Mindanao’s Hidden Treasures

I have always been on a lookout for water wonders, the kind where the sea is a clear turqoise blue shade and brimming with living creatures but at the same time not tourist-laden. In the Philippines, it is impossible not to find one.

There are a lot more beautiful places in this country than what we already know of. There is Boracay, El Nido, Anilao, Malapascua, and Coron – all these places have already found their way into so many blogs by backpackers and adventurers. No one will contest to their awe-inspiring beauty, but beyond these there exists unspoiled beauty.

There are those places whose wonders lie hidden, known only to the people who have lived there. If you ever find your way to these places, you would want to keep it your secret. That’s how I felt when I went to MOAP.

1380229_10203167316136681_4149131719492592808_n

MOAP stands for Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park. Misamis Occidental is one of the provinces of Northwestern Mindanao, bounded to the north by the Mindanao Sea and to the east by Iligan Bay. To the west lies my hometown Zamboanga del Norte. The easiest way to get there is to fly to Ozamiz City from Manila, and from Ozamiz the place is only about 30 minutes away.

To tell the truth, this is not one of those places that no one has ever heard of. I have spotted a few locals coming here, at most 5 people snorkeling with us when we visited. The other guests go there to eat at the restaurant by the sea. There were a few foreign nationals (3 when I was there) but they must have been very adventurous to go all the way to Misamis Occidental. You’ll be able to see a few blogs talking about MOAP. Most, if not all, of the blogs are written by Filipinos but none of them prepared me for the feeling of wonder that I had when I was there. It was authentic and rustic and spontaneous.

A feature about MOAP had been published on national paper before, most likely an attempt to attract tourists to the place. However due to several reasons, including the park’s distance from the airport and the main city, the place didn’t really become that famous.

Their main selling point is the Dolphin Island, an offshore man-made island that houses rescued dolphins. When I first heard of it, I immediately crossed this place out of my To Visit list. I do not support parks and places that keep animals captive for the entertainment of human beings, but the allure of this relatively unknown place won me over. I live in the province just beside it and I couldn’t believe that I’ve never heard of this place before. I imagined the marine life here to be very diverse. So I made a decision to check it out (and promised to write something negative about the dolphins in captivity).

So from Manila I flew to Dipolog City with my friend Jamie. From there we took a 4-hour bus ride to the municipality of Tudela in Misamis Occidental. There are no big signs on the road that will tell you you’ve arrived at your destination. Instead you just rely on the kundoktor (the guy who collects the bus fare and shouts ‘Para!’ or stop) to tell you it’s almost time to go down. On one side of the asphalt road are rice fields and on the other side is a concrete road perpendicular to the high way and will lead you to the sea, your destination.

10306719_10203167315736671_6006241317686375590_n

The outline of the town facing the sea is covered with mangroves. If there are mangroves, there are fishes. I was so excited. Mangroves are among fishes’ natural habitat and breeding ground. The cottages in the park were nestled among the mangroves. Don’t expect 5-star accommodation because these cottages aren’t managed by private hoteliers. Nonetheless it was decent with air conditioning, functional bathrooms, and a kitchen. The best I like about it was the first class view. You wake up in the morning seeing the sun rise with its beams peeking through the leaves of the mangroves.

I could talk a lot more about MOAP. I can describe every detail of the place but pictures paint a thousand words, so I’ll let it do the talking.

IMG_6605
This is the way to the park’s only restaurant. The food there is very good and the choices are many so we didn’t care if we ate there everyday.

10308557_10203167652665094_2083296192751152615_n
Waiting by the wharf, this is the boat that would take us to Dolphin Island, which is a 15-minute boat-ride away. This wharf is also just connected to the restaurant.

IMG_6285
Checking out the fishes near the wharf

10351597_10203167314136631_2180721229105213178_n
On the boat and looking back, this was our view of the wharf, the restaurant, and the cottages.

1601479_10203167338657244_7818349032742284031_n
On our way to the Dolphin Island. It stands on a sand bar and has an underwater pen for the dolphins. The place also has a restaurant but the food are not as varied as the one at the wharf.

IMG_6289
The underwater pen at the Dolphin Island. Guess what, there were no dolphins! I was so happy to hear that they have escaped. The caretaker told me there originally were 3 there, rescued since they were said to be wounded. I don’t think they release the dolphins immediately though even though they get better since it would discourage people to visit. The dolphins however were said to have escaped through a defect in the net of the pen. I was happy they were free. The marine life swimming freely in this blue sea was more than enough for me.

10403207_10203167407018953_7218763662683044895_n
10410597_10203167527581967_3526220744736189470_n
10348224_10203167493581117_6991332593461704359_n
10374890_10203167345897425_8696764570079388480_n
10372585_10203167039169757_1621315376493844066_n
If you touch the brim of their shells, these giant clams close.

10347180_10203167590143531_1103499919857458316_n
10365902_10203167590383537_6939742294240620023_n
Corals that have attached to the posts of the underwater pens at Dolphin Island. When I was there I was so amazed at how they were so alive. I could only say wow in my head while looking at all the colors and how dynamic and alive everything that surrounded me were.

IMG_6548
This is the unfinished part of the park. I was told it has been like this for a couple of years and that’s natural with politics, change in leadership would end up to unfinished projects. We spotted these funny sea gulls who seem to like standing on the posts and they never want to share with another sea gull.

10415558_10203167587943476_558937470184623487_n
1959506_10203167590943551_4615593266340468449_n
10341507_10203167379178257_5785004417387412351_n
10303956_10203167409899025_7798313926379356841_n

If it were me, I’d like to keep the place as natural as possible. I wouldn’t want the diversity of the marine life and their undisturbed life changed. However, it is not in my hands what is to happen to MOAP.

I wish that more attention would be given by the government in developing the place. What they could do first of all is to update the cottages so they aren’t so old, especially the bathrooms. But what I hope most of all is the development of the park as a center for marine science. There is potential for this place to be a study area for marine biology and even ecology as a whole. I hope in time it wouldn’t be forgotten, and I hope it remains in good hands.

I will come back here one day and experience everything it has again. If you are the kind of adventurer who goes to places with no reservations and loves all the surprises of mother nature, then I highly recommend MOAP to you. It’s far but if you have the spirit and you are open-minded, then go to MOAP.

 

Update: I have changed the title of this post due to certain things I have learned and some truths I found while visiting MOAP that I only decided to post just now.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Mindanao’s Hidden Treasures

  1. Live, Love, Create, Be Happy says:

    Swoon! It looks amazing! In the two tropical places I have visited probably one of the things that stood out the most was snorkeling and seeing the underwater life. One place was Hawaii, the other Tanzania. It is so important to protect these treasures of our world. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kay lozano says:

    Is moap still open? Ive read several negtive reviews about the place recently. Were planning to visit there last week of march.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s