A must-see destination
It is quite amazing that just minutes after the Department of Tourism launched its new campaign slogan, it’s more fun in the Philippines, last January 6, it became viral in the internet with numerous photographs showing some spectacular and awesome places in the country. Most of the photos display the beautiful landscape and seascapes in different islands of the Philippines, featuring white beaches, colorful marine line, crystal-clear rivers and lakes, lush forest, mystical caves and many more one can only imagine.
Having the privilege and opportunity to visit a number of these tourist destinations, due to my engagement as consultant to several conservation projects, I could only say that one of the must see destinations in the Philippines is the Coron Island, one of the islands in the Calamian Group of Islands, also known as Calamianes, in northern Palawan. The Calamianes also includes Culion, Busuanga and over a hundred more islands. Coron and Busuanga municipalities occupy the Busuanga Island, while Culion is a separate island municipality. There was one point in time when many were quite hesitant to visit Culion because it has been known as the leprosy colony of the Philippines.
Located within the municipality of Coron, the Coron Island is just less than an hour boat ride from the town proper in deep blue water usually sparkling under the broad day light. While approaching the island, the numerous walls of stones, competing with their dazzling and marvelous natural features, are scenes to behold. These stone walls are dotted with beautifully designed stunted trees, swaying in accordance with the rhythm of gentle winds coming from the ocean.
The breathtaking scenery further includes the white sand curved in different coves and coastlines of the island where visitors will surely be enticed to splash in ice-colored water, which is also competing with the splendor and beauty of the different rock formations. Fascinatingly, the island remains natural with no permanent structures usually associated with popular tourist destinations in the country.
But more than its wonderful natural features, Coron Island is also an important cultural site in the Philippines because it is the ancestral domain of the Tagbanua, one of the Indigenous Tribes in Palawan. In fact, this is precisely the reason why the island remains free from commercial establishments, such as privately-owned beach resorts, since the Tagbanuas are the sole owner of the whole island, including its surrounding coastal waters by virtue of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title awarded to the tribe by the National Council of Indigenous People.
The ancestral domain of the Tagbanuas covers 24,530 hectares and it was the first awarded CADT in the Philippines and the whole of Asia. Moreover, this ancestral land is also the first globally known Indigenous Cultural Conservation Area in the Philippines due to the efforts of the Tagbanuas in protecting and conserving the island. Tour operators are required to seek registration from the tribe for them to bring visitors in Coron Island. (Author’s note: This article is also available online at http://errolgatumbato.wordpress.com)
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