Big Trouble in Paradise

HERE’S A STORY I wrote for the Philippine News Agency (PNA) about Coron, a beautiful island municipality in northern Palawan. It’s about a planned undersea park being proposed by Coral World Park (CWP), which claims to be “the largest Marine Reserve and Coral Reef Conservation program in Asia. ”

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Beautiful Kayangan Lake in Coron Island, Coron, northern Palawan.

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This photo of the small inlet that leads to Kayangan Lake was taken from a promontory where I stood for a while to take in the charming view.

The reason why it’s controversial is in the story.

Tagbanua tribes in Coron spurn Nickolodeon undersea park

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, July 27 — The Tagbanua indigenous peoples (IP) community in Coron and nearby islands gave the thumbs down Thursday morning to the propositioned 400-hectare Nickolodeon undersea park due to fears of irreversible negative environmental and cultural impacts.

Amil Abella, representative of the Tagbanua Tribes of Coron Island Association (TTCIA), said in a Greenpeace Philippines-hosted press conference here that the project will only displace them from their ancestral domains, and will spoil their traditional fishing grounds.

“If there are investments that will build structures that will cause destruction to our ancestral domains, our agreement is we will not accept them,” Abella said, adding they live independently and are reliant on Calamianes’ beauty and blessings.

The Calamianes is an area in the northern part of Palawan that includes Busuanga, Coron, and Culion island towns, and the islands of Calauit, Malcapuya, Banana, Pass and Calumbuyan, and several minor islets.

“The legendary heroes of Coron will unite and defend the last ecological frontier of the country, where we live with freedom and abundance,” he added.

Continue reading the story here: http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1003332

It’s really difficult to marry development with environment conservation, especially if it would have irreversible impacts on the lives of the indigenous peoples and their ancestral domains.

I am for development. The SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT kind. The one “that meets human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend.”

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You’ve never been to Coron if you haven’t been to Kayangan Lake.

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Sustainable development should not be compromised.

 

 

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Old Habit & Singapore (Part II)

THERE IS A PHOTOGRAPHER in Singapore, whose LE photography works are really outstanding. His name is Thomas Leong.

Check his Flickr account, and you too, will be amazed by how much passion, how much love he gave to his creative photos. https://www.flickr.com/photos/soulfly7/

It’s actually embarrassing to bring his link here, knowing that you can all note the dissimilarities between our LE works. Nonetheless, it’s saying to get better in what we want to do, we have to feed our curiosity; we have to look for someone who can influence us, inspire us to do something about our own creativity.

That’s Mr. Leong to me. Who knows, I might meet him next time?

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LIGHT SHOW from the Sky Park at the Marina Bay Sands.

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In one photo. The SINGAPORE FLYER, the Lotus-shaped ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM, and the MARINA BAY SANDS from across the bay.

There are a few basic tips that I take with me every time I journey into the photography genre.

  • A sturdy tripod is very, very important, especially if you’re on a really slow shutter speed and it is windy around you. Make sure it is standing on an even and solid ground. A tiny shake of the apparatus can make a whole lot of difference in your desired result.
  • Wide angle lens with the smallest aperture need.
  • You may also opt to use a cable release or remote
  • Use INFINITY focus.
  • Bulb or Manual on the mode dial.
  • 5-30 seconds shutter speed.

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Composition is the most important thing in any genre of photography. Don’t just shoot your camera, look for a new concept of the same view in front of you. You’ve got to do it. Otherwise, what sets your photo apart from the others, who have stood in front of that view with their cameras?

At the end of the day, what will always matter is if you’re able to provide your viewer with a different perspective. Did your photo give them a new POV? Did it invite interest or curiosity?

That’s what matters.

The deadliest deadline I gave myself to learn long-exposure photography was three years ago. I’m starting all over again, I hate long breaks. But when this is all done, what I will do is to look back and think once in a while about how long it took me to really learn.

That way, I’d have a habit loop.

