Pulau Palawan



Pulau Palawan is an islet lying off the southern coast of Sentosa Island.1 Originally a reef called Terembu Palawan, its name was changed to Pulau Palawan after it was reclaimed.2 Pulau Palawan is not physically connected to Sentosa, and should not to be mistaken for the man-made sandy islet which is annexed to Palawan Beach on Sentosa and labelled the “Southernmost Point of Continental Asia”.The word terumbu means “a reef, rock or stump that is visible only at low tide” in Malay.4 Pulau is a Malay word for “island”.5 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.6  

Location
Situated off the southern coast of Sentosa island, Pulau Palawan appears isolated with no other islets or islands in close proximity apart from Sentosa.7 It was originally a reef known as Terembu Palawan, and appeared in at least one map as “Pelewan Reef”.8 With land reclamation, its name was changed to Pulau Palawan.9 Yet reclamation did not enlarge it to a dramatic extent, with its current acreage spanning approximately 0.3 ha (about 3,000 square metres).10


Confusion in Name
Pulau Palawan is not physically connected to Sentosa, and should not be mistaken for the artificial sandy islet sticking out of the artificial lagoon called Palawan Beach in the south of Sentosa.11 The name of the lagoon is perhaps the cause of the confusion. The man-made islet is joined to Sentosa by a suspension bridge and labelled the “Southernmost Point of Continental Asia.12  


Historical Name
The word terumbu means “a reef, rock or stump visible only at low tide but covered at high water” in Malay.13 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”.14 It alludes to an earlier era of warfare and piracy around the islands.15


As Pulau Palawan has been reclaimed, it is presumably not a reef but an island proper.16 Hence, it is now referred to as pulau which in Malay means “island or piece of rising ground in a sea”.17 

Most islands and islets off Singapore have a Malay name. Some also have English names. This is not surprising, for not long ago most of the islands were significant navigational landmarks for local sailing craft, and many were inhabited by Malay settlements. Few Singaporeans remember all the island names, except perhaps some boatmen and the last of the islands’ inhabitants, mostly fishermen of Orang Laut (sea people) descent.18



Author

Khor Kok Kheng




References
1. Mighty minds Singapore street directory. (2015). Singapore: Mighty Minds Pub, [map 142]. (Call no.: RSING 912.5957 MMSSD-[DIR])
2. Tan, H. Y. (1995, November 22). Singapore islands get new names with reclamation. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Mighty minds Singapore street directory. (2015). Singapore: Mighty Minds Pub, [map 142]. (Call no.: RSING 912.5957 MMSSD-[DIR]); Google. (n.d). Google map of Pulau Palawan. Retrieved 2016, September 5 from Google Maps website: https://www.google.com.sg/maps/place/Pulau+Palawan/@1.2480398,103.8157141,16.5z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x31da1c06d7cd726f:0xf8211b14f3aa9542!8m2!3d1.2494444!4d103.8152778
4. Wilkinson, R. J. (1952). An abridged Malay-English dictionary (Romanised). London: Macmillan & Co, p. 254. (Call no.: RCLOS 499.230321 MAL-[RFL])
5. Wilkinson, R. J. (1952). An abridged Malay-English dictionary (Romanised). London: Macmillan & Co, p. 189. (Call no.: RCLOS 499.230321 MAL-[RFL])
6. Kamus KBSM: Dengan padanan bahasa Inggeris dan daftar istilah biologi, fizik, kimia dan matematik. (1989). Kuala Lumpur: Karya Bistari, p. 254. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 499.230321 KAM); Wilkinson, R. J. (1952). An abridged Malay-English dictionary (Romanised). London: Macmillan & Co, p. 171. (Call no.: RCLOS 499.230321 MAL-[RFL]); Frost, M. R., & Balasingamchow, Y. (2009). Singapore: A biography. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 FRO-[HIS])
7. Mighty minds Singapore street directory. (2015). Singapore: Mighty Minds Pub, [map 142]. (Call no.: RSING 912.5957 MMSSD-[DIR])
8. Tan, H. Y. (1995, November 22). Singapore islands get new names with reclamation. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The National Archives, United Kingdom. (1884). Singapore: Plan of harbour and roadstead [Survey Map] Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
9. Tan, H. Y. (1995, November 22). Singapore islands get new names with reclamation. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Ministry of Culture. (2002). Singapore facts and pictures 2002. Singapore: Ministry of Culture, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SMCFFS)
11. Mighty minds Singapore street directory. (2015). Singapore: Mighty Minds Pub, [map 142]. (Call no.: RSING 912.5957 MMSSD-[DIR]); Google. (n.d). Google map of Pulau Palawan. Retrieved 2016, September 5 from Google Maps website: https://www.google.com.sg/maps/place/Pulau+Palawan/@1.2480398,103.8157141,16.5z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x31da1c06d7cd726f:0xf8211b14f3aa9542!8m2!3d1.2494444!4d103.8152778
12. Mighty minds Singapore street directory. (2015). Singapore: Mighty Minds Pub, [map 142]. (Call no.: RSING 912.5957 MMSSD-[DIR])
13. Wilkinson, R. J. (1952). An abridged Malay-English dictionary (Romanised). London: Macmillan & Co, p. 254. (Call no.: RCLOS 499.230321 MAL-[RFL])
14. Kamus KBSM: Dengan padanan bahasa Inggeris dan daftar istilah biologi, fizik, kimia dan matematik. (1989). Kuala Lumpur: Karya Bistari, p. 254. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 499.230321 KAM); Wilkinson, R. J. (1952). An abridged Malay-English dictionary (Romanised). London: Macmillan & Co, p. 171. (Call no.: RCLOS 499.230321 MAL-[RFL]
15. Frost, M. R., & Balasingamchow, Y. (2009). Singapore: A biography. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 FRO-[HIS])
16. Tan, H. Y. (1995, November 22). Singapore islands get new names with reclamation. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Wilkinson, R. J. (1952). An abridged Malay-English dictionary (Romanised).  London: Macmillan & Co, p. 189. (Call no.: RCLOS 499.230321 MAL-[RFL])
18. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, p. 249. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])



Further resources
Martin, R. M. (1983). History of the British possessions in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. London: Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Colonial Office Library, pp.158–160.

(Call no.: RSING 950 MAR)

Savage V. R., & Yeoh S. A. (2004). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, p. 37.
(Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
 
Sentosa Development Corporation. (2002). Everything you need to know about Sentosa. Singapore: Sentosa Development Corporation, pp. 18–19.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EYNKS-[TRA])

Singam, S. D. R. (1962). Malayan place names. Kuala Lumpur: The Author, p. 45.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 RAJ)

Tan, T., & Neo, H. M. (2004, December 4). Dwindling island communities. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Winstedt, R. O. (1964). A practical modern Malay–English dictionary. Singapore: Marican & Sons, pp. 133, 192.
(Call no.: Malay RCLOS 499.230321 WIN)



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.

 

Subject
Singapore offshore islands
Geography>>Geographical Areas and Countries>>Singapore Offshore Islands
Law and government>>National development>>Land use
Islands--Singapore