Spanish fortress and cliff diving in Linapacan

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No matter how clear the water and fantastic the snorkeling can be on these countless paradise beach islands, sometimes its nice to do something a little different. 

This can be found on the big, central island of Linapacan, a bit west of its main town of San Miguel. Both the cliff diving at Doble Nueve and Spanish fortress are in the same area, so both can be accomplished in the same session, although, as explained below, renovations of the fortress are not yet completed.

Be warned that the climb up for the diving is not that easy. Although there is a rope in place to help, the initial part of the climb is quite steep and the rock is very hard (although not sharp or painful to walk on). And although the height overall is not great, it is still a bit scary to jump into the water. Your boat will anchor offshore from the jagged rocks, so you’ll have to swim a bit to get to the climb, and if the water is choppy and wavy as it splashes against the cliff face, the initial climb out of the water may be a bit challenging. So just be careful, but for me it was definitely worth it!

Here’s a video of the experience:

Spanish fortress in Linapacan

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For more than two years I lived on the beautiful island of Dimancal, where I constantly egged the locals to include this old fortress in their boat tours, but each time they’d just wave their hand explaining that its reconstruction is not completed and that the path is hard to find. Later I learned they received half a million pesos from the government for its rehabilitation, but years passed and still no progress, even with my own humble although much appreciated contribution. I was even prepared to put together a band of volunteers equipped with machetes, saws and axes to at least kick start this project somewhat, but alas, my term in this paradise was coming to an end and I did not manage to host a large enough group to make it happen prior to my departure. 

Nevertheless, as is explained below, someone did manage to find and document it, and explain in detail how to get there. If you like these sorts of historical sites and if equipped with these instructions, you can egg your boatman to take you there. Perhaps even ask to borrow some machetes and make it easier for others to follow. At least in this way the locals will realise it has value and be motivated to do something about it. 

Fortress at Barangay Caseladan

A relic of Palawan’s days as a Spanish stronghold in the 18th century, it was built between the 1620s to 1738 to help defend the area against the Moro invaders. There are actually three fortresses in the area, the last one only a few low walls remaining but in the shape of a pentagon. The town of San Miguel was originally located under the main fortress, but later moved to where it is now after WW2. 

Here is a recount of Cheyenne Morrison (linked to from above) and who has won several awards for his explorations of the Philippines:

“But I was determined to track down the fortress as the fact no one knew where it was just made my fascination stronger. On a brief trip to Manila I took the opportunity of researching in the National Library of the Philippines, and after 4 hours of wading through ancient accounts I came across the following description.

On the island of Linacupan, beside the town and on the edge of the sea, rose a rock whose ascent was difficult with only one access to the top. A plain extended over it and there a parapet of masonry had been constructed, surrounded and guarded by artillery. It dominated the town and defended its entrance so well that it couldn’t be attacked without the attacker being attacked in return. Within was a church, quarters for the troops, some houses of refuge for the inhabitants and a natural spring that provided sweet and potable water.

The inhabitants and the priests, without any aid from the central government, supported the fort. It was only during the administration of Gov. Fernando Valdes-Tamon (1739) that four cannons, the battery and gunpowder were sent for its defense. — Vicente Barrantes (1878)

I knew that it was supposed to be located in Caseledan and when I asked where this was people knew that it was located on the other side of the island. The next day we proceeded over to the other side of the island, the western side of the island has two large bays, each of these bays is then divided into a further 5 smaller bays.

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Entering one of the larger bays we stopped a local fisherman for directions to the village of Caseldan, he pointed in a rough area, but as we proceeded closer we couldn’t see anything. Coming closer into the end of the bay we asked another fisherman who gave us a better direction. Finally we could see a small bay with a beach dominated by a large hill, a deep anchorage extended into the bay and there were 3 houses on the beach.

I pointed to the hill covered in very old trees and said to my friends “That’s the Fort, I’m sure of it because it’s in the right place and those trees are very old”.

Sure enough when we asked the people on the beach they said yes the fort was on the hill. We went just behind the beach where we came upon a small stream which fed into a well. Just past this a small trail turned left and steeply up the hill.

