Mang Boy (Molejon) moved to Bataraza in the mid-70s from Quezon Province. Back then, he would sell fish to the mining engineers and workers of Rio Tuba Nickel. The nickel mine was just being developed. Sitio Marbahay was just a small fishing community but a jump off point to the islands off southern Palawan. He recalled that the young Galib Andang (Commander Robot of the Abu Sayyaf Group) would ask to be ferried over to Balabac.
Now, he oversees the LGU's fisheries programs and is in charge of the marine sanctuaries/no take zones of the bio-diverse area and the protection of the endangered saltwater crocodiles that make the Rio Tuba basin their home.
He recalls how crocodiles would loiter around their village, especially after high tide. They would hear the breaking of mangrove branches or the squealing of pigs under attack.There have been several casualties, part of the hazards of living beside the crocodile habitat.
“The crocodiles remember. They will come back for you.” He relates one fisherman who hit one crocodile with a paddle. The reptile came back for him a month later and returned to the same fishing ground where the incident took place. The bantay dagat personnel shot the crocodile and hit it on the side side before it escaped. But the fisherman had already been killed.
The village-folk caught one entangled in the mangroves. The crocodile had a scar on its side from what appeared to be from a bullet wound. The DNR scientists from Puerto Princesa came and took the animal with them. It was 18 feet long.
Sombrero Island Kids
In Sombrero Island (Aborlan, Palawan), I noticed these two boys walking around holding on to the front part of their shorts to prevent the cloth from touching their privates.
"Tinuli kami kahapon!" they declared to anyone who cared to listen. (We were circumcised yesterday!)
Cyrus is the silent one. He hardly smiles. He wants to be a soldier. Mark Anthony is more animated. His aspiration is to be a policeman.
Strangely enough, a Balete tree towers inside the tropical isle covered with coconut trees. The kids kill time under the shade.
Busyadores (nest gatherers) scale the high rock faces of Pabellones in Taytay Bay to gather the nests of balinsasayaw (swiftlets).
Bong is comfortable in the soaring limestone walls. Gifted with climbing skills and balls of steel to reach heights others would dare not attempt, Bong is able to gather more balinsasayaw nests than his peers. He started out as a poacher, sneaking in in the dead of night to steal nests of other busyadores and was shot in the leg in one of those escapades. The concessionaire, recognizing his talents, asked Bong to work for him instead of having him prosecuted.
The busyador not only gathers the balinsasayaw nests but cleans them as well of impurities accumulated inside the caves. A kilo of this delicacy can fetch a price of as much as P170,000 or $3,400.
Port Barton Persona
Frederic is a very familiar face in Port Barton. He navigates boats, whips up a mean salad and knows the islands and waters around Port Barton very well. He is at his element underwater where he can hold his breath for long periods and surface with different fishes caught with a makeshift speargun. At the end of the day, he provides a listening ear over a few bottles of beer. Heck, he even has those European backpackers smitten.
An all-around good guy.
Last I heard he was no longer in the area. Wishing him fair winds and calm waters in his life's journey.
WWF Environmental Advocate
Raz Climaco is involved in the conservation of the northeastern Palawan marine protected area (MPA) network. The areas under his watch are the municipalities of Roxas, Taytay, El Nido, Linapacan, Dumaran and Araceli. (Cambari Island where this photo was shot is part of Araceli.) He monitors the area regularly, determining baseline scenarios, and works with local government and coastal communities, educating them and establishing sustainable protocols and practises.
Raz is a marine biology graduate from the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology. It was his interest in science, especially in marine ecology, that compelled him to work in an NGO.
In his spare time, he dons running shoes and prepares for ultramarathons, with the mountains and trails throughout Palawan as his personal training ground.
Palm Oil Cultivator in Quezon, Palawan
It is widely believed that there are more negative than positive effects from palm oil farming, ranging from encroachment issues and the use of slash and burn activities (for clearing), soil erosion, biodiversity loss, the high use of chemical fertilizers to rejuvenate the soil, among others. More often than not, land that had been used for palm oil would have lost the vital nutrients to be fertile and useful for other crops and would be useless for agricultural production. Therefore, it would only be a matter of time before the land is eventually converted from agricultural use to commercial purposes, resulting in a reduction of tillable areas.
Lui Oliva of Kalui
Lui Oliva is the force behind Kalui, Puerto Princesa's most famous restaurant.
Lui moved to Puerto Princesa in the mid-80s and started out as a guide for the Vietnamese refugees and various NGOs based there. He would often entertain guests and friends in his humble place along Rizal St. when the area was still woodland. From simple dishes, his menu expanded and he eventually put up a restaurant. His establishment has grown along with Palawan's tourism industry. Kalui is now an institution.
Lui is also involved in development programs in Coron helping out less fortunate communities. He also manages Casa Linda, one of the first yet still cozy accommodations in Puerto Princesa.
The primary criterion for a coffee shop to be considered good is not its free wifi, sleek interior nor chic vibe. First and foremost, the coffee has to be exceptional.
Burp's cafe (in Narra along the main highway in Southern Palawan) is a joint which serves the usual preferences --brewed, lattes, americanos-- served with all sorts of bread as it is a bakery as well. The place blends well with the fruit stands, carinderias and other establishments with rural sensibilities. Nothing pretentious at all. A favorite of foreigners who get their caffeine doses and the locals who are not alienated one bit.
Burp Porquez, the barista who moved from Iloilo, is the entrepreneur behind this.
Transplanted Farmer. Narra. Palawan.
Mark abandoned his life in Manila and escaped to the foothills of Mt. Victoria in Narra, Palawan to grow crops. Water from the mountains that cascade into multiple falls eventually cuts through his farmland. The intent was to open up the property to those seeking refuge from the heat (and heartaches). Once the purchase of a carabao is completed, white cheese will definitely be an offering. Salad bowls will be full of freshly picked vegetables from his garden.
NARRA is an acronym for National Resettlement Rehabilitation Administration, a program established in the 1950s to resettle migrants from Luzon to Palawan.
Ranger. Ursula Island.
Ursula Island off Bataraza in southern Palawan is an island with a thick forest perimetered by fine white sand and crystalline waters. Several rangers patrol this protected area which provides a sanctuary for rare, endemic birds. A special permit from the Provincial Environemental Office (PENRO) is required to visit this island.