Aloguinsan, Cebu | Ecotourism Among the Mangroves and Wildlife

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Just 2 hours away from the bustling city of Cebu, lies a sleepy and tiny coastal town of Aloguinsan. Located in southwestern Cebu, this beautiful town is considered as one of the best eco-tourism destinations in the province. In fact, its prime attraction, the Bojo River Cruise, also known as Aloguinsan River Eco-Cultural Tour, was awarded as one of the Top 100 Global Sustainable Destinations by Green Destinations for three consecutive years (2016, 2017 and 2018).
This Sustainable Community-Based Tourism Recognition (SCBTR) highlights different forms of tourism which include ecotourismculture tourism and adventure tourism
Aloguinsan was the fourth stop of the Sustainable Community-Based Tourism Recognition (SCBTR), launched recently by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism (DoT). This campaign aims to identify the best sustainable tourism destinations in the Philippines with the help of selected sustainable tourism experts and assessors. The three (3) recognized sites will receive endorsements from Dot and TPB as well as grants that will help improve their services. Aside from acknowledging sustainable tourism sites, this campaign aims to inspire sustainable tourism practices and encourage potential investors.
Kumar of Team Becoming Filipino
Meeting the Community Behind the Success of Aloguinsan
We arrived on a sunny morning in Aloguinsan after 2 hours of travel from Cebu City. As I walked on the wooden boardwalk going to the river, I heard a group of women singing Visayan folksongs. Walking along the mangrove forest while hearing folk songs and birds chirping was quite enchanting. We were then welcomed by the members of Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS)
the wooden boardwalk to Bojo River
Established in October 2009, BAETAS is composed of the members of the Aloguinsan community with the primary responsibility of protecting the Bojo River and Tañon Strait, the largest marine protected area in the Philippines. We gathered for a simple merienda comprised of buko juice, pancit, bread, suman and hot chocolate. And because plastic straw bans are spreading in the whole world, BAETAS has also implemented the use of metal straws to help reduce the impact on the environment.
A group of women who serenaded us upon arrival 
Providing Alternative Income to the Aloguinsan Community
The LGU of Aloguinsan started the Bojo River Cruise project in 2009 with the primary objective of providing alternative income to the Aloguinsan community. According to Ms. Jomelyn S. Manigos, Vice President of BAETAS, the LGU trained the members, who are fishermen and housewives around Bojo River, with mangroves conservation, flora and fauna identification, tourism and management. Since then, the river cruise has attracted thousands of tourists which in turn, created opportunities and provided supplemental income to the members. She proudly shared that after the LGU spent over a million for their training and education, they have now returned the investment threefold. 
the wooden dock station by the river
Because of the success of the Bojo River Cruise project, the locals have stopped with their former sources of livelihood which are dynamite fishing, bird poaching and kaingin (a system of slash-and-burn with no return to forest). According to Ms. Jomelyn S. Manigos, these people are now the protectors of the river and the forest surrounding it.
drone photo of the entry to Bojo River
Community Efforts for a Low Tourism Footprint
The locals here have created a small nature reserve centered around the mangroves where the Bojo River meets the Tañon Strait. Currently, the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS) impose a maximum of 70 tourists per day to protect the Bojo River and reduce environmental impact. They have also adapted use of motor-free modes of transportation along the river. In addition, clean-up drives in partnership with different sectors in Aloguinsan are being done monthly to ensure protection of the mangroves and corals and create public awareness on waste management.
Mr. Jerry Bansiloy, our tour guide
The Bojo River Cruise
I was intrigued by Bojo River Cruise and curious how it might differ from other mangrove tours, since it is distinguished as an Eco-cultural Tour spearheaded by the community. The tour began from a small wooden dock in the water, which looks out over Bojo River. Our group boarded a non-motorized boat with two boatmen and one tour guide. Mr. Jerry Bansiloy, our tour guide, made sure we stay safe on the tour by requiring us to wear your safety vest at all times. He also gave us native hats to protect us from the scorching heat of the sun.
some fishermen on their non-motorized boats 
The Bojo River Cruise was an incredible activity as it merges two completely different landscapes into one experience. It was a scene almost too perfect to be real. For a moment, we were slowly rowing through the river with magnificent views of the mangroves and the next we were on a glass bottom boat with awesome views of the corals. We even saw a pawikan (sea turtle) frolicking underwater!
drone photo by Narjay Calinao of Tourism Promotions Board (TPB)
drone photo by Narjay Calinao of Tourism Promotions Board (TPB)
drone photo by Team Becoming Filipino
drone photo by Team Becoming Filipino
drone photo by Team Becoming Filipino
drone photo by Team Becoming Filipino
drone photo by Team Becoming Filipino
Overall Experience
Very few tourists would choose a destination for its mangroves, and mangroves have continued to be overlooked by the big players in the tourism industry. But as we rowed down the Bojo River, I realized that mangroves can be quite a hit with travelers, especially now that Millennials are interested in cultural and sustainable tourism. The idea of being able to give back to the community is very appealing to a new generation of tourists and I’m saying this because that how I see the Bojo River Cruise. Seeing how the project has changed the lives of the locals and its positive impact to environment, I won’t mind paying 750 pesos for another river cruise tour.
drone photo by Team Becoming Filipino
Useful Info
Aloguinsan River Eco-Cultural Tour
Facebook Page @AloguinsanRiver
Contact numbers: (032) 469-9042, (63)933 120 9480 and (63)997 371 5698
Rates:
  • 400 per person – Walk-in rate (excluding meal)
  • 750 pesos per person (minimum of 5 pax) – Inclusive of tour, handicraft demo, welcome drinks, lunch, snacks, and complementary goodies. Requires advance booking (at least 2 days).
  • additional 200 pesos per person (minimum of 10 pax) - glass bottom boat tour

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