El Nido’s timeline is divided into natural history, pre-history and history. Natural history covers the time when El Nido’s rocks were formed during the Permian Period until the Terminal Pleistocene when the last Ice Age ended.
Pre-history covers the first traces of human activity in El Nido from the Terminal Pleistocene Period to the Neolithic period highlighted by the practice of cremation.
In the Philippine Archipelago, which is composed of more than 7,000 islands, Northern Palawan and Mindoro are oldest, they are the land masses that drifted away from the Asian mainland. The rest of the Philippines just sprouted from the seabed through volcanic eruptions and movements of tectonic plates and they drifted from the Pacific Ocean to the present day Philippines.
According Dr. Alan Fernando, a paleontologist from the University of the Philippines, El Nido has probably the oldest rock formations and fossils in the Philippines. The oldest rock, called by the scientific community as “Bacuit” rock is 270 million years old. These rock formations are presently located in Dolarog and Bucana area. The second oldest, called “Minilog” by geologists, is 250 million years old. Minilog Rock Formations are visible wherever you go in the town area, Bacuit Bay and New Ibajay. All limestone karst formations in El Nido are classified as Minilog rocks formations.
Permian fossils, which existed between 252 million to 299 million years ago, are present in some rock formations in El Nido. They can be found in Matinloc Is., Shimizu Is., Diribungan Cave and Ille Cave. These fossils are abundant in Ille Cave and Diribungan Cave.
Humans already inhabited Dewil Valley in the terminal Pleistocene period. There are traces of human activities in 14,000 BP (Years Before Present). The inhabitants that time use stone tools that they collect from Sibaltan. Scientists also discovered metatarsal bones of Pantera Tigris, the species of modern-day Asian tiger. In 10,000 BP, tigers became extinct because of change of environment as the ice age that started 70,000 years ago ends and human inhabitants flourished in the area. They were either eaten or just killed because they threat to humans. The presence of the tiger that time support the theory that there was a land bridge between Palawan and Borneo during the ice ages. There was a time that sea level dropped by 150 meters and tigers were able to cross the Palawan-Borneo land bridge.
Between 9,000 BP and 7,000 BP, cremation was practiced in Dewil Valley. Scientists discovered 8 cremation sites at Ille Cave and Pasimbahan Cave in Sitio Istar. According to archaeologists, this practice is probably the oldest in South East Asia.
During the 5th century AD, a trading community began to flourish in Sibaltan. They practice agriculture, trade and has a form of government. Scientists identified Tang Dynasty and Ming Dynasty jars unearthed in the area. They excavated human remains and postholes. The trading community is believed to begin declining in the 15th century.
In the 16th century AD, a Tagbanua Village, named “Talindak,” began to flourish in Langeb-Langeban, Bgy. Aberawan. The name of the place that time became the first recorded name of El Nido. Talindak is a Tagbanua word meaning “a chance appearance in a place.” The place was believed to be enchanted and sometimes can’t be found. The organized settlement later transferred to the present day Cabigsing in Buena Suerte.
In 17th century AD, Cuyunons began exploring Paragua [present day Palawan] to plant rice as agricultural lands could no longer support the increasing population in Cuyo Island. Pangko boats became the important means of transportation and trade.
In 1890, Talindak was renamed Bacuit by the Spaniards. During the Spanish colonization, Bacuit was a just a barrio of the Municipality of Taytay, the capital of the former province of Calamianes. The Spanish families that time were the families of Vazquez, Canovas and Rey. On March 16, 1916, Bacuit finally became a municipality. On June 17, 1954, through Republic Act 1140, the town received its present name “El Nido,” after the nests of swiftlets found in the caves of its limestone cliffs. El Nido is a Spanish word for “The Nest.”
In 1965, Dr. Robert Fox discovered the “Yawning Jar” in Leta-Leta Cave, Lagen Is. Dr. Fox is the one who discovered the Manunggul Jar of Quezon, Palawan.