Brooke's Point in Palawan : Origin of world's biggest pearl

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bookes point in palawanBrooke’s Point, Palawan : This progressive town is the origin of the Pearl of Allah or the Pearl of Lao Tzu, the biggest pearl in the world.

The Tridacna shell, weighing almost 50 kilos of the clam “pearl” which measures 9.45 inches in diameter and weighs 6.4 kilograms is still being kept at the house of the village chief of barangay Oring-Oring in this town.

According to the Guinness’ Book of World Records, the San Francisco Gem Laboratory values the pearl at 40 million US dollars.

Manang Aisa, wife of Oring-Oring barangay captain Krustan Mattarasal, said they have kept the shell since 1969 and is frequently visited both local residents and foreigners in curiosity.  Asked If she will sell the shell, “if the price is good, why not?”, Manang Aisa, 64 years old replied.

Local researchers claim to have documented narrative evidence to indicate that the pearl originated here in 1935 and was not handed to a foreigner as a gift, as generally viewed, but actually stashed away to be sold and never returned.

The Muslim diver, who found the gem, said its surface bore the image of a turbaned face, and he named it the Pearl of Allah.

Raul Quijano Jr., an engineer who also acts as the municipality’s tourism officer, and his team have made researches on the history of the pearl and to have traced the descendants of Panglima Pisi, the tribal chieftain who gave the pearl to a certain Wilburn Dowell Cobb on May 7, 1934.

But Panglima Pisi’s descendants are saying that it was actually given to him to be sold to a buyer.

George Pisi, who claims to be a direct descendant of Panglima Pisi, earlier possessed half of the shell, but it was transferred to Mattarasal family.

The other half is now in the custody of Leonila Vegonte, also a resident of Oring-Oring.

In his account published originally in the Natural History magazine in 1939, Cobb said a Muslim diver had drowned when his foot was caught by the giant Tridacna giga clam. When the body was brought to Panglima Pisi, the chieftain took possession of the bivalve and discovered the pearl inside.

Cobb said his first offer to buy the pearl from Panglima Pisi was turned down. But when he returned to the village in 1939, he came upon the chieftain’s dying son and helped him recover from malaria using Western medicine.

As a reward, the tribal leader supposedly gave him the pearl.

Cobb brought the pearl back to the United States in 1939 and had it authenticated in the American Museum of Natural History.

After his death in 1980, Cobb’s estate sold the pearl to a Victor M. Barbish, a millionaire from Colorado Springs, who wanted to give it to his daughter Gina Diane Barbish. Barbish said the pearl is lodged in a Denver bank vault and a series of safe deposit boxes, and has reportedly expressed his desire to turn it over to a museum.

An Associated Press story on the pearl in 2005 quoted Barbish as saying: “It draws the wrong type of people.”

Barbish, who now owns 66 percent of the pearl, has claimed to have received an offer in 1999 from the world’s top terrorist, Osama bin Laden, for 60 million US dollars, purportedly to give to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

He also claimed that an emissary of President Ferdinand Marcos offered to buy it, but the deal did not push through when the Philippine dictator was ousted from power in 1986.

Based on Barbish’s accounts, a Chinese merchant, who is a descendant of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, told him that the pearl dated back to the Sui dynasty.

Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, had reportedly wanted to spend his final years far from civilization. As he prepared to depart, he handed to a nephew a small amulet to be placed inside a clam, where it grew to become the Pearl of Lao Tzu.

Eventually, the legend continues, the pearl was lost in a shipwreck centuries ago, then found in 1934 by a diver who drowned when he reached into a huge clam to take it.

In a latest report, a Colorado jury awarded a 34.4 milion US dollar share on the pearl to the heirs of a woman whose husband, bar owner Joe Bonicelli, was linked to her murder in 1975.

His children now reportedly want the pearl sold so they can be paid the settlement they won against their father’s estate

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