Somewhere between the islands of Busuanga and Culion, I noticed this floating hut near the shores of a deserted island. I wondered why someone would like to stay in a floating hut in the middle of nowhere. Then I saw lots and lots of floating black balls, so I asked our boatman about it. He told us the area is a pearl farm. The huts are for security personnel and they are armed with automatic weapons!
I have not seen a pearl farm before. I knew about pearl farms in Mindanao but didn't know there are pearl farms in Palawan. Turned out, pearl farming in the region began in the early 1900's. The clean waters of Palawan have attracted investors to engage in pearl farming, particularly in the island municipalities. A total of more than 44,000 hectares are under lease for pearl farming, and the lease period is generally 25 years.
Pearls are cultured by transplanting a tiny piece of mantle tissue of an oyster shell into the shell of a young oyster. This graft forms a pearl sac and precipitate calcium carbonate into this pocket. Over time, this grows into a pearl. It takes 2-5 years for a pearl to mature. Source
The world's largest pearl, the 9.45-inch Pearl of Lao Tzu, was found by a diver in Palawan in 1934 and is now valued at US$42 million. Source
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