What’s in a name?

Ever wonder how each tiny bit of land gets its name? With 45 islands and islets within Bacuit Bay, the early settlers of El Nido must have had a great time naming them all. As the stories behind these names get passed down from generation to generation, the original version gets altered somewhat, leaving behind something no less interesting than the original.

Most names come from the physical features of the places themselves. Lapus-lapus Beach on the mainland gained its name from the word “lapus” meaning “tagusan” or “pathway”, as the beach has a natural pathway leading to El Nido Town. Lagen Island started out as“Langen” – the island’s four peaks makes it look like an old wood burning stove. The “minilog” or “small river” on this island’s left side is responsible for Miniloc’s name.

On the other hand, some of the islands are named after the plants and animals found there. For instance, Pacanayas evolved from “Pakanayos”, which comes from “kanayos”, the local name for the great frigatebird (Fregata minor). Bamboo thickets gave Dibuluan its name – “bulo” is the local name for bamboo. El Nido’s settlers apparently couldn’t forget the “tungaw” (little insects living in the sand that inflict a nasty bite) they encountered on one particular island that they named the place after it. Guintungauan basically means “attacked by “tungaw”“. Believe me when I say that the “tungaw” are still there to this day and that their bites itch like hell.

A few names have more fanciful sources. Seven Commandos Beach is said to be named for the seven World War II commandos whose ship sank. Cadlao comes from “kadlaw” or “laugh” – the townspeople laugh if the island is visible because that means that the weather will be good. Pinasil originates from “pinasil-pisil”, or “broken into pieces”. According to legend, two giants used the islands as tops. When the two islands collided, they broke into pieces, resulting in Pinasil Island and the small string of islets near it.

Names evolve over time, as seen by the evolution of . After all, the Tagbanua people gave El Nido its original name: Bacuit. It was only when the Spanish came that they changed the name to its present “El Nido”, coming from “nido” or “nest”. I wonder what El Nido will be called in the future.

Map of El Nido