Palawan Province, Region 4, Luzon Islands Philippines

Capital :
Puerto Princesa
Area :
14,896.3 sq. km.




Palawan is situated in the Southwest part of the Philippine Islands chain. It is bounded on the north and west by the South China Sea and on the east by the Sulu Sea. Its southernmost tip points to the island of Borneo.


Palawan is the 2nd largest province in the Philippines. Stretching 650 km from tip to tip, it is composed of 1,780 islands and islets. Its three major island groups are: Calamian in the north, Dumaran-Cuyo in the northeast and Balabac-Bugsok in the south. the provincial limits are form Busuanga Island in the north, Cuyo Islands and Cagayan Islands in the east, Balabac in the south, and Spratly Islands in the west.

The main island of Palawan is 425 km. long. It has a width of 40 km at its widest at Brooke's Point, and eight and one-half km at its narrowest in Bahile, Puerto Princesa. Tall mountain ranges bisect the province into east and west coasts. The mountains average about 1,100 m. in elevation, with Mt. Matalingahan the highest at 2,085 m, followed by Mt. Gantung (1,788 m) and Cleopatra's Needle (1,585 m.). The east coast has narrow beaches and a swampy shoreline, backed by plains and short valleys. The west coast is more rugged, with mountains rising up near the sea, and narrow lowlands. Coral reefs especially along the western and northwestern coasts make navigation very risky, but Palawan's 1,959 km irregular coastline affords excellent harbors.

The province has two climates. The west coast has a six-month dry season and a six-month wet season. The east coast has a short dry season of one to three months.


It is widely believed that Palawan was once a land bridge that connected Borneo and Mindoro. Malays from Borneo probably used this land bridge, and later the sea, to settle in Palawan. Before the Spaniards came, the inhabitants of Palawan had already attained a fair degree of civilization, with their own alphabet, a form of government, and relations with China and other Asian countries. There are several versions of the origin of the name. There is the Chinese word "Pa-Lao-Yu," meaning "Land of Beautiful Harbors"; the Indian word "Palaws," meaning territory; a plant the natives called Palwa; or the Spanish word paragua because the main island's shape resembles a closed umbrella. The Spanish first organized the northern island into a province known as Calamianes. The southern portion including Paragua (now Palawan mainland) was then part of the Sultanate of Borneo.

In the early 18th century, the Spaniards gained a northern foothold in Taytay, where they later built a fort. In 1818, it was known as the province of Calamianes with its capital in Taytay. In 1859, it was divided into two sub-provinces, Castilla and Asturias. At the turn of the century, Palawan was again divided into three districts: Calamian, Paragua, and Balabac.

In 1902, the Americans established the province of Paragua, with Cuyo as its capital. In 1905, the name was changed to Palawan and the capital transferred to Puerto Princesa, pursuant to Act No. 1363.


The province has a cultural minority population of 93,691 that includes the Tagbanuas, Pala'wans, Batacs, Calamianes, Ken-Uys, Jama-Mapuns, Molbogs, Cagayanos, Agutayanos, and Tau't Batu. The Tagbanuas, scattered in the north, are short and slender. They are excellent basket-weavers and woodcarvers. The Pala'wans occupy the southern highlands. They traditionally hunt using soars, and bamboo blowguns. The Batacs are of Negrito descent. The Calamianes or Kalamians are native to the Calamian islands. The Ken-Uys, the "vanishing tribe" of Palawan, live in the mountains in the south. The Molbogs live in Balabac Island, Tau't Batu, "people of the rock," are cave dwellers who hunt bats and birds.

Palawan's ethnic diversity, is reflected in the number of languages and dialects spoken. About 40% speak native tongues: Cuyuno (by 25%), Pinalawan, Tagbanua, Cagayano, Agutayano, and Batak. The non-native tongues are Tagalog (by another 25%), Ilonggo, Cebuano, and Muslim dialects.


The economy is basically agricultural. The three major crops are palay, corn and coconut. Mineral resources include nickel, copper, manganese, and chromite. Logging is also a major industry. Palawan has one of the richest fishing grounds in the country. It also has 25,000 hectares of mangrove. About 45% of Manila's supply of fish comes from here. The province is also one of the main areas of oil exploration in the country.


There are 52 dialects in the province, with Tagalog being spoken by 28 percent of the people. Other major dialects are Cayunin (26.27 percent), Pinalwan (11.08 percent), and Ilongo (9.6 percent).

Information gathered from:
League of Provinces
by:Roberto C. Arellano
This page last revised:November 22, 2003.