Volume 24, April, 2012

The Coconut Telegraph



Welcome to Palawan


The past months have been filled with new countries and adventure.  In December and January, I enjoyed an awesome time sea kayaking in the Philippines in Palawan Province.  Discovering a country or region from the sea is always interesting and Palawan is no exception.  You have the opportunity to meet people and experience places that most foreigners may only glimpse on a map.  That is, if they even chance to lift their heads out of the 'recommended' section in the Lonely Liar or any equally inconsequential so-called "guide book".

Palawan is amazing. The first thing you notice when you exit the airport in the capital, Puerto Princesa, is the absence of trash.  The streets are clean and this is a source of pride with the local residents.  Bobby, who met the plane, put it this way: "the first time you get caught dropping trash, it will cost you 1,000 pesos.  The second time 5,000 pesos. And if you get caught a third time, you will enjoy a 5 day stay in Puerto Princesa courtesy of the government of Palawan - all expenses paid." 

The island has worked hard to maintain its natural assets.  This becomes quite clear on the drive north to El Nido as you pass through virgin jungle.  Even in the countryside there is no trash.  In El Nido, as in most communities, there are people who are paid by the municipality to pick up trash.  So, even if a little might find its way onto the street or the beach, someone will walk along and pick it up.  This is a very positive sign in an emerging nation.

When you make it to the ocean, the clarity is astounding.  The provincial government has been trying to curb illegal logging and fishing for years now and it appears to be successful in this endeavor.  Unfortunately, the fish protection may have come too late as it was a challenge to land fish.  One man I met, who has been in Palawan for 20 years, told me that in times past, he could sit on his porch with his binoculars and spot schools of jacks in the ocean.  He would simply climb into his banca (boat) and go and catch dinner.  Today, he spends up to 6 hours trolling, often returning empty handed.  He told me that although the large fishing boats are no longer lurking, the small boats catch everything that moves and the resident fish population is in a sad state.  Only when the schools migrate is there is fish aplenty.

And best of all, the people are friendly, welcoming and speak English.

I hope you enjoy a peek at Palawan as much as I enjoyed my time in that province.


El Nido to Port Barton




The Bacuit Archipelago




Coron and the Calamanian Islands