 

Old Habit & Singapore (Part I)

GOOD OLD HABITS never die.

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I’ve been telling myself now that I’ve started to mind my blog site again. So, thank you L Element Bar & Seafood Restaurant and Pho 88 for kicking out the blogger in me that had slowed down and hibernated for a period of time.

I’ve long ago considered that blogging is a freedom channel for me to be opinionated once in a while. There are a lot of things happening in my environment, lots of places I’ve visited, and it’s a struggle to keep quiet and not write about how I experienced them.

ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE. Sharing an old photo of myself taken in Cambodia. I posted this because it’s one of the few, where I’m carrying my old reliable camera on my neck.

Keeping quiet is not something my profession would welcome, anyway. No, I’m not blogging about politics. Too many bloggers already doing that, I’m not about to join the bandwagon.

There is a need to be careful because, who would want another libel case in court that would take years to resolve? I’ve had two in the past, and it took around 10 years for them to be sorted out.

That’s another story.

What I want to do, really, is to share photos from my recent Singapore trip. My return there is something I will never forget since I was able to win back my love and passion (two words) for photography. Yes, even my photography had to take a back seat for a while; had to occupy an inferior position in my priorities because more pressing life matters took control.

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The MARINA BAY SANDS 5 star luxury resort hotel, “the world’s most expensive stand alone casino property” in Singapore.

The following photos you’ll see are called long-exposure (LE) shots. Long-exposure photography is a genre that I find very interesting as it always has the potential to produce amazing luminescent results if one knows how to shoot right.

If you want to hit the mark when you’re firing a gun, you should know what you’re doing so you won’t miss it. It’s the same fundamental truth in LE.

I don’t have the LE mastery yet. But I will get there eventually. And soon. Please.

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Singapore’s CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT at night with the imposing lotus-shaped ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM on the left side from where I was standing across. The museum is located in the integrated resort of Marina Bay Sands in the Downtown Core.

In the Lion City, when photographers want to take long-exposure shots of the Marina Bay Sands (and the other futuristic building structures there), their best opportunity can start happening the moment the blue hour (La hora azul) sets in around 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.

Time zones are bizarre old things, aren’t they? In the Philippines, we sometimes see the sunset early. In other places, like Singapore, they see it late.

Same time zone with the Philippines; different sunset time.

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THE SHOPPES MARINA BAY SANDS’s reflection on the pond water after long exposure shot.

TO BE CONTINUED. I’ve got to go for now. More photos to share later 🙂

Lake Manguao: An avian treasure chest in Northern Palawan

WITH THEIR dusky crowns, napes, shadowy eye stripes, bluish-grey mandibles, thin brown legs, and rusty cinnamon-colored heads and necks radiating under the heat of the golden morning sun, nearly two dozen Philippine ducks (Anas luzonica) can be witnessed frolicking and winging their ways over Lake Manguao in the once monarch-ruled town of Taytay in northern Palawan.

This duck which has been listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of “rapid and continuing decline” in population due to “extensive hunting and widespread conversion of wetland habitats,” is one of the avian jewels of the 6.7-square kilometer inland sea that is said to have a 44-square kilometer conforming catchment area.

In addition to the wild duck species in the Anatidae family of birds, Joie Matillano of Western Philippines University (WPU), whose avian photos were published online on January 30, 2010, noted that there were also Oriental dwarf kingfishers (Ceyx erithaca); Blue-eared kingfishers (Alcedo meninting); Common flamebacks (Dinopium javanense); Hooded pittas (Pitta sordida); Common kingfishers (Alcedo atthis); Ashy-headed babblers (Malacocincla cinereiceps); Grey-cheeked bulbul (Alophoixus bres); Grey herons (Ardea cinerea); Great egrets (Ardea alba); Western osprey (Pandion haliaetus); Spangled drongo (Dicrurus bracteatus); and Pin-striped tit babblers (Mixornis gularis) that reside in the only freshwater lake in the province’s mainland.

