Recently, due to functions incumbent on my profession, I was able to make two trips to the Calamianes Islands in a span of just six days. Being from the other side (southern) of the province, my trips would present me with a distinctive panorama of the entire province of Palawan—north and south, with the strategic capital of Puerto Princesa City (PPC).

Come to think of it, in mainland Palawan, the distance from PPC to the northernmost town is quite the same as its southern counterpart (both El Nido and Bataraza are more than 250 kilometers from the capital). In our ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the south speaks of Balabac and Cagayancillo as island territories, while the north has CAM (Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay), Araceli, and Calamianes. Palawan, with all of its beauty and grandeur, is also about balance in many ways.

Perhaps, the resounding defeat of 3-in-1 Palawan in the plebiscite could also be attributed to a rather divine purpose. It is worth noting that on election day the weather was rather gloomy (courtesy of LPA) which made many fail to proceed to poll places. Call it nothing else but divine intervention It was, it is, and will always be just One Palawan. Its north and its south could be likened to the human respiratory system that breathes life both into the ecosystem and into the cultural milieu of Palaweños. It should be two lungs together. Otherwise, Palawan would really be “ku-lungs”.

Hence, balancing must be every Palaweño’s virtue. The boat will sink if we tilt just on one side; the crow could not fly with only a single wing. The pandemic has taught us, albeit painfully, that we cannot all be about tourism. Our dear farmers and fisherfolk, time and again, have been proven to be our backbone in putting food on our table. Tourism and agriculture must be balanced. At the pace of progress that Palawan is gearing up for, the balance lies in the consideration that nobody should be left behind.

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Gaze at the wealth of local traditions Palawan has to offer. Consider the values and wisdom of the Indigenous Peoples’ way of doing things. Balance would definitely mean “ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa parooonan.” Tap the tremendous energy of the young and encourage the overflowing sagacity of the old. Older people will aptly step on the brakes on younger ones’ accelerators. Balancing will be the guarantee that no one is to be a mere fence sitter in the community affairs of Palawan.

There’s that kind of balancing, however, that will not be deemed as incorrect even if we tilt so much on one side. It is called the “preferential option for the poor.” It goes without thinking that they should always be favored. With Palawan’s high poverty incidence rate (56%, that is), any economic gain should desperately be felt by those who are on the margins. “The Guy” and Champion of the Masses, President Ramon Magsaysay, could not be more correct in saying, “Those who have less in life should have more in law.” As such, this kind of option should not be construed as merely an option. On the other hand, it must be known to Palaweños as a moral imperative.

Finding and maintaining Palawan’s brand of balancing has a name. It is Baragatan. This Cuyonon phrase is a virtue in and of itself. It is about coming together and getting things done altogether. It aims to achieve a common goal while respecting the diversity of its people. It is set in a direction where each one is given a rightful chance to participate. It will not please anybody just to appear pleasant to everybody. Rather, it should challenge each and every Palaweño to be open, brave, and humble at the same time, to engage in a mature discussion exposing diverse, and even contrary ideas, if only to come up with a brighter and more dynamic vision and plans for the advancement of our beloved Palawan province.

Likewise, Baragatan should underline a call to reconciliation and love. Our common task is not only to focus on what we can do or achieve as a people, but also to put a premium on the quality of our societal relationships. It could not be that we are successful in a lot of things, yet we fail in our love for each other. That would not be a virtue any longer. It is un-Baragatan. That said, our celebration of Baragatan must also be one of extending our hands to mend broken hearts and opening our arms to embrace each other. Personal differences must fade to give way to the kaayadan y ang entirong Palawan. If that is not genuine Baragatan, then what is it?

Going back to my two trips, two encounters remain in my memory. First, that of a little child who was my co-passenger on an Airswift flight from Lio Airport in El Nido to Busuanga Airport. Almost the whole flight, I could hear the child say, “Wow!” as she looked out the window of the cabin at the islands and water. “Woooow!” And second, on a boat ride, I was seated beside a European tourist with whom I had a chance of having a longer conversation. She said, “When I retire, I will definitely have Palawan as my home.”

From anyone’s perspective, Palawan is that piece of paradise where everyone sees not only a “kambak-kambak” syndrome but also the possibility of making it a true home. By all means, we make sure Palawan maintains its beauty. Balancing is the name of the game.

Happy Baragatan to Palaweños and all!

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