After a few minutes of pushing our way through the undergrowth I spotted the first stone wall which was only 2 foot high, this was the edge of the outer rampart which surrounds the fortress proper. After about 5 meters we came to a corner of the fortress and we followed the walls along to the front of the fort which is dominated by two Baluartes or bastions. These are heavily overgrown by Balete trees, a kind of strangler fig which has grown up through the fortress walls giving it the appearance of the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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As we progressed our way around the wall we passed the other Baluarte and as we rounded a short wall we came to the entrance to the fortress. As we entered a very large gate a stairway was immediately to our left, we took this up to the upper ramparts of the fortress and with difficulty made our way all the way around.

From the SW Baluarte we could see the beach 250 feet below us, and if the trees were cleared we would have a fantastic view of the surrounding area. In the middle of the fortress it is overgrown with trees some of them with huge roots.

As we stood on the upper parapet of the SW Baluarte and gazed down into the bay I could almost feel what it must have felt like being a Spanish soldier in one of the most remote outposts in the world.”

How To Get There:

The fortress is located 13.5 kilometers west of Linapacan’s main town of San Miguel, in Sitio Caseledan, Pangaraycan, in North Bay located in Barangay Maroyrogrog. For more detailed instructions refer to the section above.

To get here you can join or book one of our private custom Palawan boat tours between El Nido and Coron. Tons of paradise beach islands to see along the way, excellent snorkeling in crystal clear waters, caves to explore, Spanish fortress and much more. Completely off the beaten path!

Palawan-boat-tours

Araw Beach

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A nice little stop about 40 minutes past our camp in Linapacan, but you can camp overnight here as well, or sleep in their guest hut, either for about 150p/pax. They have a little store which sells beer and snacks and the locals are very friendly and love to show off their videoke machine.

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One of their outdoor tables where you can have lunch, with the guesthouse just behind it (closeup below).

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Here’s a nice little drone shot of this beautiful beach (the cliff diving is in nearby Linapacan island):

To get here you can join or book one of our private custom Palawan boat tours between El Nido and Coron. Tons of paradise beach islands to see along the way, excellent snorkeling in crystal clear waters, caves to explore, Spanish fortress and much more. Completely off the beaten path!

Palawan-boat-tours

Back to suggested travel itinerary for the Palawan area.

Linapacan

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The Linapacan area comprises of 52 paradise beach islands half way between El Nido and Coron. It is not very developed and definitely off the beaten path, but nice little resorts and hotels can be found.

You can get there by the public ferries or hire one of our private boats for a multiday tour through the area. Check out my suggested travel itinerary for the Palawan to get the best experience.

Palawan-boat-tours

History

During the 16th century the Spanish sent missionaries to the Philippines, including one to Linapacan. When they landed on shore, they saw footprints, traced them and eventually came to a hut where a beautiful woman resided. She replied that her name was Pacan and they later discovered that she was the wife of the island’s chieftain. They thus named the island Reina Pacan, in honour of the beautiful queen, but which much later was renamed to Linapacan.

In 1954 the municipality of Linapacan was created, breaking away from Coron and comprising of 52 islands covering a land area of 15,520 hectares.

After 1960 the mayor of San Miguel, the main village on the island of Linapacan, established a high school there, from which has sprouted a college specialising in fisheries and tourism.

In 1995, Ben, the property owner of our kitesurfing resort, became mayor of San Miguel, the youngest ever. His main concern was to develop the municipality in accordance with the Strategic Environmental Plan of Palawan (SEP Law), the construction of a multi-purpose building (gymnasium), construction of some municipal roads, the widening of the port, improving the water supply, construction of some deep wells, and a fishing landing in San Nicolas, a similar sized village on the other side of Linapacan. He also owns the BRC hotel, where you can rent a bicycle or motorbike to get through the jungle trail to San Nicolas.