One of the caretakers, who operates a motorized dinghy that takes tourists to sightsee in the lake, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a visit before the Holy Week that around 5:30 a.m., Palawan hornbills (Anthracoceros marchei) or talusi can also be witnessed in flocks of eight to about a dozen hopping and settling on tops of trees, and leave before 7:00 a.m. when the sun has completely risen.

“Too bad you were late; they were here very early. They fly early to land on the trees near the entrance to the lake; sometimes, they are noisy,” said Gerry, whose family mainly subsists on catching the cichlid fish tilapia from the lake.

Manguao’s avifauna

In a survey conducted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) sometime in 2007, it noted that there were “a total of 126 species of birds recorded in the lake, wherein 24 were migratory, 76 residents, 14 restricted to range Palawan-endemics, seven Philippine-endemics, and five had both resident and migratory populations.”

Eight of the species are under the IUCN’s vulnerable category: the Chinese egret (Egretta eulophotes); Falcated ground babbler (Ptilocichla falcate); Palawan flycatcher (Ficedula platenae); Palawan hornbill, Palawan peacock pheasant (Polyplectron emphanum); Blue-headed racquet tail (Prioniturus plateni); Grey imperial pigeon (Ducula pickeringii); and the Philippine duck. Five species were recorded as near-threatened.

The year of the survey, the PCAARRD said, “constituted the first record of the Philippine-endemic duck in northern Palawan. “

“Matagal na ako dito, mga kulang-kulang 15 years, at mas marami sila noon. Kumunti na ngayon (I’ve stayed here for nearly 15 years, and before, there used to be a lot of wild ducks. Their number has greatly reduced),” Gerry, who does not want his full name mentioned, stated.

His testimonial seems to prove what PCAARRD reported that “threats to birds included hunting for local consumption and curiosity, rampant poaching of the critically endangered species, slash-and-burn farming, and selective illegal logging,” which could lead to homegrown extinction.

The PCAARRD survey result then said that due to Lake Manguao’s “high avian species diversity, its catchment can qualify as an important bird area for conservation.”

Conservation efforts

Unlike before when no tourists would come due to the difficulty of reaching Lake Manguao, these days it has become popular to the few foreign visitors, who take interest and love to do less traveled itineraries in the first class town of Taytay.

Gerry said the ideal time of the day to appreciate the birds’ beauty in their natural habitat is around sunrise by using paddle boats that make less noise.

Binoculars, or cameras with telephoto lenses, are the best tools to use when bird watching.

”But what birds will there be if focus on the protection, conservation, and preservation of Lake Manguao is not taken into mind by the local government unit (LGU)?” asked Rommel Cruz, one of the founders of Birdwatch Palawan (BP), a member of the Palawan Ornithological Society (POS), and who organizes bird tours under BirdingPal.org.

Cruz said he knows Lake Manguao is protected “in paper,” but does not remember when this happened. He does not also know if the bird lake has a Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), “a multi-sectoral body responsible for the administration and management of a protected area created through the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (NIPAS).

This Board decides on budget allocations, approval of funding proposals and planning on matters concerning the ecology, particularly the protected areas.

“I know there is none, I know there is none,” Cruz replied, feeling somewhat unhappy over what fate may become of the avian residents of Lake Manguao.

He is also not aware if the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) has the lake in its protection radar considering how vital it is as a habitat for various species of endemic and non-endemic birds, flora and other wildlife.

Philippine duck

Lake Manguao, said Cruz, is a critical habitat, especially for the Philippine duck that is protected under the law because it is an endemic and listed as vulnerable.

“In Palawan, the only record of the Philippine duck, is in Quezon in southern Palawan, and Lake Manguao,” he said, adding that the duck species only stays there and does not migrate.

According to Birdlife International, the Philippine duck “is endemic to the country, being recorded from all the major islands and eight smaller islands. Records since 1980 derive from 30 localities say they’re mostly in Luzon and Mindanao.”

