Dugongs: Mermaids of the Palawan Caves

There are many reasons to book a Puerto Princesa tour package. Palawan has many attractive offerings that can attract every kind of tourists. One of these is the Dugong, or sea cow. According to some, it’s from this animal that the legend of the mermaid came about.

Legend of the Mermaid

Mermaids have long stirred the imaginations of people. Artists used mermaids as subjects for paintings, songs, documentaries, and movies. According to stories, mermaids lure men into the water to their doom. Other stories say they are kind, as they give gifts and help seafarers in distress. Mermaids continue as one of the most fascinating mythological creatures. Each culture has their mermaid stories. Most stories are from the Near East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. In the Philippines, tales from the South speak of a “kataw.” It is what Cebuanos call a mermaid living in the seas and caves of the islands.

Palawan’s Mermaids

A Puerto Princesa tour package will take you to Palawan, a province in the Philippines with its own mermaid story to tell. Their version of a “kataw” is the dugong or sea cow. These are large creatures that feed on sea grass. Locals associated these creatures with mermaids. Many sailors speak of encountering sea cows and mistaking them for mermaids. Interestingly, Christopher Columbus himself reported seeing merfolk during his exploration of the Caribbean. There have also been similar sightings reported in Israel, Canada, and Zimbabwe. To this day, however, no one has found evidence proving their existence.

When you book a Puerto Princesa tour package with underground river tour, your boatman may tell you a story about the fossil discovered inside the cave of the river. This is a dugong fossil, which experts believe is about twenty millions years old. Some people call dugongs as Sirenia or Sirenians, an order of water-dwelling, herbivorous mammals. “Sirenia” is derived from the “sirens,” Greek mythology beings that drew mariners to their ruin. This explains why the Tagalog term for mermaid is “sirena.” Dugongs live in coastal marine waters, swamps, and rivers. You may also see them in estuaries.

The Miocene Age Sea Cow

In 2011, a team of Italian scientists discovered a 20 million-year-old fossil of a dugong. It belongs to one of two extinct species of the sea cow. Experts believe the Sirenian order evolved more than 50 million years ago. This is what makes the archaeological find very important. The specimen, found in the cave, is the first find from the Philippines. It is also the first fossil find of this kind in the Southeast Asian region. The fossil is in the deeper section of the cave, which isn’t accessible with a regular Puerto Princesa underground river tour.

Do you want to visit the underground river? Apart from the fossil, you’ll find wonderful stalactite and stalagmite formations in the cave. Contact a registered Philippine travel agency for more information on Puerto Princesa tour packages and the famous underground river.

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