Roxas of Palawan
And Tabon birds of Stanlake Island
By Apolinario Villalobos
When one mentions Roxas, what comes to mind is the Roxas City of Capiz on the island of Panay. Palawan has its own Roxas,too, but not known as is, unlike Tabon cave and its exotic species of bird, the tabon bird.
When I visited Roxas, I did not expect the arduous travel that involved different modes. The curious in me, however, prevailed so that I took the risk of being bitten by the dreaded mosquitoes that were infected with malaria virus (today, this has been checked by the local government) and went ahead with my unplanned trip to Palawan. It happened during the summer of 1980…
Puerto Princesa was just a fledgling city during that time but took phenomenal metamorphosis to become what it is now, practically, declared cleanest city in the whole of Philippines several times, and virtually bloomed with structures- signs of fast development.
My trip to the town of Roxas from Puerto Princesa City was made on a bus, early the following morning after the day I arrived. The sights along the way were splendid, as we passed by white sandy beaches fringed with swaying coconut trees and tropical fruit trees. We negotiated winding roads until we reached Langogan River where we were ferried across it. But we got off the bus first, although, the ferrying was made at the same time.
Upon reaching the other side of the river, we went on with our journey over winding roads that cut through verdant hills and forests. The panoramic view from the mountainside road overlooking the North China Sea was just fantastic. The expanse of water was dotted with green canopied islets ringed with white beaches.
Finally, we reached Roxas, a coastal town of abundant coconut groves and white sandy beaches. It covers 608 nautical miles or 142 kilometers of distance northeast of Puerto Princesa City. It is bounded on the northeast by the Ilian River, north to northwest by the Pagdanan Range and in the south by Langoyan. Its total land area is 122,030 hectares.
The evolution of the town into what it is now is interesting. The town was once noted for its small-scale shipbuilding industry of a community of Cagayanos. The cutting of amorawin tree however, the wood of which was used and abounds in Araceli, was strictly regulated. As most of the time, such wood was not available, they left the place but later returned and settled at Retac which they found not to their liking later on. They found another site marked with a boton tree on which they tried to settle….this, they named Sanboton. With the influx of other settlers, the simple settlement became a barrio that later on became known as del Pilar, in honor of the Filipino hero, Gregorio del Pilar. Finally, it became the municipality of Roxas, after the late President Roxas, by virtue of Republic Act No. 615 signed in September 30, 1951.
Roxas is endowed with minerals such as silica and quartz. San Miguel Corporation discovered high-grade silica in the area and established the Palawan Silica company which was later renamed Nin Bay Mining Corporation. The company developed the town by building roads and an airport, as well as, housing units for its employees. During my visit, the town was practically booming industrially with four companies operating for its mineral deposit. These were the Nin Bay Mining Corporation, Republic Glass Corporation, Roxas Silica Company, and Vulcan Industrial and Mineral Exploration Corporation.
Wild honey, a cottage industry also adds revenue to the coffer of the town. But the most famous of its backyard industry, though, strictly regulated is the gathering of tabon bird’s eggs. Tabon, means “to cover”, which is the habit of the birds to protect their eggs, that they bury in the beach, covered with sand. The scientific name of the bird is Palawan Magapode and found on Stanlake Island.
An adult Tabon bird has gray feathers tainted with green, with the male slightly bigger than the female. For a clearer comparison, the male bird is bigger than an ordinary chicken. Its bead is stout and pointed, with claws that consist of three toes that are blunt, two in front and one at the back. Interestingly, the bird’s call resembles that of a dog’ howl.
The birds bury their eggs in holes with depths of four to six feet, after which, they cover them with sands. The digging usually takes two to three hours and done during rainy days. The egg is twice the size of a chicken’s, oval-shaped and with color that ranges from white to pink and light red, with the shell so fragile that it breaks easily. Hatching takes from 16 to 18 days, during which the chicks struggle their way out of the hole. The chick reaches it maturity in eight to ten months, during which it takes it turn to mate and lay eggs.
Other interesting touristic areas of Roxas, aside from Stanlake Island which has been declared as a bird sanctuary, are those around the Barbacan and Matalangao rivers where birdwatching can be rewarding. Less than a kilometer away is the Matalangao Waterfalls that drops to 80 feet. Practically, the beaches that fringe the coastal town are haven for those who long for a peaceful recluse.
Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan is accessible via flights from Manila. Typical tourists need more than a week to enjoy their visit of the province, as aside from Roxas, they may find the call of El Nido, the Underground River, and white sandy islets just too strong to ignore.