5 Must Try Foods of Palawan

things to eat in palawan

Travel is all about…eating.

There’s no doubt about it – one of the best ways to experience a place and culture is to taste it! And Palawan is no exception.

Palaweño cuisine is, like the island itself, a still undiscovered frontier. With the unique mix of cultures and the abundance of fresh marine and land-based ingredients at its disposal, Palawan has some unique culinary delights that are purely its own.

Here are the top must-try foods in Palawan…

1. Tamilok

So…tamilok is…a worm. That alone really turned us off. In fact, it’s a woodworm that lives in the mangroves. Even grosser.

But don’t worry, it gets better. Although tamilok looks like a worm, it’s actually a mollusc that tastes surprisingly a lot like oysters – just longer and slimier.

things to eat in palawan

These long, slimy creatures are cleaned, dipped in vinegar and served raw.

One interesting thing about tamilok is the source of its name. According to legend, two foreigners were with tribesmen who were about to feast on the “u-od,” which means worms in Tagalog. One of the westerners watched and in utter astonishment shouted toward his companion, “Look! Tommy! Look!”

The tribesmen believed the white men were experts who knew the actual name of the dish…Thus “tamilok”…or “tommy, look!”

2. Lechón

Lechón is a favourite in nearly all parts of the Philippines – and it’s no surprise since anyone with taste buds can tell that this is just damn good food!

palawans foods

This delicacy comes from the Spanish influence in the Philippines and is now held in the place of highest honour in the Philippines – it’s a national dish! It’s a simple dish – a suckling pig roasted over charcoal to a juicy, succulent finish!
3. Crispy PataCrispy pata is simply delicious. Just don’t ask what it is…palawan foodsOkay, we’ll tell you. They’re pig trotters. Yes, feet. Deep-fried. And with a soy-vinegar drip. Absolutely delicious.

4. Kaldereta

You must try this dish – it’s a sin if you don’t. Kaldereta is one of the most popular Filipino dishes – it’s made of mutton, liver spread, cheese, capsicum, and chillies all placed in a tomato-based sauce.
what to eat in palawanYum!

5. Chao Long noodles

Palawan’s dishes are varied, thanks to their rich cultural and ethnic diversity. Chao Long noodles are a Vietnamese cuisine and brought to the Philippines by the Vietnamese refugees who migrated over during the Communist occupation of South Vietnam. must try foods palawanThanks to the Vietnamese settlers, Palawan is home to several delicious Chao Long noodle houses.

There is also plentiful seafood to be had in Palawan. Get some!


Palawan History and Culture

palawan history

No one knows how Palawan got its name. It’s speculated that it may have come from the Chinese work “Pa Lao Yu” meaning Land of Beautiful Harbors. That would certainly be accurate. There’s also speculation that it comes from the Spanish word “Paragua” since Palawan looks like a closed umbrella.

Palawan map

The various theories behind where Palawan derived its name is reflective of the island’s rich cultural history.

Palawan is often referred to as the “Cradle of Philippine Civilization” because the bones of the first Filipinos were found there 22,000 years ago. The first known settlers were the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Tau’t bato and the Bataks. They were here before Palawan ever became known to the rest of the world.

The beauty that we now know as Palawan first landed on the map when Chinese traders and other migrants found their way over using the land bridges that once existed between Borneo and Palawan. Palawan soon became a center of trade between the Malays and the Chinese and it was during the 12th century when the Malays from Borneo started settling in Palawan.

The settlers lived off the land. They planted their own food: palay, ginger, coconut, camote, sugar, and bananas. They kept livestock for food. They also fished and hunted. They developed their own alphabet, a non-formal form of government and a system for trading with sea-borne merchants.

Due to its proximity to Borneo as well as the influence of the Malay settlers, southern Palawan soon fell under the rule of Borneo. This lasted for over two centuries until the Spanish arrived in the Philippines.

Spanish Rule

When the Spanish first arrived in Palawan, the northernmost part of Palawan was the first area to be colonized.  In the early 17th century, the Spanish friars attempted to reach out to Cuyo, Agutaya, Taytay, and Cagayancillo but the strong Moro forces made their attempts unsuccessful.

palawan history

In the 18th century, the Spanish friars stared building churches with garrisons in the towns of Cuyo, Taytay, Linapacan and Balabac to protect them against the Moro raids. These forts still stand today and make a delightful day trip. In 1749, the Sultanate of Borneo gave the Spaniards the power to rule the southern parts of Paragua (the Spanish name for Palawan), making Spanish rule of Palawan complete.

American Rule

After the 1898 Revolution, Spanish colonization ended. The American government took over what the Spanish government had left off. They consolidated the islands and called it Palawan. A new civil government was enacted on the 23rd of June in the year 1902. New provincial boundaries were made and old ones were revised during 1903. The name of the province was changed from Paragua to Palawan. Its capital became Puerto Princesa.

They created reforms and different programs that promoted the development of the province. They promoted education, medical assistance, agriculture and tribal minorities’ rights. Schools were constructed all over Palawan.

Today, Palawan still has a considerable amount of well-preserved beauty thanks to the locals’ and various groups’ perseverance. They even have their own hospital for sick and disabled crocodiles. Two UNESCO World Heritage sites are found there which are the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, South Sulu Sea and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.


Palawan Fast Facts

palwan map

Palawan is fast earning a name as one of the world’s most coveted vacation destinations. Its waters are among the best in the world, from everything from diving to snorkeling to fishing, but its beauties stretch far beyond the beaches.

Palawan boasts incredibly diverse ecosystems, including rainforests, mangroves, white sane beaches, coral reefs, and even a wildlife sanctuary!

