Author’s Note: Palawan has three capitals: Taytay was founded in 1623 and became the capital of the entire territory of the Calamianes; Cuyo became the second capital of Palawan from 1873 to 1903; and the present Puerto Princesa as the seat of the Palawan Provincial Government in 1911 by the New American Administration. This article is the last of three parts about the Palawan capitals.
Literally located in the middle of nowhere, the Cuyo Group of Islands is composed of 45 islets scattered in the Sulu Sea. It lies south of Mindoro and is halfway between Palawan and the island of Panay. Cuyo is divided in three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay. Cuyo is the oldest town in Palawan which has a culture of its own and was preserved for more than 350 years.
From the sea, Cuyo Island’s first visible landmark is a light tower by the pier. Many of the streets leading to the town have already been cemented but the town has preserved the Hispanic plaza-iglesia structures. Dominating the town centre is Cuyo’s 1860 church, convent, and fort built by the Spanish and finished in 1680; nearby stand a schoolhouse, a gymnasium, and a monument of the National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
An hour and 30 minutes by air and 24 hours by sea from Manila, Cuyo is one of the unexploited islands in the country. Home to a fort, which shelters a church and a convent in its high stone walls, constructed during the Spanish period to protect its population from Moro pirates, Cuyo has one of the most ancient forts in the Philippines.
Cuyo is also accessible via boat service several times a week from Puerto Princesa and Iloilo; there are also weekly boat services from Manila straight to Cuyo Island and vice versa.
During the early Spanish period, purposely to protect the Cuyonon from sporadic Moro attacks; Fort Cuyo was constructed and finished in 1680. The original complex of stone and mortar was a square with four bastions. The present complex, which occupies 1 hectare, is a solid rectangular edifice with walls 10 m high and 2 m thick. It has a tall belfry and watchtowers; its canons, which face the sea, are now fired only during town celebrations. It is considered as one of the most ancient and unique forts in the Philippines; unique in the sense that you can find the church, the convent and the Perpetual Adoration chapel all within the fort. In 1762 one of the British ships that invaded Manila fired at the Cuyo fort but it was not damaged at all. Another fort was started at Lucbuan seven kilometers away on the east side of Cuyo Island, but it was never finished. In 1873, the capital of Paragua (present day Palawan) was transferred to Cuyo from Taytay.
The potential of Cuyo as a wind/kite surfing destination should not be overlook. The island chain is blessed with continuous wind from all sides and adds to that, the sandy shallow beach extents to a considerable distance from its shores. During our brief stay in the island, there were already several European kite surfers enjoying the sports, and if promoted well, tourism can become a part of the vital economy that will uplift the lives of the Cuyonons.
All VRs taken on November 2010 during the return voyage of the balangays. Portions of text from Wikipedia.org. The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org