Port Barton: A Hidden Paradise in Northwestern Palawan, Philippines
Port Barton in San Vicente, Palawan is one of the most well sought travel destinations in Palawan, Philippines. Palawan is the Philippines' Last Frontier primarily because it still boasts of pristine forests, rich wildlife and beautiful, white sand beaches like that found in Port Barton which I describe here. I compiled articles and pictures about the wildlife, places of interest, and the people of this place in Palawaniana.
A Challenging Ride
I visited Port Barton in August of 2008 with my friend and three of my students. We traversed about a hundred kilometers on a well-paved highway at the eastern side of the long island of Palawan but the trip from the highway towards the western side of Palawan is a challenging ride. The place is difficult to access during the rainy months because the soil is not as compact as in other places. A large, six-wheeled jeepney or four-wheel drive vehicles are the only vehicles capable of reaching the place during the months of July through December. We have to brace ourselves each time the jeep gets through the muddy road. At one time, we got stuck and the jeepney assistants have to dig out the wheels to get it out of the mud.
After a bumpy ride through deep mud and challenging slopes together with tourists from different places, we finally had a breathtaking sight of the white sand beaches. It is one of those places where one can contemplate, as the place is serene and everything is rural life. Despite this feeling of remoteness, however, we can still use our cellphones and get to connect with our loved ones.
Port Barton at dawn.
Port Barton is one of the places where a community-based project implemented in the late 1990s. It showcased people participation in natural resources management. The community-based project aimed towards cultivating awareness among the local people of the importance of their natural resources, that these resources must be preserved and maintained for generations to come. The local people were trained to manage their coastal resources themselves. The bay of Pagdanan was once abused by illegal fishermen, but because of efforts spearheaded by a non-government organization (NGO) which trained locals to manage their resources in a sustainable manner, the surrounding areas of the bay started to grow trees and the coastal areas bounced back to health. A handbook titled Participatory Coastal Resource Assessment was prepared by the Silliman University with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It incorporated the initiatives done in this place and had since been one of the popular references when doing coastal resource assessment involving the local communities.
Condition of the Coral Reefs
Curious about the condition of the coral reefs after years of protection, my friend and students hired a banca to see what's under the sea. Although there were seven of us in the group, only three could SCUBA dive. We have to leave our companions at the mercy of the wavy seas that made some of my students dizzy and vomit while on board the banca. We dived near a protruding rock we called "Layag-Layag", which means "like a flag".
Layag-layag, protruding rocks in Pagdanan Bay, welcome divers to coral reef life in Port Barton.
The current was quite strong in some parts when we dove and we at times have to swim against the current. The area has unique rocky coral formation, and we could see lots of coral reef fishes including large groupers that hide among the crevices. Coral reef life still abounds in the place, but I would say not in an excellent condition compared to other places I have been.
This complex coral reef configuration provides more places for fishes to hide.
The coral reef we visited still has the stigma of a reef subjected to overfishing and destructive fishing practices. I wrote an article about this titled "Coral Reef Degradation: A Symptom of Society’s Ills". Overfishing can really take a toll on the natural resources. There are still signs of overfishing in the area, like harvesting even the smallest lobster for a highly lucrative marine product trade. Marine life harvesting is quite difficult to regulate because many of these activities are done underwater, and it takes some effort and proper logistic support to see what's going on underneath the water. It's easy to see people burning the the forests, but fishers underwater are hard to notice.
Lobsters, apparently juveniles, are still harvested for trade.
Despite all these musings, Port Barton in San Vicente is still one of the best places to go if you want to unwind and shy away from the complexities and hectic life in the urban areas. Many tourists from all over the globe visit the place. Port Barton is a hidden paradise worthy of exploration.
©Patrick A. Regoniel 18 March 28 2010 Port Barton: A Hidden Paradise in Northwestern Palawan, Philippines
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