Barili town in Cebu's third district revs up its tourism packages in preparation for the revival of tourism-related activities, poised as the "new rockstar in ecotourism adventure in Cebu Island."
With continued sightings of dolphins in the waters of Barangays Japitan and Hilasgasan, the dolphin-watching activity would soon be offered as an "added experience" to ecotours travel.
Says Mayor Marlon Garcia, "no other town in Cebu Island yet has offered an activity for tourists as exciting as dolphin-watching."
He shared that it took his municipal tourism team two months to be able to determine where the cetaceans (spinners and Fraser's dolphins) appear exactly in their municipal waters.
"Taga-Cebu man gyud ning mga dolphins diris Tañon Strait ba (referring to the protected seascape in between Cebu and Negros Islands) kay mga 30 minutes after leaving the wharf of Japitan naa na man sila. Dili man ingon nga mo-take pag one hour and a half motorboat ride," he said.
Municipal Tourism Officer Victor "JR" Vergara in a site tour last July 25 pointed out the presence of the dolphins last Saturday came as a "first." It was the first time that it only took five minutes from departure of the boat from the wharf that the marine mammals began appearing. It was also the first time that they came in over five pods.
"Sa among na-experience duha ka grupo ra ni sila hangtod sa upat. Pero karon sa among count naabot nag eight groups," Vergara said.
He estimated the dolphins could have reached around 200.
The presence of spinners (Stenella longirostris) and Fraser's (Lagenodelphis hosei) dolphins is noted a kilometer from the coastlines of Japitan and Hilasgasan.
Spinners are so-called because of their ability to spin and twist as they jump out of the waters.
Fraser's dolphins are named after Francis Fraser, a scientist from the British Museum, who first described this species in 1956 based on a skull found on a beach in Borneo (thus Fraser's dolphins are also called Borneo or Sarawak dolphins).
Mayor Garcia said that a resolution is being crafted to establish guidelines most especially in striking a balance between ecotourism as an economic opportunity in Barili and the continued conservation initiatives in Tañon Strait and its marine species as stipulated in Proclamation No. 1234 signed by former President Fidel Valdez Ramos in 1998.
Vergara said that a training of frontliners with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 environmental management specialists is set from July 30 to 31.
"This will help our tourism team and guides to understand better the do’s and don'ts in dolphin-watching. We do not want to mess up with environmental regulations. Mao sad ni nga dili pa ni nato madali-dali og open to our tourists kay gusto nato nga i-comply from ordinance to permits, aron nga dili gyud ta makaligis og mga balaud sa protection aning mga dolphins," Vergara said.
"Nya speaking of ligis, dili sad gyud ta gusto nga makaligis ani nga mga dolphins kay kon duna'y usa sa ilang grupo nga mapasakitan or mamatay, mangluod ra ba ni sila. Mao na'y atong na-gather from our fishermen who encounter them most of the time," he added.
In addition, a marine biologist will be part of the tourism key staff so as to further improve research, documentation and information awareness on dolphins, Vergara said.
All of these efforts will lead to the establishment of a guest briefing station in Hilasgasan and the training of cultural interpreters in the community able to impart information on local history and heritage such as the presence of dolphins, whales and whalesharks (tuki) in the past centuries.
As for an extreme activity, the Barili ATV Adventure is now open. The all-terrain vehicle (ATV) adventure in Barangay Nasipit is out to give the adrenaline junkies an "all-time serotonin-high experience" as trail covers a total of 12 kilometers of rough road, mud, cliff and limestone wall, and an awesome vantage view of Tañon Strait, the western skyline and its perfect display of sunset moments.
The Barili ATV Adventure costs from around P600 to P800 per head depending on the level of difficulty. There are three phases to the finishing line which is at the Bangaglapus Cave, another tourist spot in the municipality.
Disinfecting foam for protective gears and an ultraviolet germicidal light have been used to sanitize after each and every use. A handwashing station is also in place. Trained guides will give participants an orientation prior to the course.
This activity forms part of the tourist packages that visitors may sign up through a provincial online booking portal now under construction. The other packages are a beachineering experience in Sayaw and a sightseeing activity to Mantayupan Falls. (Eleanor Valeros)