures within the island which holds a captivating sight itself. The northern part of the island has ferries for travelers & tourists. There are plenty of villages for fishing and a number of towns for the tourists to explore with friendly people residing there. The explorers also love visiting the islands that are uninhibited which have an allure of their own. In the southern area, however, the facilities are dissatisfactory but even then, the tourists choose to visit the world of the magnificent gigantic mountains.

The southern part of the Palawan, where the facilities are poor, is miles away from bustling Manila, the capital of Philippine. The life here is a bit stagnant and there is only one principle city in the whole of Palawan Province. Many areas that hold the gorgeous marine and natural life are difficult to approach due to this very reason.

The Sulu Sea and the Southern Part of China surrounds the long island of Palawan. The tourists who are visiting the island come to admire the remaining evidences of the once blooming civilization. The capital city holds magnificent dines and banks and is the center of urbanized activities. The path out of the city leads to the natural life, towards the jungles and the other islands located at a distance from the coast.

The natural beauty of the Palawan island is gripping with the gorgeous world of its own. The province of Sablang, which is located near Puerto Princesa City, displays a fascinating subterranean river which has made it into the UNESCO Word Heritage. Many canoeing trips are organized by different travelers to enjoy an adventurous time touring the caves, which hold captivating beauty.

One of the most important travel sites at the Palawan Island are the lines of beach resorts in the first class municipality of El Nido. It is famous for the beautiful reef it possesses. The guests enjoy the marvelous nature and truly breath-taking sceneries while sitting at heights.