“Where is Tañon Strait?” I asked when I received an offer to do a photography coverage of a week-long expedition for Oceana Philippines. Prior to this, I have no clear knowledge of this protected seascape sandwiched between two major islands, Cebu and Negros. The itinerary was enticing enough. We’ll start our journey in Cebu, going up to Sta Fe Bantayan island, then making our way down parallel the narrow strait, crossing it from Moalboal to Negros Oriental then sail all the way down to Dumaguete. Just the thought of the trip excites me as I had never been to most of the places, along and within Tañon Strait.
Tañon Strait is the largest marine protected area in the Philippines
Ask a typical Cebuano or Ilonggo where “Tañon Strait” is, chances are, they wouldn’t know. Unbeknownst to many, the narrow strait, extending 160km long between Cebu and Negros has a total area of 5,182 square km, three times the area of Tubbataha National Park. The 500m deep strait attracts dolphins, whales, sharks and manta rays. The strait was declared a protected seascape in 1998 in honor of the 14 species of whales and dolphins inhabiting the place. The strait also have a 450km shoreline, home to many fishermen, making it one of the Philippines major fishing grounds. The beauty and bounty of Tañon Strait though is under threat from destructive and illegal fishing as well as improper development. Oceana Philippines steps in to bring awareness to Tañon Strait and help preserve its natural wonder.
Our journey starts from Cebu City where we met the rest of the team, esteemed documentary photographer Toni, underwater photographer katukayo Ferdie and fellow blogger Lak Bay who’s handling the social media for Tañon Strait. Coming from Manila as well were staff from Oceana Philippines Yas, Candeze and fellow photographer and travel buddy Oggie. To weave into words and narratives the experience, is author Criselda Yabes. It’s an interesting mix of characters and expertise.
As soon as our van got through the congested streets of urban Cebu, we sped towards north of the island for Hagnaya Port in the municipality of San Remegio. The journey through the countryside took at least four hours since we made a stop at Bogo City for lunch. A pleasant little town with plenty of old Spanish heritage houses turned restaurants. From the port, our vans rolled into the ferry for an hour ride across the sea. It was an opportunity to get some fresh air and stretch some legs out of the van and enjoy wandering around the ferry.
As we rolled into Sta Fe Bantayan Pier, we could already see beautiful stretch of beaches on both sides. Sta Fe, southwestern tip of Bantayan island is the gateway to the group of islands. There’s also an airstrip but for non-commercial flights. It is interesting how the island got its name though. During the time of the Spanish governor 22nd Governor-general Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera in the Philippines (1635–1644), Moro pirates would harass and raid island communities to capture slaves and loot. Watchtowers were built around the island and people would commonly say “Bantayan! Bantayan!” which in English means “Keep watch! Keep watch!” referring to the invading pirates. There were 18 recorded watch towers in the Bantayan Island group though only a few survived this time particularly in Madridejos and Doong Island.
Continue on the next page…