Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pawikan Conservation Center | Free, turtles, free!

To live in a tropical country like the Philippines, especially during the season of summer, is like spending every hour of the day inside an oven. Super hot! And for this very reason, many wishes bum in a beach just to ease that feeling of heat. Luckily, with a coastline of more than 22 thousand miles, the Philippines is just so blessed with plenty and different kinds of beaches (white sand, black sand, grey sand, pebbles, name it, we have it!).

Oddly, Dawn and I visited a beach in Morong, Bataan last March not for the same reason others go to beach. The deal here are the turtles! Yes, we went to the beach just to see turtles.


Day 1 - March 1, 2014

Just so you know, a total of 7 species of marine turtles swim across oceans in different parts of the world. And from these seven species, five are found in the Philippines. Ang cool di ba? The 5 species that swim in this beautiful country are the Green Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle, the Olive Ridley, the Loggerhead, and lastly and the biggest of them all, the Leatherback Turtle. Interestingly, the shores of Bataan, particularly along the coastal towns of Bagac and Morong, is a nesting hotspot for 3 of these 5 turtle species.

The itch to see these gentle creatures gave Dawn and I an idea to spend a weekend in Pawikan Conservation Center in Morong, Bataan. By the way, to those who aren't familiar, Pawikan Conservation Center is a local initiative whose aim is to conserve and protect the marine turtles or pawikan who found their way to the shores of Bataan. Turtle eggs laid in the area are also under their protection.

Getting into the conservation ceneter is actually easier than I thought. From Manila, we took a bus to Balanga City. We asked the conductor to drop us anywhere we can take a ride to Morong town. When we arrived at the central terminal of Balanga City, he directed us to the lined up mini bus with "Morong" signboard. What followed was a 1-hour ride on the winding but scenic road to Morong Town. It was almost lunch time when we got in town so we ate first in a karinderya before finally taking a tricycle up to our destination in Brgy. Nagbalayong.

All in all, it took us roughly 6 hours to reach Pawikan Conservation Center from Manila via Balanga route. Sensya na sa tabingi na piktyur, marami ako hawak eh.

Upon entering the compound, we were welcomed by sir Manolo of Bantay Pawikan Inc. I was able to contact him a few days prior to our visit so he was kind of expecting us that day. Right away, he toured us around the facility.

A tableau depicting the life cycle of marine turtle will not go unnoticed once you enter the conservation center.
At least 3 marine turtles are being taken care of in the facility. As per sir Manolo, they'll release the turtles back to the sea once in good shape again.
The facility also takes care of the turtle eggs, either acquired from the shores or retrieved from poachers, and let them hatch in this hatchery. It takes 55 to 90 days for the hatchlings to emerge from the sand.

Perhaps, the most exciting part in our visit in the place is the rare opportunity to release baby turtles to the sea. Each baby turtle costs 50 pesos. Of course, proceeds will help support the Bantay Pawikan Inc. for their continuous effort in saving our turtles.

Since it was around noontime by the time we arrived in Pawikan Conservation Center, going out to the beach to release the baby turtles was not the best idea. Well, not just yet. 

Mainit sa labas! Mainit din yung buhangin. Spending time there's not the best idea.
From afar are the Zambales mountains Mt. Cinco Picos, Mt. Dayungan, and Mt. Balingkilat.
There's nothing really special about the beach of Brgy. Nagbalayong. No fancy huts, no sun-bathing tourists, no party bars. To put simply, the vicinity was not touristy, but rather a mere fishing village. Well, actually, it is a good thing. Studies show that overdevelopment of beaches limits nesting sites for all sea turtles. And besides, who cares about those tourist visitors when the village is frequented by a more "special type" of visitors. 

We practically don't have any activity to do while waiting for the sun to be more tolerable that afternoon. So we just slept the entire time until around 4 PM.

By 4PM, we're ready to release these gentle creatures. These baby turtles or hatchlings came from the conservation center's hatchery.
We released 10 hatchlings that afternoon.
Mr. Manolo explained some pointers before we released the baby turtles to the sea. First, we must remember that these turtles have weak and sensitive body so they must be handled delicately at all times. Second, they must be released on the shore at about 2 meters before the water level and must face the horizon as they march towards the sea.

Baby turtles must be handled carefully. Wag masyado pang-gigilan, baka mapisat.
why not put them on a race.
Free, turtle, free!
What we did was somewhat an emotional experience. Especially that moment when they reached the sea and were swept away by the waves. You can do nothing but watch them reach their freedom and hope for the best. I prayed a lot, "sana wag siyang makain ng isda" and "sana maging successful siya sa buhay niya."

Anyways, here are some interesting facts about marine turtles.
Turtle Fact #1: Marine Turtles live most of their lives in the ocean; only females return to land just to lay eggs.

Turtle Fact #2: The hatchlings use the horizon, moonlight and phosphorescence from the ocean as their guide to reach the ocean. Other lights coming from posts, buildings, and other structures may disorient the hatchling and lead them somewhere else. 

Turtle Fact #3:  Only 1 out of 1,000 survive to adulthood.

Turtle Fact #4: Marine turtles can live up to 50 years or more. Some may even live over 100 yrs old.

Turtle Fact #5: Mortality rate is high among juvenile and adult marine turtles due to several factors like (1)predation by sharks, birds, or fish, (2)ingestion of marine debris from trash or pollution, (3)various human activities like poaching and boat strikes.

Turtle Fact #6: Once in the wild, marine turtles feed on seagrass, seeweed, baby shrimp, and even jellyfish. Other species like the loggerhead use their powerful jaw to crush their food (shrimp, clam, crabs, and lobsters).

Turtle Fact #7: Turtles are reptiles and records show their existence during the days of the dinosaurs 200 million years ago.

After our business with the turtles, we happily spent the remaining hours of the day on the beach. Together, we watched the sunset, and then held hands, and then... tama na ang cheeziness!

There goes the sun, and my love.
Local kids joyfully killing their time on the beach. Nakaka-miss din ang maging bata.
Aside from the Bantay Pawikan patrolling the beach (to protect eggs from poachers), the small fishing village sleeps very early. There's no nightlife or whatsoever. The closest place to hang out would be Subic Bay Freeport Zone, but still that's logistically difficult to reach considering the time of the day. Thus, the most sensible thing to do at 7PM is to retreat inside the comfort of our tent and call it a day.

Day 2 - March 2, 2014

Day 2 was more about finding our way back to Manila via a different route. This time, via Subic. 

We left the place as early as 8 AM, taking a trike back to Morong town proper. We had a quick breakfast there, before boarding the mini bus to Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Once in Subic, catching a bus back to Manila was easy peasy. 


  1. Wow. You get to experience something worthwhile. I'm now informed on some basic facts about turtles.

  2. Good day! Any contact po sa center? We're planning to go there on January. Thanks

    1. unfortunately I lost my contact sa center.. but I think it's searchable naman with google.. Just google Mr. Manolo of Pawikan Center.

  3. sir awesome blog, sir pwede bang mag camp out sa beach :)

    1. I believe pwede naman, pero thay would recommend na sa loob ng compound na lang daw.

  4. Hello is it a safe place to bring a group of 25 students to stay overnight there? meron po ba lodging? so they can release the turtles early dawn po

  5. Hello, ask ko lang if pwede ba walk in diyan or kelangan pa paschedule pag pupunta po diyan? kasi mag case study lang po sana ako para po sa aaking thesis, thank you in advance



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