The history of Palawan may be traced back 22,000 years ago as confirmed by the discovery of fossils of the Tabon Cave Man in the municipality of Quezon. Although the origin of the cave dwellers is not yet established, anthropologists believe they came from Borneo. There are several versions regarding the origin of the name "Palawan". Some contend that it was derived from the Chinese worl "Pa-Lao-Yu" meaning "Land of Beautiful Harbors". Others believe that it came from the Indian word "Palawans" meaning "Territory". Still others say that it was derived from a plant which the natives called "Palwa". But popular belief is that, "Palawan" is a corrupted from the Spanish word "Paragua" because the main island's shape resembles a closed umbrella.

People and culture

Palawan is a melting pot of 87 different cultural groups and races. Basically, the people are of Austronesian origin, with a sprinkling of Chinese and Japanese bloodlines. Its culture bears a strong influence from India, China, and the Middle East. Influx of migrants from other parts of the Philippines, particularly from Muslim Mindanao, accounts for the high population growth rate of 3.98% annually. Eighteen percent of the population is composed of cultural minority groups such as Central Tagbawa, Palawan (Palawano), Batak, Calamian Tagbanwa, and Molbog.

Economy and Environment

Northern Palawan consists of some of the most pristine natural habitats in the world. However, its remoteness puts it at risk for ongoing economic exploitation and environmental degradation. A few programs have emerged to monitor and mitigate negative impact through the initiation of economic alternatives. The development of ecotourism as an alternative to reef degradation, sand theft, illegal logging and wildlife poaching has been approached. However, funding for the development of such programs has been scarce. The Palawan Environmental and Marine Studies Center (PEMS) [1] has been slow in receiving funding, DENR (Government regulatory) remains ineffectively funded and programs offered by international organizations like USAID remain in their infancy.

Palawan Environmental and Marine Studies founder Caril Ridley says Northern Palawan has the potential for becoming an "Ecological-Economic Conferencing Center" for growing Asia and she encourages regional governments and local organizations to work together toward ecological and economic development. "ECO2" she calls it, saying that eco-tourism may offer the most available and effective ongoing funding source for regional education, economic development and environmental protection


The predominant religion in Palawan is Roman Catholicism. Pockets of indigenous Muslims can be found in the southern municipalities with Muslims making up the majority of the population in some municipalities in the far south like Balabac and Bataraza. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons or LDS) have a strong presence on Palawan, as well as the Seventh-day Adventists, Iglesia ni Cristo, Jesus Miracle Crusade, Jesus Touch Fellowship, and other Christian denominations. There are also Buddhists - mainly Vietnamese refugees who settled in Palawan, as well as some ethnic Chinese Buddhists. One notable Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in Palawan being Vihara Van Phat. Most of the ethnic minorities such as Batak and Tagbanwa are animists, but many have become Christians (usually Protestant) or have joined other sects.