Palawan: Arguably, the Philippines’ Best Island (Part 2 of 2)

As stated in the first part of this post, the locals (particularly, the boatmen and the tour guides) analogize the stalagmites and the stalactites formations of the cave as artistic sculptures or masterpieces by renowned masters.

One formation I will never forget is attributed to Da Vinci: Palawan’s Last Supper, which as our boatman in the 2022 trip mentioned, “mas maganda pa kaysa kay Leonardo” [more beautiful than Leonardo!]. It took me some time before I realized he was referencing Da Vinci. I heard my family members, especially my mom being mesmerized and commenting with amazement: “oo nga, oo nga” [Yes, I see it!] and “ang ganda-ganda” [really beautiful!].

However, I could not see the Da Vince scene but I saw scoops of ice cream on waffle cones, which somehow my brother also agreed. I guess, we always see what we want to see. And one undeniable fact about these formations: they are really very sculptural – nature’s way of expressing itself aesthetically.

Here are other formations I took from my mobile:

Formations inside the cave (Photo: SAPT).

Formations inside the cave (Photo: SAPT)

Exiting the underground river, after almost 45 minutes inside (Photo SAPT)

Anyhow, the second criteria that was used to justify Puerto Princesa Subterranean National Park to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site was “criteria x” which reads: “to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.”

According to the UNESCO brief: the property contains globally significant habitat for biodiversity conservation. It includes a full mountain-to-sea ecosystem, protecting the most significant forest area within the Palawan Biogeographic Province. There are eight intact forest formations: forest on ultramafic soil, forest on limestone soil, montane forest, freshwater swamp forest, lowland evergreen tropical rainforest, riverine forest, beach forest, and mangrove forest, included in the property. It contains outstanding biodiversity with the Palawan Moist Forest recognized by the WWF’s Global Report as containing the richest tree flora, with high levels of regional and local endemism and as being the largest and most valuable limestone forest in Asia.

A material proof of the justification above is this next highlight: our Mangrove Forest Tour.

According to Travel Palawan, the island has 42, 500 hectares of mangrove forests. There are 31 species of Mangroves in the island, and 90 % of all the mangroves in the Philippines are found in Palawan. Mangroves are a special woody type of trees that are found in tropical countries and grows on the edge where rainforests meet oceans. Our guide told us that these trees are the the natural barriers where dark waters are prevented from going to the sea. Our guide emphasized that the water seemed dirty but the dirt is what they called “natural dirt” – mostly from the mountains. Mangroves grow in brackish wetlands between land and sea where other plants can’t grow. They are necessary in this biodiversity because they protect the coastlines by preventing erosion through the collection of sediments from rivers and streams.

Sabang Mangrove Forest (Photo: SAPT)

Sabang Mangrove Forest (Photo: SAPT)

The Tamilok (Photo: SAPT)

The highlight of our Mangrove Forest Tour was the Tamilok or woodworm. Well, the name precedes itself: the tamilok is not really a type of worm but a type of clam (shell-less) that commonly lives inside a wood (technically, it is a mollusk, said our guide – and yes, according to various sources, it is a type of mollusk, except that it does not have any shell).

In the Philippines, tamilok is popular in Palawan, as they live among rotting mangroves. These trees offer everything they need to survive: saltwater and wood. My adventurous self aggressively said yes to the hospitable offer of the folks in the mangrove area. My mom was also in awe and was curious about it.

Our guide’s assistance took the tamilok out of the wood. Three woodworms were taken out of their slumber.

“Pagsaluhan po natin” [Let’s eat!] said one of the folks.

“Masarap po ba?” [Is it tasty?] I asked.

“Masarap!” [It is].

According to our guide, foreigners usually say that it tastes like oyster. But for them, it has its own distinguish taste.

After cleaning the woodworm, the assistant took some condiments: vinegar with onions. pepper, and garlic. He also brought out calamansi. He showed us how it is eaten.

First – calamansi. Squeeze and spread it onto the worm. Then, dip it in the vinegar mixture. Finally, enjoy the delicacy.

That’s exactly what I did.

Did my mom like it? She did not.

Did I like it? I even tried it with rice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s