ANILAO, BATANGAS:  THE DAY WE LET THE SHARKS  FREE

MANILA,  August
9, 2004 (STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - It could have been one ordinary Saturday in Anilao, Batangas except that at Eagle Point Resort the crowd surrounding the reef pool broke into thunderous applause as if heralding the entrance of a league of superstars. The stars of the show, however, early that morning were not human beings but 10 black-tipped sharks. Yes, sharks.

It is not every day that one gets the chance to take part in protecting nature. Thus, when I was invited recently by Tonton Francisco, general manager of Eagle Point Resort, to join him and other resort guests in releasing the sharks to the deep blue sea, I immediately signified my interest to participate. I never knew this experience would make a big difference in my life.

There we were inside the 10-meter by 20-meter pool filled with saltwater. In it were 10 sharks measuring one-meter each. Armed with a big net, we gleefully chased the sharks. These predators were really elusive, for even if we were ready to catch them one by one, they managed to escape from us. We would spend about five minutes to catch one shark. Once hauled, our dive master from Reef Inc. would tag it first by inserting a thick plastic-like syringe in it for identification. After the tagging, the shark would be released to the sea to the delight of the happy audience who hope for its survival in its natural environment. Our newfound friend and ace photographer Derik Gamboa triumphantly took photographs of the significant endeavor.

"This is the 11th time we released sharks to the sea," enthused gracious Atty. Ramon Quisimbing, proprietor of Eagle Point. He added that Eagle Point has made it a crusade to take part in conserving the sharks as well as pawikan.

Eagle Point has time and again become a steward in protecting the sea. Of the many resorts in Anilao, only in Eagle Point do fishermen turn over the sharks they catch in Balayan Bay. At the resort, the sharks would be nursed back to health for several months before they are released to the open waters.

"It feels good that you become part of taking care of nature," Tonton said while assisting a diver in releasing a pawikan to the sea. He added the neighboring Aqua Venture Resort supports their conservation efforts in protecting the rights of the animals.

The releasing activity came with a lecture of sorts from a representative from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. With this tie-up with BFAR, the resort promotes Anilao as an excellent all-around diving destination. As such, they help monitor the presence and survival of sharks on the dive site.

Part of the activity that day was buoy deployment. This was done to enlighten the fishermen not to anchor on the reefs so as not to destroy them. The buoys provide safety for the divers and make it easier for them to find their dive sites. Ten buoys were installed over the weekend in Anilao in the dive sites of Bahura Kanto, Beatrice, Batok, Larry’s Garden, Cathedral Point, Aquaventures Reef Club, and Eagle Point Resort.

When all the 10 sharks and a pawikan finally found refuge in their natural habitat, we found ourselves basking under the sun. While many children were having the time of their lives going up and down the slide pool, my friends and I found our nirvana in snorkeling. The denizens of the deep in Anilao are truly spectacular. We had the grandest time chasing Napoleon wrasses, giant tuna, groupers, puffer fish, Moorish idol, among other creatures of the sea.

Exhausted but fulfilled after our snorkeling adventure, we rushed straight to the restaurant that served the best pizza margherita with anchovies and lapu-lapu in lemon butter sauce. Others in our group were so hungry they wolfed down a big bowl of piping hot bulalo with the freshest vegetables and sweet corn with patis, calamansi and sili on the side. The pinakbet and crispy pata just stayed on our table for less than a minute. The food at Eagle Point is beyond compare. It’s glorious, to say the least. Why wouldn’t it be when, in fact, Tonton himself makes sure that the preparation of the food meets the highest standard. After all, Tonton got his discriminating taste from the California Culinary Academy (CCA) where he graduated.

Besides the gustatory delights, the resort also offers many other activities. We sped our way to the neighboring Sepok and Sombrero Islands. Some hiked up to the aviary to feed the brown eagles. Others fed the fish in the snorkeling reef, went jetskiing, kayaking, and banana boat riding. Shortly before the sun kissed the day goodbye, turning the whole Balayan Bay into an orange-hued sea, we walked up to the Butterfly Park. Here, hundreds of butterflies of all sizes and colors hovered around us.

Rated among the 100 top resorts in the Philippines, Eagle Point Resort is a luxurious haven majestically perched on a ridge dramatically overlooking the sea. The existing terrain utilized old trees as part of the hotel’s infrastructure. Whether you choose to stay in their cozy cottages or at the newly-built and well-appointed terrace hotel replete with air-conditioning unit, comfortable bed, floppy pillows, you will feel pampered like royalty. In this beautiful eco resort, the silence of the night was punctured by the sound of the waves lapping the shore and a cacophony of cicadas and night owls. The tranquil sea was accompanied all throughout the night by the full moon that gave it luminescence. The sight was simply magical. I looked into the deep blue sea and wondered how the 10 sharks that were released earlier were faring in their new habitat.

The next day, we woke up to a beautiful and meaningful Mass celebrated by Fr. Aloysius Buensalida at one of the function rooms of the resort. The priest said in his homily: "We should take pride in preserving nature. God gave this to us even before we asked for it. There’s no point for people to destroy it."

With those words, we vowed to help protect the wonders of Mother Nature all the more.

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For more information about Eagle Point, call 813-3553/813-3560 or log on at www.eaglepoint.com.ph. To view more photos on the sharks and pawikans, check out www.pbase.com/manilaman04.

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For comments, please e-mail me at miladay@pacific.net.ph.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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