2016 Pawikan Festival in Bataan - Another Item Checked Off My Bucket List

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I think a lot of people associate Bataan, a province situated in Central Luzon, to the infamous Death March during the World War II. I was in my fourth year in high school when I first travelled to Bataan for a documentary film we were doing for our school. My group mates and I spent a good deal of time on our film so I know about the history of Bataan. Last year, our company team building was held in Morong, Bataan. That was two trips but I did not know anything about the province aside from its rich history.
When your mama tells you not to do something but you do it anyway lol!
It was not until last month (last week of November to be exact) that I got to know a different side of Bataan. Members of the media and Pinoy Travel Bloggers were invited to witness the 2016 Pawikan festival. When I got the email from Bataan Tourism Office, I was truly delighted. Watching sea turtles hatch/make their way to the ocean is on my bucket list and I had been waiting for the chance to witness it myself. I did not even know there is a Pawikan Conservation Center in Morong, Bataan.

Our group arrived on a Saturday night in Morong, Bataan. We check in to our assigned accommodation before we went to the Pawikan Consevation Center to take part in a night patrol for nesting mother Pawikans, during which eggs are collected for transfer to the hatchery. 


The photo above shows the egg chamber constructed by the mama Pawikan. The eggs look like ping pong balls, no? We were too late to see the actual laying of eggs because according to the locals, the second Pawikan abandoned nesting because it got stressed out. According to one of the volunteers, Pawikans look for a dry part of the beach away from possible predators. While they prepare to lay eggs, they should not be disturbed or else they will abort the process and go back to the ocean. But once they started laying eggs,  they go into a trance from which they can not be disturbed. This is the time people can actually watch them. 
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mother Pawikan after its nesting

After the very exciting night patrol, we were introduced to some of the members of the Bantay Pawikan Inc., a group of reformed sea turtle poachers. We also got to witness educational talks conducted by environmental researchers and experts. They highlighted the current initiative being done by the province to protect the Pawikans that are now highly endangered because of illegal fishing, poaching and other activities. I also learned that the aim of the Pawikan (sea turtle) festival is to raise public awareness of issues relating to marine turtle conservation in Morong, Bataan.
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the hatchery at Pawikan Consevation Center
The next morning, we went back to the Pawikan Conservation Center to finally witness the releasing of baby sea turtles into the ocean. But before that, we got to meet Ms. Danica Tigas and Ms. Leslie Jorge of Bataan Tourism Office. I learned so much from these two nice ladies! 
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one of the 4 body paint models 
Nice to know: In the open ocean, sea turtles encounter strong currents; they have only modest vision, they can only raise their heads several inches out of the water, and there are often no visible landmarks. Even with these limitations, sea turtles regularly navigate long distances to find the same tiny stretch of nesting beach. How they do it is one of the greatest mysteries in the animal kingdom, and finding an answer has been the focus of generations of researchers. One promising new theory on how sea turtles navigate suggests that they can detect both the angle and intensity of the earth’s magnetic field. Using these two characteristics, a sea turtle may be able to determine its latitude and longitude, enabling it to navigate virtually anywhere. Source

Ms. Leslie and Ms. Danica told us a lot of interesting facts about sea turtles. My favorite was the Natal Homing (or Imprinting), the ability of sea turtles to return to nest in the same geographic area where they were born. Depending on the species of sea turtle, it can take 15 to 30 years to reach maturity and for female Pawikans to be mothers. So, imagine if they come back and their birthplace is already gone? That’s depressing, right?
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bloggers in action!
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nice day pack Angelo!
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This is where we can help the Pawikan. By following these simple steps, we can make sure that our next generation can still see these adorable marine creatures: 
  1. Keep beaches clean- please do not leave trash on the beaches, and if you feel inspired, please remove trash left by others!
  2. Participate in habitat restoration and clean-up activities.
  3. Do not dispose of plastic bags in the ocean. Plastic bags in the ocean very closely resemble a favorite food of sea turtles (jellyfish) and can cause illness or death to the turtle that eats them. 
  4. Don’t disturb nesting females and minimize beach lighting.
  5. DO NOT buy or sell pawikan (dead or alive). This is a crime! Violations should be reported to DENR and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources under the Department of Agriculture.
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After releasing the sea turtles, we also got to witness the Annual Street Dance Competition participated by each town in the province of Bataan. This year's theme was "The Pawikan Conservation".
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I loved everything about this festival! Finally seeing the sea turtle hatchlings make their way to the ocean was awesome! My words are not enough to describe it. I pray that each one of them will survive to adulthood and go back to Morong, Bataan to lay eggs. 

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The Pawikan hatching season starts every November until February.  So plan your trip now and don’t miss this awesome event. For more information, you can contact the Bataan Tourism Office.

Contact Information:
Bataan Tourism Office
Roman Super Highway, City of Balanga, Bataan, Philippines
Telephone Number: (047) 237 4785
Email Address: bataan_tourism@yahoo.com
Twitter: @1Bataan
Instagram: @BeholdBataan and @1Bataan
Facebook: @bataan.tourism
Official Website: http://www.bataan.gov.ph/tourism


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Special thanks to Bataan Provincial Tourism for making this trip possible and for helping me check off another item in my bucket list! :)
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