Miss Cuyonon finallogo

In July, Sibaltan’s Balay Cuyonon was only a sketch on paper and a list of needed materials. 20 arige, 12 balayan, 18 pagbo, 32 anaman, four basalan, six panandok, nine pingga, nine salud, 40 langen, assorted bamboo poles and cogon. 

A sketch of the floor plan, drawn in July 2012

In August, the  leaves were cut, dried and tied into bundles for the cogon roof.

In September, carpenters Salvador D. Rodriguez, Pampelo Lagrada, Ferdinand Lagrada and Agustin D. Rodriguez, all of whom are Cuyonos with experience building this type of balay, set to work.

And now, it is mid-November and construction is complete. The Balay Cuyonon will open its doors as a house museum in just a few weeks.

Sibaltan Heritage Committee member Cromwell drew up the original design based on consultations with his father-in-law Mr. Ernesto Delgado, who had lived in this kind of house, and with Tay Toyong Lajallab. The carpenters added to and revised the original plans during construction, putting in features authentic to Cuyonon-style balays.

Through bayanihan – voluntary community work sessions – held every Saturday, many Sibaltan residents have helped with the ground improvements and planting herbals.

Everyone is excited for the formal opening of the balay.

Greetings from Palawan, where, with your help, we’ll build a much-needed home. But this is no ordinary home. It will be a home for heritage and a house of learning. A place where curiosity about the past is cultivated in order to build a better future.

Sibaltan, Palawan is a lovely and peaceful place, with an interesting history and culture that it wants to share in order to attract visitors to their town. The residents are working on creating a cultural museum – which will be the only museum within five hours in any direction.

In Phase One of our museum project, we want to build a traditional Cuyonon home – a bamboo structure with a thatch roof made of Nipa palm – and fill it with all the items that one might find in a Cuyonon home 100 years ago. 

People are lined up to share their time and talents, and donate any materials they can. Now we just need a little cash for the more expensive materials.

You can help! Pledges of any size are most welcome! Visit our fundraising page: http://www.gofundme.com/s018k

In addition to being a great learning experience as the town works together to build and furnish this traditional home, it will become a source of additional revenue for the community by drawing tourists into Sibaltan. We’re asking individuals like you for support so that we can finish this phase of the project by the end of this summer in order to have it ready to go before the next tourist season.

(So what else happens in Phase One? We’re also designing an herbal medicine garden – which might just be the first medicinal garden on all of Palawan!)

Fun Stuff If You Give…

All donors will receive free admission to the museum should they ever happen to be in El Nido, Palawan. 😉

Give $5 – $20: Get our heartfelt thanks expressed electronically!

Give $21 – $60: You’ll also receive our heartfelt thanks expressed on paper! Make a gift now, and, just 3 to 5 short weeks from now, you’ll receive a card featuring a masterpiece colored by a Sibaltan Elementary School student.

Give $61 – $99: All gifts above, plus, a ‘Taste of Palawan’ care package featuring like dried mangoes and cashews.

Give $100 to $499, All gifts above, AND … a complimentary stay in the Sibaltan Marine Sanctuary Guardhouse, for up to three nights.

Give $500 to $999: All gifts above, AND …. One piece of original artwork, an 8-by-10 acrylic painting, made by local artist Arvin Acosta.

Give $1,000 or more: Come to Palawan to see your museum! You’ll enjoy a complimentary stay in the marine sanctuary guardhouse, for up to one week, plus the royal local treatment in Sibaltan: boat rides, fresh coconuts, mango shakes and fresh fish dinners cooked to order for you.

You can send your donations to gofundme.com/s018k  or directly to El Nido Municipal Tourism Office [elnidotourism@hotmail.com]

[ Lace Thornberg, University of Washington]

Datong unang timpo, ang pag darakepen y ang baboy nga talunanen ay ing tatawag na “ayam.” Dia ay ing bubuat y ang mga malam nga lalake. Sanda naga pakon sa kagueban, mga darwa tegka tatlo katao. Agadara sanda y lima tegka anim ka tio ig ang kada saka tao ay mi dara nga bangkaw. Dia nga bangkaw nga ingtatawag ay mi anang tarawis asta tarem luyo mi luyo, tapus akagoro tana sa bugtong nga darwa ka metro anang labeg.

Ang anem ka tio nga andang dara, ang apat ay manig bukad ig ang darwa ay manig sarap. Dia nga manig bukad ang taga singot-singot y anang baw y ang tutumaneng baboy. Tapos, bibiran anda ren ang rutos asta indi y pilayan ang baboy. Pag ing pilayan den, dan madangmit aga pakon sa mi tubig asta duto maga pa-biag. Ang darwa ka tio taga-lalip-lalip lamang. Pag nag pa biag den maliag y kon ing pilayan den y pa rutos, doto anda ren tatarabangan y tekeb.

