Quezon, Palawan: Ramble Across Philippine Prehistory at Tabon Caves Complex
|More than 200 caves are honeycombed within the limestone karts of Lipuun Point, Quezon, Palawan|
It’s always awe-inspiring to see your history books come to life! After spotting the rare Philippine cockatoos of Rasa Island in Narra, I arrived in Quezon to explore at the Tabon Caves Complex. Over 200 caves are honeycombed into Lipuun Point, a towering limestone promontory in southern Palawan. Upon reaching the western face of the promontory, one is great by towering limestone cliffs draped in greenery – a landscape that characterizes the coastline of northern Palawan. These cliffs are well-lit in the afternoon sun. My guide and I alighted at a jetty that leads to a beach by the cave entrance, which makes for a great swimming spot!
|Tabon Cave is where the oldest human remains in the Philippines were discovered in 1962|
My guide, Kuya Marlo, took me through eight caves linked by concrete stairs and dirt pathways, namely, Liyang, Tabon, Diwata, Igang, Manunggul, Tadyaw and Sarang Caves. Sarang, composed of two caves, was a short walk away through the jungle from the main path, and was a “bonus” cave not usually visited by visitors, according to my guide. I admired Liyang Cave the most for its well-preserved stalagmites and stalactites.
|The wonderful subterranean formations of Liyang Cave of the Tabon Caves Complex|
The most archaeologically important, however, is the second cave, the Tabon Cave, where, in 1962, the oldest human remains (Homo sapiens) in the Philippines were found, dating back to nearly 50,000 years old. Much older human-like remains have been discovered in Callao Caves in Peñablanca, Cagayan but these haven’t been identified as Homo sapiens.
|Replica of the Tabon Man skullcap – the oldest human remains unearthed in the Philippines|
Also of archaeological significance is the small Manunggul Cave carved high up a cliff face, where the Manunggul Jar was unearthed. This secondary burial jar, featured in the old 1000-peso paper bill, dates from 890 to 710 B.C. The finely crafted artifact is topped by two figures riding a canoe to the afterlife. Replicas of the Tabon Man skullcap and Manunggul Jar can be viewed at the National Museum Branch in Quezon town proper. The originals are kept at the National Museum in Manila.
|Bats at the entrance to the Tabon Caves Complex|
HOW TO GET THERE: Quezon is three hours south by van from Puerto Princesa. I went to Quezon from Narra by van (PHP 100, 1 hour). For detailed instructions on how to get to Quezon, visit Lakas ng Trip’s post.
Tours of Tabon Caves can be arranged at the National Museum Branch (Mobile: +63 9217633824) within the town proper. This museum is open daily, even during national holidays (I visited the National Museum and Tabon Caves on a Good Friday.) A return boat trip to Tabon Caves from Quezon pier is PHP 800. Entrance fee is PHP 20 per person. A reliable and knowledgeable cave guide is Marlo (Mobile: +63 9305153613).
WHERE TO STAY: Villa Esperanza is a seaside resort with awesome views of Lipuun Point. I stayed in the cheapest room: a double fan room with shared toilet for only PHP 250. Mobile: +63 9179811825. They serve good and cheap food – try their sinigang (sour soup)!