Pulau Palawan is an islet lying off the southern coast of Sentosa Island. Originally a reef called Serembu Palawan, its name was changed to Pulau Palawan after it was reclaimed. Pulau Palawan is not physically connected to Sentosa, and should not to be mistaken for the artificial sandy islet which is annexed to Palawan Beach on Sentosa and labelled the 'Southernmost Point of Continental Asia'. The word 'serembu' is perhaps derived from the Malay word 'terumbu', which means a reef, rock or stump that is visible only at low tide. 'Pulau' is a Malay word for island. 'Palawan' is likely a variant of the Malay word 'pahlawan', which means warrior, leader in war or hero, and alludes to an earlier era of warfare and piracy in the islands.
Pulau Palawan is an islet lying off the southern coast of Sentosa island. It appears isolated with no other islets or islands near it apart from Sentosa. It was originally a reef known as Serembu Palawan, and appeared in at least one map as Palawan Reef. With land reclamation, its name was changed to Pulau Palawan. Yet reclamation did not enlarge it to a dramatic extent. It is still small, and approximately the size of Pulau Biola (about 4,000 square metres).
What it is not
Pulau Palawan is not physically connected to Sentosa at all, and should not be mistaken for the artificial sandy islet sticking out of the artificial lagoon called Palawan Beach in the south of Sentosa. The name of the lagoon is perhaps the cause of the confusion. The artificial islet is joined to Sentosa by a suspension bridge and labelled the 'Southernmost Point of Continental Asia'.
The word 'serembu' is perhaps derived from the Malay word 'terumbu', which means a reef, rock or stump visible only at low tide but covered at high water. 'Palawan' is likely a variant of the Malay word 'pahlawan', which is of Persian origin and means a warrior, leader in war, hero, person who is strong and brave. It alludes to an earlier era of warfare and piracy around the islands.
As Pulau Palawan has been reclaimed, it is presumably not a reef but an island proper. Hence it is now referred to as 'pulau' which in Malay means island or piece of rising ground in a sea.
Every single island and islet off Singapore has a Malay name, and a romantic one at that, alluding to objects of nature, folk tales or distinctive personalities. Some also have English names. It has been noted that their names, at times strange, hold the imagination and affection of the inhabitants. This is not surprising, for not long ago most of the islands were significant navigational landmarks for local sailing craft, and many had Malay settlements on them. Few Singaporeans remember all the island names, except some boatmen and the last of the islands' inhabitants, mostly fishermen of Orang Laut descent.
Khor Kok Kheng
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The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.