Dati, tatlo ka tao ang siging dalagan, aga rutos pero maentras sanda naga dalagan sanda aga pamati-bati ra kung sadin den ang ul-ol andang mga tio agud dato andang rorombon. Pag naabutan anda ren ang ing tatarabangan y tekeb, duto anda ren bibira’ buno y ang bangkaw ang baboy. Pag napatay anda ren, ma-pamaket sanda y kalayo para saraban anang bulbol. Pagka-sarab, dayon anda ren y pirna pirnaen para masig tuang-tuang sanda nga aga uli sa andang balay. [Ing sulat ni Kgd. Ca’ling Ponce de Leon]

In 2010, the University of the Philippines’ Archaeological Studies Program [UP-ASP] conducted a field school in Sibaltan, a barangay located at the Eastern Coast of El Nido. The biggest number of field school participants came from the University of Washington [UW] and the rest came from different schools in South East Asia and Korea. In that season, the team discovered remnants of a trading community that lived  in the area between 500-1500 AD.

Before the field school closed, Dr. Victor Paz, the field school director, ordered the installation of exhibits at the Barangay Hall. The site served as the temporary community museum of Sibaltan. Lace Thornberg from UW and Mindy Ceron from UP-ASP led the setting up of exhibits. The opening was well-attended by community members and politicians as well.

After 2 years, Lace Thornberg returned to help the community expand their community museum through a series of workshops. The first workshop started on April 8, 2012. It was then that the community realized that they have more than archaeology to exhibit – they are also rich in culture and natural resources.

Though the cultural mapping workshop, the community realized that a symbol of their being Cuyonon is already banishing – the Cuyonon traditional house, and with it, various practices of the Cuyonons such as dances, farming methods and language.

The community began designing the Balay Cuyonon [Cuyonon traditional house] and began listing various practices and tangible cultural items from their memories.  They collected several stories about legends and hunting practices. They created a timeline, the history of Sibaltan,and planted for herbal plants near the proposed site for the Balay Cuyonon.

Lace wrote a project proposal to the US Embassy and that was granted. The Balay Cuyonon was constructed and was inaugurated on December 15, 2012. It became an ethnographic museum of Cuyonon culture and became an additional tourist attraction in Sibaltan.  [Arvin Acosta, El Nido Tourism]


For the past two months, I’ve been living in the Bubog Island Marine Sanctuary Guardhouse, a lovely place to read, work and live.

Here’s what I’ve enjoyed most about staying in this guardhouse:

  • Enjoying an unforgettable view of the Sulu Sea.
  • Watching wonderful moonrises and color-filled skies at sunrise and sunset.
  • Experiencing the serenity of living just meters above the sea, while the tide rolls in and out and the fisherman come and go.
  • Reading and napping in a woven hammock.
  • Drinking fresh coconut juice and eating fresh green mangos.
  • Laughing at the exuberance of local children as they jump off the pier and swim.
  • Making meals from locally-sourced ingredients, like nutritious mulunggay, fish fresh from the sea and rice harvested from nearby fields.

When I am not working, there’s plenty to see and do. I can walk a short distance north to visit a mangrove, or stroll to the south to for mango shakes and beach volleyball at the rustic and friendly Ursula Beach Resort. It’s also easy to hire a boat for a visit to Bubog Island just minutes away, or for a longer trip to any of the other islands on the horizon.

And, that’s just in the immediate neighborhood! El Nido is an active’s person dream place to visit, as there are plenty more athletic pursuits near at hand, such as snorkeling, diving, windsurfing. The area has great potential for mountain biking on the quiet gravel roads.

The best part? This experience can be yours! Read all the details here.

Or, if you are ready to reserve your stay, just call or text (63) 9173929531. You may also inquire at the Municipal Tourism Office in El Nido [elnidotourism@hotmail.com].

Drying Rice

“Dayon camo” is a Cuyonon expression meaning “Welcome!” And, that’s just what we want to do with this blog – to introduce and welcome you to Sibaltan!

So, who are we and where is Sibaltan?

‘We’ are the members of the Sibaltan Heritage Committee. 99% of us are longtime residents of Sibaltan, so we’ve been fishing, farming, gardening, and worshiping here for many years.  And, there’s also Lace, a researcher from the U.S. living temporarily in Sibaltan.

Sibaltan is a rural village located in northeastern Palawan Island in the Philippines.

We hope our posts–which may appear in English, Filipino, or Cuyonon, since all three languages are used in Sibaltan–will give you a little taste of what life is like in this peaceful village, but, of course, the best way to experience it will be to come and see it for yourself.

You are always welcome!

Flickr Photos