“Records from Siquijor and the Sulus remain unsubstantiated. A steep population decline was evident by the mid-1970s, with high numbers recorded at only a few sites in the following decade, like Candaba Marsh (Luzon) which probably supported many thousands in the early 1980s.”

Palawan, particularly Lake Manguao, is not even included in Birdlife International’s list of where they can be seen.

“The Philippine duck is a resident there; the lake provides habitat to it, and other wildlife that can only be found in Palawan. Looking at the profile of the lake… since it is low-land forest… there are large trees… trees that are cavity forming,” he said.

This means these trees provide nesting territories to birds like the Palawan hornbill, woodpeckers, parrots, cockatoos, and the likes.

Since there is no clear protection effort for Lake Manguao, Cruz stated it is prone to encroachment of squatters, illegal loggers, slash-and-burn activities, and others that can affect it as a biodiversity area.

Recently, he heard that some people want to stake claims over vital portions of the lake. If this happens, and intrusion will not be stopped, the Philippine duck might flee the area, where they can never be seen and appreciated closely anymore, and where they might be more in danger of being hunted.

For someone, who arranges birding tours like he does, Cruz knows what will be the long-term effects for Lake Manguao if “focused protection” is not imposed. Cruz wants the lake protected, “there is no doubt,” he said.

However, right now, their stand is somewhat uncommitted since when after they showed interest last year, the local government of Taytay responded without urgency.

“There was a response, but we didn’t see the urgency; Lake Manguao’s protection doesn’t seem to be in the local government’s list of priorities. They said they were busy,” he furthered, though what were said were relayed verbally.

Manguao’s eco-tourism potential

Cruz group’s interest offered to the LGU of Taytay the conduct of an avian survey in the lake and the surrounding areas, as well as bird watching basics to expand tourism potentials that will be beneficial to its caretakers.

The survey will generate an estimate of what kinds of birds are in Manguao, their population size and the changes that affect them, and as well as the collection of the causes of these changes in population or species diversity.

The bird watching basics, on the other hand, will familiarize locals on the understanding of the birds that can eventually turn them into bird guides. Bird guiding, said Cruz, can be a source of livelihood for the residents in the area, or the 16 families that serve as caretakers of the lake.

“We proposed that while we’re conducting the avian survey, local guides are being trained simultaneously so, they can have additional livelihood,” the bird expert in Palawan said, supplying that they should be the one benefiting.

Birding tours, he said, can definitely provide income, and is one way of encouraging the protection of sites where they can be found.

“If they do not take care of the birds, then what is there to see?” he asked. “If we only talk conservation, and not see it happen, then what comes next? There should be balance; they benefit at the same time they protect,” Cruz said.

Lodging places for potential bird tourism are also a must, according to Cruz. This can be set up near the lake site, and made of sturdy indigenous materials that will not cause harmful effects to the environment.

This is because birding enthusiasts sometimes stay three-five days to appreciate the avian residents in their natural environment.

Although he is unable to provide any estimate as to how much the LGU could earn in environmental protection fees, local taxes, and others, Cruz believes Lake Manguao is not only an avian treasure chest, but can be a source of livelihood too, for the locals.

When it comes to Taytay, he claimed that except for the historical Fuerza de Santa Isabelle and the islands, there is nothing else to call its own since there are also the same in El Nido and Coron.

“Taytay is a very, very important gateway to El Nido; just one hour or so, you’re here. Tourists there can come here if they’re interested in the avian residents of the lake.”

If Lake Manguao is protected, Taytay can truly claim it “its own,” like Narra that has Estrella Falls to boast; El Nido that has the secret lagoons; Puerto Princesa that has the underground river, and Coron that has Kayangan Lake.

Cruz’ group still wants to pursue the further protection of the lake. But he said the initiative should come from the LGU of Taytay. “The initiative should come from the LGU; it is theirs, we are here to help protect the lake and its wildlife,” he said.

