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 Snake Island in Palawan

Text and photos by Dexter Matilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer

DateFirst Posted 22:05:00 06/14/2010

PUERTO PRINCESA’S HOMEGROWN talents celebrated Palawan’s natural and cultural treasures as the city hosted the closing ceremonies of this year’s National Heritage Month with its theme “Preserving the Gift of Faith Through Culture.”


Student performers share the stage with the Batak Tribe of Palawan

Mayor Edward Hagedorn and Yuchengco Group of Companies' Alfonso Yuchengco delight the crowd by singing along with the Philippine Opera Company

Students from Holy Trinity University and Palawan Statue University stayed true to their roots and treated visitors and locals alike to a musical retelling of Palawan through various periods of its history. Palawan ethnic songs and dances were also performed by the Tipano Band, Tatos, Sinika, Pondo-Pondo Dance, Pangkat Kalinangan, and, in all their natural glory, the Batak Tribe.

Adding contemporary flavor to the night’s performances was the Philippine Opera Company, which sang and danced an array of different suites—Igorot, Muslim, Folk, Maria Clara—that depict everything that is unique about the Filipino culture.

Naturally rich

Palawan, considered as the Philippines’ last frontier, is an absolute treat for those who love the beach. A cluster of small islands near Honda Bay remain relatively uncrowded and have clear waters where visitors can snorkel or dive.

But even more attractive is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site and a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature search.

Visitors enter the cave via a boat where an experienced boatman serves as driver and tourist guide. It is worth noting that the boatman, Chris, made the 3-kilometer journey even more enjoyable by cracking related jokes while pointing out natural formations inside that, with a little imagination, become giant mushrooms, the head of a dinosaur, and even the likeness of the Virgin Mary.

The inside walls of the Subterranean River National Park

"Cat and Dog"

As far as delicacies go, those who have a taste for the exotic should ask for the tamilok, a worm-like mollusc that lives in mangroves. Considered an aphrodisiac, the tamilok is served fresh with vinegar and tastes somewhat similar to oyster. It is admittedly slimy and very hard to chew on but that is where the challenge lies.

For those seeking another type of challenge, ask the locals for the Irawan Crocodile Farm. If the skeletal remains and skin of “Rio”—the largest caught in the Philippines at 17-feet-long—doesn’t scare you, then perhaps a walk through the bridge hanging over close to a hundred adult crocodiles will.

The remains of "Rio"

As in previous years, the National Heritage Month continues to highlight the best of Filipino culture and heritage. Together with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Filipino Heritage Festival Inc.—headed by Bambi Harper, Armita Rufino, and Araceli Salas—have brought the Filipinos to a renewed awareness of age-old traditions and practices.

Gener Caringal, Armita Rufino, Mayor Edward Hagedorn, Bambi Harper, and Araceli Salas

E-mail the author at dextermatilla@gmail.com.

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