ANY lingering trauma over Supertyphoon Yolanda is overshadowed by the thrill of a scenic boat ride through a mangrove forest that survived one of the most destructive typhoons in the country.
A blue-feathered long-beaked migratory bird perched on the branch of a “bakhaw” and some wild ducks greeted visitors at the start of the cruise.
Several other species thrive within the sea forest.
The mangroves that protected the coastal community of San Ricardo in Babatngon, Leyte from Yolanda in November 2013 is now an eco-tourism site managed by fishermen and their families.
BAKHAW or Babatngon Kalikasan Habitat Adaptation and Wellness, was launched last November 28. It offers various eco-tourism packages in three sites in three villages.
Barangays District 3 and District 4 offer a firefly experience, tarsier sighting in their natural habitat, hiking to scenic heights of Mt. Senai, “Bra Mountain” because of its landscape, and “Stone-like Pig” mountains.
The tidal flat is the source of clams locally called “liboo,” which is a famed aphrodisiac. There are also a few bangus pens in the area where tourists can fish and have them cooked.
The eco-tourism and social enterprise project started with a simple mangrove planting project of the Philippine Cooperative Central Fund Federation (PCF) as part of their 15th anniversary in 2013.
Babatngon is a fishing village about 30 minutes by car from Tacloban City.
No hotel operates in this third-class municipality.
But the fisherfolk, in coordination with the Department of Tourism, came up with a homestay program to accommodate tourists and give them an authentic rural experience.
The Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI), which believes in engaging one of the poorest sectors in society, adopted the project and helped finance it while the Eastern Visayas State University (EVSU) monitors the possible impact of tourism on the biodiversity.
Together with the EVSU cooperative, women’s association of District 4, agricultural and environmental association of District 3 and the San Ricardo Producers Association, they oversee the project and encourage the public to protect the mangroves while appreciating its benefits.
“We are doing this experiment and piloting this project in Babatngon. After 2016, we will have this social enterprise project assessed. We will check whether this project can continue in a sustainable manner and be replicated in other coastal barangays with the same ecosystem,” said Jay Bertram Lacsamana, executive director of FSSI.
Eugenio Cadano, barangay captain of the neighboring barangay of Maligabo, said they appreciate the projects in the barangays as these have increased fish catch and encourage coastal communities to protect the mangroves.