Balabac: The town that was once a country

In the southernmost tip of the Palawan island province lies a small group of island, so small that it is barely noticeable if one is looking on a small Philippine map.

How ever small it may be, the island municipality is is a vital location, as it plays an important role environmentally, politically and most the important, militarily as a strategic launching point to the West Philippines Sea (WPS) or the internationally known the South China Sea.

Colloquially, Balabac was also called “ Molbog”, after a tribe that inhabited this place since time immemorial.

The fact that this town is crosswise ( Balagbag ) in its relative position to the mainland of Palawan, explains its name.

This southernmost town of Palawan, barely a few hours from Borneo by motor boat, was founded by Datus and Sultans.

A political unit is under the Datus which was later changed to “Panglimas“.  

The present municipal hall of Balabac, Palawan.


These “Panglimas” are found in different big communities. Recent interviews with the old folks identified the following “Panglima” during the late years of Spanish Regime.

Catagupan has “Panglima Salila”, Indalawan has “Panglima Budin”, Melville has “Panglima Duldula”, who was later appointed as Deputy Governor by the Americans with “Panglima Sali of Pandanan”.

Malaking Ilog called Caranduring by the Molbogs has “Panglima Nambres”. Rabor has “Panglima Abdul”, Ramos has “Panglima Aning”, a survivor of the Philippine Scout Massacre, the offshoot of Laundon’s Case.  

The importance of this place to the Spaniards is due to its proximity to Borneo. High ranking officials were buried in the town cemetery.

Lighthouse, Forts, churches, and Presidio can be found in Balabac in the early fifties.

The “Culina Tower”, a hexagonal port made of Adobe stones with guns parapet tower for look-out and cannon balls were found in the Poblacion. The “Culina Tower” edifice in Spanish time was constructed with forced labor from the local populace.

These “kutas”, a Muslim name for Forts, were used as protection against the Muslim Pirates. When the Philippine revolution broke out, this presidio was used as a concentration camp for political exiles and prisoners.

The Cape Melville Lighthouse stands today as a living memory of forced labor by the Spaniards. It is internationally known as the most beautiful lighthouse.

Balabac was once the seat of Politico Militar province in the south and was even renamed Alfonso XIII by the Spaniards.

This island municipality proved to be great to Muslim Piracy because of its strategic position.

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With the advent of the American Regime, the local government was headed by Presidents up to 1951. In 1952, the first election was held and Hon. Jesus A. Aban was the first elected Mayor of the Municipality.

Balabac was converted into a regular Municipality under RA 2022 approved on June 22, 1957, and published in Official Gazette on November 30, 1957.

Here is a video by Rex Ruta from Abs-Cbn Palawan and see the beauty of this hidden gem:

You can also watch the feature video of Biyahe ni Drew: Exploring Balabac, Palawan hosted by Drew Arellano

Marinong Pulis
This blog is an attempt by the author to create an alter-ego that is not bound by rank, hierarchy or politics. One that does not represent his personal character but rather shall remain as an identity purely found online.

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