Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary: My Weekend Stopover, My HomeJuly 14, 2014
Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary:
My Weekend Stopover, My Home
“A place wished-for by nature, and park-ranger of IP’s called Manobos”
July 5-6, 2014
“When God created the world, he was very generous with the Philippines – giving the country no less than 7,107 islands with pristine beaches, majestic mountains, rich forest, flora and fauna and paradise of natural and cultural wonders.”
If there was a secret paradise in the Philippines, it must be the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Sitio Panlabuhan, Municipality of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, Island Mindanao.
That’s because visiting it is no walk in the park or at the street since it requires several hours of land and riverboat travel to get to the marsh itself. Set-up the pump boat ride would also require some effort and a lot of funds too if you don’t have the right connections. But no reservation, the Agusan Marsh is paradise to Visit and Discover, Depths and Explore.
……. Agusan Marsh is ancestral domain of the Manobos.
The Agusan Marsh is home of mostly ethnic Manobo’s indigenous peoples (IPs) who live in harmony with nature as far back as memory can recall. The community in Lake Panlabuhan exhibits this elaborate relationship with nature. They know the INS and OUTS of their place; the histories and relationship with the abundant life in there they continuously nurture; the spirits and ancestors they continue to hold in the highest regard.
……. They Live in Floating Houses.
Their houses are floating wooden structures, which are quite sturdy, are built on hundreds of pieces of bamboo with thatched roofs and rest on a platform lashed to enormous logs together with the level of the marsh. Whole communities exist like this, their houses tethered to one another in one place, but moveable at any time and depending on the current.
Take note also that there’s electricity in some of the dwelling in the village through the used of Solar Panel whom donated by NGO’s more than three years ago. Seldom they used also power generator for some important occasion that the Local Government of Loreto provided them.
There is also a floating pre-school building in the community as well as the
Floating house of worship, the Chapel. So you really feel at one with nature while you are there. Amusingly, though the mobile phone signal was very strong in the marsh area, Globe connection.
……. The IP’s Residence Offered Ritual
As part of mandatory tradition, we had to meet the community elders for a Manobo ritual to pay respect to the spirits, ask permission for my presence and request for safe passage while I was there. I was told that some visitors who simply entered the ancestral area without doing the ritual met a disaster of some sort, predictable.
The ritual began with the elder conversing with the spirits, mentioning that where (guests) was in the community. On the table was lighted candle, the eggs on a plate, a bottle of beer plus a glass with a serving of beer, a lighted cigarettes and a piso coins coming from the group (each of us).
After the conversation, the village elder stood up, took the glass of beer, proceeded to the window and emptied its contents into the marsh, coins was also throw-in. Then the glass was filled-up again and again and passed around so that everyone in the room was able to drink as respect to whom they given ritual.
After the ritual, we had a short caucus meeting with the locals in the community, an open discussion.
….. Conversation with the Locals
According to those I talked with, the water rises during the rainy season to create large lakes. It is during this time that vast numbers of ducks come to Agusan Marsh to nest and in the Lake, you get to see several square kilometers of lily pads, hyacinths and other aquatic plants spread out like an enormous green quilt. The dark tea-colored waters are home to untold numbers of catfish, carp, soft-shell fresh water turtles called “dinata,” and sailfin lizard.
This wetland immerses up excess water from a yearly rainfall of four meters plus nine rivers that slice through the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Compostela Valley Province.
The former President Fidel V. Ramos declared the marshland, which covers an area of 14,835.989 hectares, as a protected area.
……. Community Experience
The next morning, I was up early since the community wanted to show us the sunrise, the floating thousands of hyacinths, go boating on the lake and aside from joining the locals go fishing around the marsh, bird watching is also another activity of which Agusan Marsh being host to over 200 species of birds. The numbers swell especially during the cold months when the marsh hosts communities of migratory birds.
We experienced that knowledge on our own, in an off the record yet insightful way of exchange with the Manobo community during our stayed for two days. I, Madayaw Wow Dagway and the group led by Mindanao Tourism Council Member Jonallier Mana-ay Perez , The Travel Teller himself Olan Fernandez Emboscado, choosephilippines Ida Nanete Damo and rest of my Weekend Warriors #ByahengMindanaw Family Caroline Espejon, Sarah Elizar, Louie Pacardo, Kelzie Nicole Elizar, Leah A. Valle, Jayvie Piamonte, Jea, Fra Jamir , Kit, Dan and Jovic and Jeniel of the Wild Birds Photographers of the Philippines, vigilantly listened to the communities’ knowledge of conservation, their proud rapport with nature including their way of answering to the flood by hiding their whole community into the forest, or their life of living with the crocodiles.
……. My Weekend Adventure Trip
My trip to Agusan Marsh starts with land travel from (Davao del Norte Province in Tagum City Overland Terminal (4:20am), passing through Compostela Valley Province to crossing in Barangay Cuevas in Municipality of Trento (7:30am). That would take several hours depending on where you are coming from. From crossing Cuevas, a ride travel passing 2 Municipalities (Sta. Josefa and Vereula) and 1 Barangay (Neuva Gracia) to Poblacion of the Municipality of Loreto that would takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
The jump-off point for the riverboat ride in pantalan at Purok 7A in poblacion Loreto (1:20pm) cruising onwards to Umayam River, Sabang Kawayanan to crossing point in Barangay Katipunan that would take again an hour (2:20am).
Due to the lowest level of water “low tide” going to Sitio Panlabuhan, we had to change small pump-boats when we neared the entrance of the marsh (crossing Katipunan) passing through Dagun Creek, Lake Bukogon, Lake Kanimbaylan to Sitio Panlabuhan (3:10pm), a pump-boats have a hard time entering those Lakes due to the high concentration of lilies, hyacinths and other water plants.
“Agusan Marsh is everybody’s landscape photographer’s dream”
……. Come, Enjoy, Commune, with Nature!
“You don’t have to go far to get the once in a life time experience, enough to create lasting memories. Invite your friends and love ones along and visit one of nature’s jewels, beautifully crafted to inspire everyone. Come and indulge yourself in a journey of pleasure that doesn’t cost the earth,” saying from Adolph Edward G. Plaza, the Provincial Governor of Agusan del Sur
Special Thanks to:
Provincial Governor of Agusan del Sur – Governor Adolph Edward G. Plaza; Municipal Mayor of Loreto – Mayor Dario Otaza and his wife Madame Ligaya; Provincial Supervising Tourism Operations Officer – Mr. Nathaniel G. Lamzon; Municipal Tourism Officer of Loreto – Mr. Matt Poria; Municipal Information Officer of Loreta , Designate – Mr. Juvanie Esparia……..FOR THE WARM WELCOME ACCOMMODATION & GIVING US INSIGHTS AND INFORMATION, THANKS & SHOKRAN!
“When words are scarce to describe Agusan Marsh’s uniqueness, these travel sketches will forever prove that it is beyond indescribable.”
….. Captured shots taken during our boat entrance cruising at Kanimbaylan Lake at Sitio Panlabuhan…..
….. Sketched by Dan Guillano….. @ travelsketchlive.blogspot.com
Here is the ONLINE COPY of EDGE DAVAO newspaper…..