Bautista: Love Oslob

All in Good Time

TIME and time again, it always amazes me. At first, it was with mom from a meeting I had in Cebu. Next was when the Batang Pinoy was also hosted by Cebu. Soon after, I will continue on with different groups. It is my fifth time and it is simply better and better every time.

Fishermen from a long time ago and for many years and until these modern time have had some sort of a love-hate relationship with each other. I learned that the fishermen dread the big animals. Other than being intimidating in size, they also change the ecosystem when they finish up all the krill and small shrimp in the area. Another was that, the whale sharks scare away all the fish for the fishermen. In fact they were considered pests by every Juan in Oslob.

A long time ago they were driven away or slaughtered for all the same reasons. But again with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) things will change. There was no way that the way of the fishermen would prevail over the whale sharks.

Tourists who have learned of the situation would soon share their inputs on what can be done. The fishermen listen and would adjust to what was going on. Indeed something can be done. A win-win for all.

The community was offered a way to make things work. They were all involved into finding a solution for it. Biologists from WWF would soon share information for it. It was a habit for these whale sharks to seek for food, found in Oslob. Driving them away will not solve anything since they will always return. The problem was when all the krill or shrimp will all be gone, and so would they.

While tourism has now become an industry for Oslob, locals soon recognize that it has to be sustained. But how? Their own idea was to treat them like pets. Providing for their food was the only way for the community to have visitors and change the way the locals will improve their way of living with the whale sharks in a harmonious way.

WWF would soon feel that it was wrong for the fishermen to feed the whale sharks away from their own natural feeding way. But would later on give an exception because what they saw was something that both benefited the community and its people and the whale sharks. Indeed a winning combination.

Today, things are more organized. Except that there is just too many tourists nowadays. One Pinoy to a hundred foreigners. Business is also booming. While a common area is now found and seems permanent, parking is a problem. No Juan is allowed to park within the area. Hotels and inns plus some resorts have found its way around the community, owned by who I don't know, hopefully by the locals.

We were told we had to line up for an early day out with the whale sharks. But at 2 in the morning? We asked for some Juan to line up ahead for us. We leave at 2:30 a.m. from our hotel in Cebu. By Waze it appears to take us there in 3 hours. I am lent a Land Cruiser from my good friend Basti, also from Cebu for it. I drive.

At 5:30 we are asked to be at a waiting and reception area. There we see daybreak. We are the 19th group! Despite the 2 o’clock paid personnel to line up for us. We were told that everyday it would last until 11 in the morning before the whale sharks leave for deeper waters. The visiting groups will be a hundred or more. Good money for them. That's a hundred boats, a hundred fishermen, a hundred tips for them. Each day. A group would each have 30 minutes to interact with the whales. Lots of them and very huge.

The real business is in the number of visitors who would like to interact with the whale sharks. Each person pays P500 to get into the water, P300 just to watch from the boat and take pictures. Most will want to get out of the boat and swim alongside the whale sharks. Life vests or floaters are offered for free together with boatmen and the whale shark food, "alamang" or "bagoong" it is. Just bear with the smell.

Water camera rentals and water photographers are also offered for the tourist if ever, for a fee. A CD is given right after for Juan who avails of it. A fee of P20 for a pail of water for shower is available. Soap and shampoo too, double the price outside. Towels are a good sell from all of it.

While there, visit some heritage sites from the Spanish, like the Cuartel Ruins and the church beside it. There too are some beautiful waterfalls around the area. I saw a monkey sanctuary. On the way back to Cebu is Carcar City where lechon and chicharon is the best.

This time it was Sumilon Island where we spent the rest of the day. A marine habitat was what they offered. It was beautiful. Swimming alongside various and colorful fish species and corals. They say it's a first again for Juan to go and swim to see it.

There are so many reasons to come see Oslob everytime. I love Oslob.


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