History and Culture

Those who afterwards remained or ‘marooned’ in the islands by the rising waters became the indigenous Bataks, Palawans and Tagbanuas, with whom Chinese traders bartered porcelain jars and dinnerware, brass items and other trinkets for foodstuffs, gold, and semi-precious stones. One rare find is some ancient rings called ‘lingling-o’ made of nephrite or jade. These rings and pendants are found in other Asian countries, and today are still worn in the Cordilleras.

Palawan later also came partially under the rules of the Sultanate of Sulu and the Sultanate of Brunei, who warred on each other for dominion over the islands for years. Raiding parties of either kingdoms preyed on native settlements even after Spain established its hegemony, so that forts had to be built in Cuyo, Taytay and Dumaran, to name a few places, to thwart them, who were misnamed ‘pirates’.

Because of this and its size, Palawan was divided in 1859 into two sub-provinces, namely, Castilla and Asturias. By early 1900s, Palawan was being administered as three politicalmilitary regions of Balabac, Paragua and Calamianes.

The province was officially named Palawan in 1903 during the military-governorship of Capt. John Elmick, US Army, by Philippine Commission Act 1363, which also transferred the History capital from Cuyo Island to Puerto Princesa.

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

During World War 2, Palawan became two separate areas: the Free and the Occupied, each with a governor: Gaudencio Abordo for the Commonwealth, and Inigo Pena for the Japanese-occupied portion. After the war, Palawan’s history marched along as it would to what it is today.

Thus, Palawan has had its share of political, historical, ethnic and commercial histories, and it should make sense for you to be part of the province’s future by investing in its continuing development.


  • Spanish Rule
  • American Rule
  • Indigenous People
  • 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 as 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 its was called) was organized as a single province named Calamianes, with its capital in Taytay. Later, it was divided into 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 programs to promote the development of the province. These included the construction of schools all over the province, the promotion of agriculture, and bringing people closer to the government.

  • 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.