Going home to Palawan | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

Going home to Palawan

/ 05:02 AM September 19, 2019

Back in 2017, after graduating from college, I was that one eager island girl trying as fast as I could to get away from the province and kick-start my career in Manila. It didn’t take long, actually. A week after the graduation ceremony, I was onboard a flight that was taking me away from the precious island where I grew up for 21 years.

Some people say that jumping to adulthood is hard, especially coping with the “lungkot-lungkot” or homesickness blues. But I wasn’t one of them. To be honest, coming back wasn’t part of my plans anymore.

This tough island girl from Palawan, as I have been tagged by my colleagues, is literally tough. I was contented with the phone calls, chats and text messages I got from my family. And in just a span of two years, changes shook the province: the completion of the new airport, the rise of a chain mall owned by one of the biggest capitalists in the country and, recently, the division of the island-province into three new provinces.

Knowing I’m a Palaweña, someone asked me about it. For a citizen who grew up with the common mindset that everything throughout the island should be protected and preserved for future generations, how would I really feel?


For the first time, I felt homesick.

I was raised on the coast of Ulugan Bay, the narrowest point of the island with approximately 8.5 kilometers of coastline. Inside it is a smaller inlet called Oyster Bay that we fondly called “Oyster” — the playground of our childhood years. This little paradise has witnessed our fathers and uncles dragging their bancas full of catch in the wee hours toward the

“Pantalan,” the small fish port on the other side of the bay. During lunchtime, together with my childhood friends and classmates, we’d escape from the school to wade in “Lagpan” (a mini-port constructed for the Navy camp assigned in our village) and eat fruits we had picked along the way, unmindful of the scorching heat of the sun.

We would try to be quiet as much as we could, fearing the soldiers camped in their barracks uphill.


“They capture young children like you!,” our elders would say to scare us, but our naughtiness and curiosity still prevailed.

As we grew up and later moved to the city to pursue our college dreams, our “sleepy” village also awakened to the sound of bulldozers digging up the mountain beside the bay, to give way to the construction of the United States’ newest military base in the country. Foreign vessels would come every now and then, too.


I never had the chance to see the bay again after high school. But I knew very well that the living remnants of our childhood there were gone. The lush mangroves leading to Lagpan and the cashew trees we used to climb would just be a memory now.

That’s the point. People who never came from Palawan don’t know how sensitive the Palaweños are when it comes to island biodiversity. They don’t know that fishing and farming are more than enough for local families depending on such livelihoods, as long as they know that the resources are intact and are continuously protected in order to produce and reproduce.

Palawan’s pristine environment is the foundation of its tourism economy, which continues to generate jobs for the locals while promoting the island’s beauty.

So, how come that, after over a hundred years, the island had to be carved up? Was it really difficult for politicians to govern the island that it had to be divided into three?

Geographically, yes. The biggest island, with a total land area of 1.4 million hectares, is a narrow mass ridged by mountain ranges covering almost 45 percent of the entire province. Almost 60,000 hectares are mangrove forests. And these lush, silent mountains are home to native tribes that have been inhabitants of the island ever since, the Tagbanuas and Palaw’ans, as well as to several species of flora and fauna.

It is very disappointing to think that the division of the island seems to pinpoint directly toward much-sought industrialization. So, concrete overpasses will be built on the mountains? Will there be tall condo units and shopping malls constructed on the deforested mangrove forests? Or rail transits connecting beaches?

My late grandfather used to tell me that, in this land, they had raised their 12 children (including my mother), acquired lands, tilled the soil and fished while waiting for the harvest, and lived peacefully for almost 50 years. It’s the land where his children had raised us, too, and where he breathed his last — his home, his last frontier.

I am going home. Before I become a citizen of the north, and a stranger to the south.

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Ingold Faye Arribe, 22, is an engineering graduate from Palawan State University. She currently works for one of the biggest petroleum companies in the country while pursuing her master’s degree in environmental engineering at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

TAGS: palawan, Young Blood

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