Story Publication logo July 25, 2011

Postcard Palawan

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Abundant marine, animal and plant life in the Philippines supports a rapidly growing population of...

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The sand and dirt road into El Nido, on the island of Palawan, cuts across a rocky terrain that tests travelers and locals alike. A tropical monsoon added to the hours long trip. The sound of tires crunching into the ground and diving in and out of potholes translated danger into a drumming beat.

The trip was part of a longer itinerary that brought me from Palawan's capital city of Puerto Princesa to the northern coastal town of Taytay. I learned how the municipality is one of the most active sites in the Philippines for the Live Reef Fish for Food Trade (LRFFT). A day before leaving Taytay, the skies showed no hints of an impending storm, and the town's name, spelled out Hollywood-style was clearly visible on a distant hillside.

Taytay proclaims itself a "first class municipality," but Hernan Fenix, Taytay's designated fisheries section head, noted that Taytay lacked proper access to electricity. Electricity is only available from 5:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

Travelers rarely stay in Taytay overnight. It is a rest stop on the way to tourist destinations such as El Nido and other exclusive areas in northern Palawan. The pension that I stayed in was a few steps away from a Spanish fort built in 1667. The old canons that the Spaniards used to defend against raiders coming from the sea still rest atop the castle-like structure. There was romanticism in the centuries old fort, built with gray and black stone. Its top level is now overgrown with green grass. A Philippine flag reminds visitors how they are not in the old kingdom of Spain.

The fort stands as a symbol to the multiple foreign occupations that the Philippines endured and absorbed into its native culture. Spain claimed the islands in 1521 and ruled for for 377 years. It was not until 1898 that the Spaniards ceded control to the United States. The U.S. then refused to recognize the First Philippine Republic, which finally attained independence on July 4, 1946.

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