The waters and lands of Palawan hold extraordinary scenic wonders. Teeming limestone cliffs serve as an awesome background to crystal clear turquoise waters. The colorfully variegated coral reefs are home to fish, turtles, and even the sea cow – known as the world’s rarest marine mammal.

On land, you’ll find African animals from Kenya – giraffes, elands, zebras, and gazelles – co-existing with endemic Philippine animals – the Palawan bearcat, mouse deer, and peacock.

GEOGRAPHY of Palawan

Palawan is approximately 586 kilometres southwest of Manila, between Mindoro Island on the north, Borneo on the south, China Sea on the west, and Sulu Sea on the east. Its total land area of 1,489,655 hectares spreads across the peripheral islands of Busuanga, Culion, Linacapan, Cuyo, Dumaran, Cagayanes, and Balabac.

Its main island measures 425 kilometres long, and 40 kilometres wide. Puerto Princesa, the capital city, is the chief seaport and the centre of trade and commerce.

CLIMATE of Palawan

The province has two types of climates. In the northern and southern parts, as well as the entire western coast, there are two distinct seasons – six months that are dry and six months that are rainy. Dry season runs from November to May and the rainy season ranges from June to October.  There is some variance here, too – southern Palawan is virtually free of tropical storms but northern Palawan experiences torrential rains during the summer months of July and August.

The eastern coast of the province has a short dry season ranging from one to three months and pretty much no rainy period during the rest of the year.

Temperatures range from from an average of 25°C (78°F) in January to 29°C (84°F) in May. The winter trade winds make windsurfing a major attraction from December until April.


Palawan is diverse! The province is a melting pot of 87 different cultural communities and races who live together in peace and harmony. Basically, its culture bears a strong influence from China, India and the Middle East. Influx of migrants from other parts of the Philippines, particularly from Muslim Mindanao, accounts for the high population growth rate of 3.98% annually. The native-born Palaweños still predominate the populace. Eighteen percent is composed of cultural communities such as the Tagbanua, Palawano, Batak, and Molbog.


There are 52 spoken dialects in the province, with Tagalog being spoken by 28 percent of the people. Other major dialects are Cuyunin (26.27 percent), Pinalwan (11.08 percent), and Ilongo (9.6 percent). English is also widely spoken.

RELIGION of Palawan

The most dominant religion is Roman Catholic, other Christian groups comprise 9% such as Protestants, Evangelicals, Born Again Christians and the remaining 1% belongs to other non-Christian faiths.


Palawan, the largest province in the Philippines in terms of land area, registered a total population of 892,660 persons based on the 2007 National Statistics Survey.

Of the 24 municipalities comprising Palawan, Puerto Princesa City, the provincial capital, was the highest in terms of population size. This registered a population of 210,508 persons or 23.58 percent of the total provincial population. Kalayaan had the smallest population with 114 persons residing the small island.


How to Get to El Nido

How to Get to El Nido

El Nido sounds like a mighty remote destination, doesn’t it? Well, it’s actually pretty simple to get to and you have plenty of options, depending on what your budget is.

Fly to El Nido

If money isn’t a problem, Island Transvoyager Inc. (ITI) flies directly from Manila to Lio Airport everyday, at 7:30 AM and 3:00 PM. You can’t beat ITI for convenience, but the downside is that all flights may only be booked five days in advance unless you’re staying at El Nido Resorts. A one-way ticket is a little less than 7,000PHP and there is a 10kg weight restriction.

SEAir offers direct flights from Manila to El Nido for more reasonable rates, but they only fly 3 times a week: on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays.

Travel Overland to El Nido

If you have some time, you can fly into Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital, and make your way to El Nido overland. It’s not as complicated as it seems. Once you arrive at Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS), you can make your way to city center and then take a multi-cab (jeepney) to San Jose Terminal. If you don’t know where the San Jose Terminal is, which I assume you don’t, just ask the locals and the jeepney drivers. It’s about a 20 minute ride to the San Jose Terminal. If you’re trying to take the early morning bus to El Nido, take a tricycle from city center to San Jose Terminal instead for about 50 – 80 PHP, depending on your bargaining skills.

Once you arrive at the San Jose Terminal, ask for the buses headed for El Nido. You have three options of overland transport:

1. Public vans cost 500 – 600PHP and take about 6 hours traveling time. They depart at 5 AM, 7 AM, 9 AM, and occasionally at 11 AM. There are only 10 seats so make sure you’re there at least a half hour before the departure so you can save a seat.

2. Public Buses costs 300PHP and take about 8 hours traveling time. They also depart at 5 AM, 7 AM, 9 AM, and occasionally at 11 AM. These buses stopover for breakfast and a restroom stop and then again in Taytay to pick-up more passengers, so depending on these variables, the traveling time may lengthen.

Public Bus Companies:

  • Sweety Transport. Contact: +63 926 699 8700 (Puerto Princesa); +63 919 716 2210 (El Nido)
  • Eulen Joy Transport. Contact Details: +63 919 716 2210

If you’re traveling with a large group, you can rent a van for about 12,000PHP one-way and split it between everyone. The total trip time is around 5 – 6 hours, but the air-conditioned 4×4 vans are much more comfortable than the open-air buses.

Take a Ferry to El Nido

You can take a ferry straight to the El Nido port at Buena Suerte from Manila, Busuanga, Coron, and Sabang.

Atienza Shipping Lines has a route from Coron to El Nido once a week, at midnight every Thursday. It is 910PHP one-way and you should book at least a day in advance. Contact: +632-242 8845

There is also a boat from Sabang (where the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is) to El Nido that runs every Monday and Thursday for about 1,800PHP per person, one-way. It takes about 8 hours. Contact: +63-921-518-7947