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This article was also published by the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

Baragatan sa Palawan 2014

My province recently celebrated its 112th Civil Government Anniversary through the annual convergence event “BARAGATAN.” In our local dialect, Baragatan means “convergence.”

Every year during the month of June, all 23 local government units (LGUs) journey to the capital Puerto Princesa City to participate in the festivities: the LGU Trade Fair for their “One Town, One Product” (OTOP); culture and arts presentation, such as the Saraotan sa Dalan (street dancing in the Cuyunon dialect), and many others to mention.

Among all activities, my favorite is the Saraotan sa Dalan or street dancing competition because participants wear colorful costumes and head gears, and the beat of the drums is just fantastic — totally different from the usual music we hear all the time.

Too bad I wasn’t able to get a photo of Wak-wak. Weird sounding name — it’s a sand worm — harvested by the locals, dried under the sun, and cooked (fried or ceviche) as food. I swear it’s good!

Here are some photos from the street dancing competition. Love the colors!

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For more photos (you may also like the page): https://www.facebook.com/PalawenyaPhotographybyTRFormoso

Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa

For more photos (you may also like the page): https://www.facebook.com/PalawenyaTravelerbyTengRFormoso/

Princesa Garden Islands Resort & Spa in Palawan redefines luxury living

Are you looking for a place where you can completely escape the city life that lacks excitement and variety?

Princesa Garden Island Resort & Spa, this city’s newest hotel resort, might just have the all-embracing period of recreation you’re looking for.

Located in Barangay Bancao-Bancao, right in the heart of Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa City, the only five star island hotel resort and spa offers you and ardent holidaymakers a “slice of paradise” and an extraordinary break from the monotony of work in the country’s “Last Frontier.”

Marketing Communications Associate Kareen Gonzales said as “the only five star resort in this city,” Princesa Garden Island offers potential clients “a wide array of amenities and services that are guaranteed to make anyone’s stay unforgettable.”

“Our place is Asian-themed. You can see in the details how we built the hotel resort following the contemporary Balinese style which is a well-liked Asian tropical architecture, by combining it with natural materials and craftsmanship of the local people that can be found in abundance here in Puerto Princesa,” she said.

Princesa Garden Island offers 78 luxurious rooms that include an exclusive stand-alone assemblage of water cabanas overlooking the picturesque city bay and the grandiosity of the coastal scenery.

Gonzales said the water cabanas are a first of its kind in Puerto Princesa that feature spacious wooden decks with daybeds that have canopies for sunbathing, separate outdoor jet pools, exclusive in-ocean reception areas, and a cloistered lounge where guests can take it easy with light snacks and cool thirst quenchers.

Other room accommodations are located at the three-storey main hotel called the Harbor Wing. Here, each has a wide veranda, or roofed platform that offers a breathtaking view of the infinity pool and turquoise ocean. Several high-end room accommodations also have open-air Jacuzzis on the sundeck.

Guests who wish to stay on the ground floor rooms, on the other hand, have direct access to Princesa Garden Island’s six opulent infinity pools.

For those looking for outdoor activities, the resort will eventually offer a mangrove tour on a kayak, snorkeling and other water sport activities. The sand and sky glisten in the area, and anyone wishing to just commune quietly with nature can do so.

They can also indulge on international cuisines served at three restaurants in the resort: the Golden Elephant Seafood Village that serves Asian food, the Tomato and Basil near the pools for gastronomic Italian dishes, and the Rice Restaurant that serves popular Oriental dishes and various International carte du jour.

When the hotel resort finally and fully opens before the end of the year, it will also have a Floating Bar near a sandbar, where guests can unwind and enjoy as the day unwinds with a glorious sunset over the bay.

Travelers, who can’t do away with their relaxing reflexologies and rubdowns, will be pampered by Princesa Garden Island’s Hilot Spa Village, managed by its friendly masseuse.

With the opening of this new hotel resort in Puerto Princesa, it now has the capacity to offer tourists and guests the opportunity to escape completely, and collect wonderful memories.