Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Notes from the Oceana Tañon Strait Photo Safari: Day 1, A Full Moon to Send Us on Our Way

Scouring the shallows for seashell at dusk • Oceana PH Tanon Strait Photo Safari
If I have not been fortunate enough to have been invited to join the Oceana Tañon Strait Photo Safari from the tailend of April to early May, I would not have given much thought to this body of water that straddles the islands of Cebu and Negros.   Though extremely narrow at 27 km, long at 160 km and deep at 500 m, the strait covers a total of 5,182 square kilometers which makes it more than three times the size of the more popular Tubbataha National Park.  

Chatting with writer, Cris Yabes, Oceana's Communications Director, Yas Arquiza, and my friend and fellow photographer, Ferdz Decena, I shared my observation that considering its size and importance especially to the people along its 450 km coastline, Tañon Strait is not "mainstream popular" as it ought to be which comes as a surprise.  That it was declared a protected seascape way back in 1998 in honor of the 14 species of whales and dolphins which inhabit this strait did not make it as well-known in the public's mind as say, Tubbataha. Nor did this prevent the prevalence of illegal fishing in the area.
Day 1 Route Map by Oggie Ramos
In my years of travel, I've ventured to more places in Mindanao than the Visayas for some quirky reason or another.  Perhaps, this is the time to make amends as we made our way from Cebu City northwest to San Remigio on our first day to catch the ferry boat headed for Santa Fe on Bantayan Island.  

When I wasn't admiring the roadside scenery on the three-hour van ride, I was catching up on sleep.   On the hour-long ferry ride, I momentarily escaped the confines of our van on the ro-ro to either scan the horizon, feel the sea breeze on my face or observe fellow passengers whiling away the time watching an action movie on the LED screen. I was feeling a bit feverish by nightfall when we settled in at Anika Resort though I had no inkling that this will keep me from taking a plunge into the strait for the duration of the trip.

Strolling by the beach at sunset, we found friendly dogs (hey, my kind of place) playing on the sands and some of the locals scouring the shallows for shellfish.   We had dinner at the cabana by the beach where we were beguiled by a full moon that rendered the calm sea shimmering long after the sun faded.  Perhaps, it was also the stimuli in getting groups of locals to sit on the beach and sing along to the accompaniment of a lonesome guitar and a makeshift beatbox.  The next day, we found out that many houses on the eastern part of the beach were damaged by a typhoon and have yet to be repaired or rebuilt.  But in the moonglow, somehow, we never really noticed.
Full moon and shimmering sea • Image from the Oceana PH Tañon Strait Photo Safari
Notes:  The Philippines celebrates Tañon Day this May 27, 2015.  Oceana Philippines is holding a photography exhibit in Badian in commemoration of this day, aiming to bring the message of protecting and preserving the Tañon Strait through images taken during the week-long photo safari by Manila- and Cebu-based photographers including yours truly.

About Oceana: Founded in 2001, Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation.   It has recently established its satellite office in the country.  Oceana Philippines seeks to restore the health, richness, and abundance of teh Philippines oceans.   It will promote the use of sound science-based policies to help ensure sustainable fisheries and vibrant marine ecosystems.  To learn more about Oceana, its mission and endeavors, vist ph.oceana.org 

Attribution:  Facts and figures culled from the publication, Love Letter to Tañon Strait by Stacy K. Baez, Charlotte Grubb, Margot L. Stiles, and Gloria Ramos • Map of Tañon Strait modified from the same publication by L. V. Aragones

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