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Linapacan is about half way between El Nido and Coron and where most of the ferries stop on their way between the two. It is declared by numerous sources to have the clearest waters in the world. The locals are good at respecting and protecting the coral reefs, making it an excellent destination for snorkeling. There are also two US shipwrecks for avid divers. All the islands in the surrounding area are either completely undeveloped or very rural in nature, with small villages at the most. This makes it a perfect ferry stop along the 8+ long hour journey between El Nido and Coron and where tourists can enjoy the natural splendour to relax on a multitude of desolate and pristine beaches – or sleep on their very own island. Caves may also be found.

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One of the deserted islands you can sleep on.

The island of Linapacan is also home to the ruins of an old 18th century Spanish fort at Caseledan, very much overgrown by vines, with only the walls and a well remaining. It is near a pearl farm and may require a guide to find.

Tourist Destination for Nature Lovers

With its clearest waters in the world, covered by 60% forest and a population of 14,180 (about 2 hectares per person), Linapacan is definitely a treat for nature lovers. The 52 surrounding islands are additional pearls in this gem of the Philippines.

With Siargoa named one of the world’s best surf spots, and El Nido making the cover of top travel magazine “Travel+Leisure” in July of 2013, the Philippines in general is set to become a hot tourist destination. Most of the people speak good English, unlike other SEAsian countries they clean up the streets and sidewalks, they are friendly, and the 7,107 islands make it a natural paradise.

Although places like Cebu or Boracay are more famous, Palawan is becoming a favourite for those who want to get off the beaten path.

For two years in a row the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine have voted Palawan as the best island in the world, more than 85,000 of them voting as such most recently.

It is now home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, while more recently Hollywood star and Australian bombshell Margot Robbie cast some limelight on El Nido, proclaiming: ‘I died and went to heaven’.

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Palawan beat out other popular island destinations such as Bora Bora, Bali, Santorini, and Maldives, making the Manila > Puerto Princesa > El Nido > Coron > Manila route increasingly popular.

If you love nature and like to get off the beaten path, check out our suggested itinerary for this corridor. Although El Nido and Coron are becoming increasingly touristy, San Miguel is still a quaint village and the many surrounding islands will certainly remain undeveloped for many years still. Come and explore our beautiful back yard!

If you decide to check out Palawan, our small family operation organizes private custom boat tours through the Palawan area, voted the best island in the world, with its 52 pristine white sand beaches and some of the clearest waters in the world.

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Experience the thrill of island hopping in the Philippines
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Barangonan

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Located just to southwest of Linapacan, this is just another jewel with endless beaches and friendly people.

Here were were treated to a nice meal from the village’s captain.

 

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Children drying fish on the ever so present village basketball court.

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Calacala

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A lovely piece of island beach owned by one of the many relatives of the boat operator. Excellent snorkeling if you’re a strong swimmer during tide changes, another beautiful place to check out on your island explorations.

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Calibangbangan

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From image above: island just left/west of Linapacan, where the red balloon is.

The village is located on a thin strip at the bottom right hand corner of the island, so lots of beach property and a short distance to get across.

A lovely stroll amongst lovely people.

And if you prefer to stay on land, this is one of those places where it will not be a problem to find accommodation amongst the warm hospitality of these friendly people.

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To get here you can join or book one of our private custom Palawan boat tours between El Nido and Coron. Tons of paradise beach islands to see along the way, excellent snorkeling in crystal clear waters, caves to explore, Spanish fortress and much more. Completely off the beaten path!

Palawan-boat-tours

Takling

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This gem of an island is owned by the husband of the tour operator’s sister. I asked if I could develop it with profit sharing but he is adamant about selling only. Ten million pesos anyone? We often camp here overnight on our boat journeys. Best coral reefs I have seen yet and will upload a video once I’m done editing.

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Collecting corals to make beach pristine soft.

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Getting the evening fire ready for fish roasting.

To get here you can join or book one of our private custom Palawan boat tours between El Nido and Coron. Tons of paradise beach islands to see along the way, excellent snorkeling in crystal clear waters, caves to explore, Spanish fortress and much more. Completely off the beaten path!

Palawan-boat-tours

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