Rediscovering paradise

- Dina Sta. Maria (The Philippine Star) - October 7, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - If you’re looking for paradise, head for Palawan. Many have done so, and were not disappointed. Two in particular – a Frenchman and a New Zealander – are so enamored of the place that they teamed up with an art director/printer and a photographer to publish a book on Palawan that was launched last Friday.

“Palawan: Into the Green Zone” is a handsome tome that does justice to the beauty and grandeur of the province. Breath-taking photographs by George Tapan, the peripatetic master lensman who has trained his camera on most of our country’s 7,107 islands, offer paeans to the landscape, seascape, flora, fauna, lifestyle and people of this remarkable province on our western flank, close to the hotly contested territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Louis-Paul Heussaff, a Frenchman who has lived in the Philippines for over 30 years, describes Palawan as “the only Philippine paradise of such multiplicity in terms of flora and fauna, local cultures and livelihoods, and terrain.” Recalling “with fondness windsurfing for the first time in Palawan in 1979,” he offers this book as a “tribute to Palawan’s persistent goodness as a place and a celebration of its compelling power to put humankind back in perspective – that is, as member of the planet no lesser or greater than all the other living creatures in the biosphere, with the great responsibility of keeping the balance between giving and taking.”

Co-publisher Simon Leith, although a relative newcomer having lived hereabouts only for the last three years, is nevertheless a staunch advocate of Palawan as paradise. The book, he writes in the Introduction, is a “testimonial to the indomitable spirit of Palawan as a cradle of life in its many manifestations.”

Citing the province’s numerous accolades – the latest of which is the selection of the Underground River as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature – and excellent reviews, this energy executive from New Zealand believes that Palawan is “already special, with its rich and diverse cultural, historical and natural resources.”

Huge limestone caverns carved out millions of years ago await the adventurous (top). Boats dot the pure blue waters below stunning limestone formations (left). A herd of cattle grazes on a farm in Busuanga (above). The monitor lizard (top right) and mynah bird (above right) are among the animals that can be found in Palawan. Opposite page (clockwise from top left): Seaweed farming is one of the main industries in Palawan. A conical rock formation in Minapla. Towering mangrove forests in Sabang. A man inscribes bamboo with writings in the Tagbanwa alphabet.

For visitors, Palawan is addictive; once is just not enough. Personally, I have been to Palawan numerous times, but I jump at each suggestion, each opportunity to visit – whether it is Coron or Busuanga in the northern island, El Nido on the northern tip of the main island, Puerto Princesa City and Honda Bay in its midsection or Balabac on the southern end, visiting Palawan is seeing the country at its best, nature at its most beautiful and diverse, and, with sustainable development programs in place, man as a responsible steward of our world.

Until my next visit, I will bask in the beauty of Palawan through this beautiful book.

Palawan: Into the Green Zone will soon be available at leading bookstores; call 0917-8000020 for details.

A native of Barangay Minapla is almost a speck atop gigantic boulders (far left). A tiger orchid blooms (left). A man gives a pawikan a helpful push into the waters of Pagasa Island (below). Local Cuyonon men are skilled rock climbers (bottom left). An aerial view of Patag Island, one of the Kalayaan Group of Islands (bottom).

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