Monday, January 6, 2020

The 200+ year old Mangrove Trees of Villahermosa, Camotes Islands

200 year old sentinels of the sea
200 years are but a blip on the geological time scale but it's fascinating to find out what happens when man and nature leave trees to themselves. Our guide in Villahermosa, Camotes Islands in Cebu who is a DENR staff told us these are some of the oldest mangrove trees on the island.   And they certainly look that age -- gnarled, misshapen, but still standing tall (and wide) looking every bit as if they are gearing for another 200 years.   I've seen my fair share of mangrove forests even before I got interested in the botanical side of things but these trees are really something else, thick, imposing, and ancient-looking, unafraid to announce its vertical presence but also clear in making its horizontal draping intentions.

Not by coincidence, I'm presently reading "The Secret Life of Trees" by Colin Tudge and made more aware of this representative of the family Rhizophoraceae of the order Malphighiales.  That these trees, found at the outer fringes of the Tudela coast, were around during the last century of Spanish rule in the Philippines is incredibly fascinating.  To think that the truly modern times when motorized transport and modern factories were revolutionizing industry is just over a century old, these mangroves have been there when the landscape and seascape, not to mention the world at large, were vastly different. 

It is well and good that we have become more enlightened as to the ecological, not just the economical importance of mangroves; sifting sediments from inland going out to the sea; as lumber and firewood; playing host as a sanctuary especially for juvenile fishes as well as seagoing bird life, and helping slow down the energy of tidal surges during storms, typhoons and tsunamis.  I had to wade out to see and capture these giants (the younger trees are growing closer to the shore, er, houses which were built right where the water meets the land) but it's well worth it.  I thought I saw quite a bit of birds, some crows and quite a few Pied Fantails (Maria Capra in the local parlance) so this looks like a promising place for birding.   Given the chance to go back, this is one spot in Camotes Islands I would return to to map out the bird life.


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