An Open Letter to Palawan, the City in the Forest

A prodigal daughter's love letter to her mother's homeland

By R.A. Librando
October 21, 2015

An Open Letter to Palawan

Dear Palawan,

My fascination with you started with my long summers in your city, traversing forests and muddy pathways in our relatives' backyard. It was a sight to behold—tree-lined avenues, wild plants growing everywhere, no trash in sight. I wouldn't understand how important nature was to a Palaweño until I stayed with you longer.

I stopped going to you when my years were focused on studying. So when my parents mandated me to stay with you for months, I felt that I was held against my will. How could I even stay in a province that has power interruptions, no cinemas, and no friends to hang out with?

Then, I hung out with you.

My relatives offered to go to El Nido with me. During the 2000s, 50% of the roads to El Nido were rough roads, so it took us 11-12 hours of driving from Puerto Princesa City to El Nido Town. It was an arduous and uncomfortable van trip. With no other gadget to accompany me, my gaze lingered outside and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

As far as the eye could see, I saw your old trees—minute, large, weird ones that looked like large umbrellas. On my left were mountains and cliffs. Moving forward, when the roads took a turn, there were more trees with beaches. I was looking at a moving canvas of nature. I’d never felt so calm in my life.

An Open Letter to Palawan
When we arrived in El Nido, power interruptions were more frequent. Establishments closed at 7PM, so tourists with nothing to do would sit on a side street and play the guitar, the local kids dancing and twirling to their foreign songs. Who knew that your simplicity would evoke so much happiness in two strangers?

During my visits to your islands, I was astonished at how white the sand was. I could almost mistake it for snow but for the scorching sun. The sea was so clear, that if you looked below, you could mistake the corals to be two feet below, when in fact, they were 50 feet deep.

Then, I also visited Brooke's Point, a small town up north that is known as a hiker's favorite pastime. Our relatives' house was behind the sea, and it was amazing. Who else could boast that their garden's composed of the sea and sea creatures?

Looking back at all those summers spent with you, whenever I smell the sea, I feel like I'm with you again. Whenever I hike up to mountains in other provinces, I feel like you are welcoming me back to your City in the Forest.

I hope to not forget how beautiful you are. How kind and gentle your forests are, how embracing your beaches and seas are. How people who live in Palawan, always fight off development because they know, in their hearts, that Palawan is meant to be protected so that more people can experience your magic.

Love you always. See you again soon!

Your prodigal daughter,

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