Mangrove forest, known as ‘rainforest’ by the sea’ is one of the most, if not the primary, important coastal ecosystems in the world in terms of primary production and coastal protection.
It is abundant in Southeast Asia which includes the Philippines that has let many to believe that the region is the birth place of mangroves.
Mangrove trees contribute to the prevention of shore erosion. They provide food, through their foliage, which enable the mangrove ecosystem to become a breeding ground to a variety of bivalves, shrimps and fishes. Moreover, they provide nesting sites for many shore birds and serve as home for proboscis and crab-eating monkeys, sea turtles, fishing cats, lizards, bats, and many more animals. Also, it is a favorite haven for horn bills and other bird species.
Generally speaking, there is a rapid decline of mangrove forest areas due to wanton destruction by human population, a sad plight indeed considering the rapid increase of population, hence, an increase in the demand of fish as food for human survival. However, there is a light of hope beaming from the tiny island of Bucas Grande in Surigao del Norte, Philippines because there exist nowadays a treasure- the primary growth mangrove forest found in Sitio Sabang, Barangay San Roque in the town of Socorro.
I was being told before on the existence of such primary growth mangrove trees which abound in the place but I was not fortunate enough to see it myself. Hence, on February 14, 2010, I decided to spend my Valentine’s Day to explore the area and uncover for myself the hidden treasure. Here’s what I found . . .
We passed by Sitio Sabang in Barangay San Roque, a typical Philippine fishing village with a number of houses, huts and shanties half-submerged in waters with clear manifestation of a backward socio-economic condition. Candidly, I felt so sorry for the community. . .
Our boat traveled through this wide passage way . . .
and entered into this narrow water way . . .
And I was awe-stricken with the sight of mangrove trees of substantial size and height . . . the first time I ever saw it in my life . . .
As we went out of the mangrove forest area I asked the pump boat operator the primordial reason behind the intact state of the primary growth mangrove trees to which he replied: It’s because of the concerted efforts of the community in protecting the place. In fact, no single Sitio Sabang folk would dare cut a mangrove tree even during the time of severe fire wood shortage. Further, there were many instances that community residents themselves had driven firewood gatherer intruders away.
While I was still figuring out the courage and determination of the residents to protect the area, I chanced upon in the lush vegetation to my left . . . a pair of Horn Bill bird lovers celebrating Valentines Day on a tree top . . .
After exchanging pleasantries, they parted ways . . . .
What a scoop indeed… one of the horn bills flew along the same direction as ours . . . . Flapping her wings wide . . . .
And as if playing with me as she hovered over my head . . .
As we passed by this community again on our way towards another destination . . .
I no longer felt sorry for the people living in these huts and shanties. In fact a feeling of admiration had engulfed in me by that time . Candidly, I was so grateful that in my trip I found the real hidden treasure in Bucas Grande Island… the people of Sitio Sabang. Less educated in the formal class room they might be but they are the most aware and educated persons in the entire island town on the importance of mangrove forest and the relationship of mangrove ecosystem towards human survival.