This week, the Puerto Princesa City government is holding Subaraw 2019, a full week festival to celebrate the city’s most popular tourist destination – the Underground River.

In the last few years that the Subaraw festivities are being conducted, it is hoped that the event will eventually gather enough traction to become a major tourist calendar event approximating the popularity of top tourist draws such as Bacolod’s Masskara, Baguio’s Panagbenga Flower Fest or Cebu City’s Sinulog.

Compared to the examples mentioned, Subaraw still has a long way to go in achieving calendar status, understandably because it simply cannot be achieved overnight. The consistency however that has been displayed by the City government in the last few years in promoting the event is a good start. Whether the succeeding administration will continue this event is still a big question, however.

The fact is, if Subaraw wants to achieve its calendar status, it has to be an institutionalized event with life and momentum of its own.

Subaraw is a noteworthy project to promote and to push, as a major branding project not only of Puerto Princesa City but of Palawan as a province. This is because Subaraw is formed around an environmental theme, that of celebrating the importance of biodiversity in this era of climate change. There is no other place in the country to own such branding by Palawan, with its rich biodiversity status that is even considered as one of the world’s most important places to conserve.

This is the same reason why UNESCO has inscribed the Underground River as a world heritage — it is because the place is so important to humanity such that it has to be protected and preserved. Palawan itself, as one province, has been declared by the United Nations as a “man and biosphere reserve”, a recognition of the importance of its biodiversity.

The challenge has been laid not only to the City government but also to all tourism stakeholders in Palawan to make Subaraw, or the idea of celebrating Palawan’s unique and globally important biodiversity heritage, a major world calendar event that it deserves. It is a tall order, because it not only requires our capacity to transcend short term objectives, but also our ability to play a strategic game to achieve such status.

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