Sorsogon is home to successful ecotourism sites, such as the community-based, NGO-funded wildlife interactions in Donsol and the DENR-managed Bulusan Volcano Natural Park. Recently, new additions followed suit through individual and group efforts.
These include the agri-tourism site Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm in Bulusan and the non-profit organization Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp in Gubat.
Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm
It is a techno-demo farm for backyard beekeeping using kiwot (stingless bees). The technology aids in trasferring these Philippine native bees from the wild to community areas for pollination and production of honey, pollen and propolis.
There’s no need to go to the forest and burn trees for honey. It prompts conservation of endemic trees too especially those attract native bees. At the farm, two scarce local trees it is propagating now are palali and petroleum nut tree.
Why Stingless Bees
The stingless kiwot bees are abundant in the wild. It’s eight species add to the mix of pollinators in the environment, preventing us from experiencing the global bee crisis called colony collapse disorder.
These bees are now considered the key remaining pollinators in certain regions, writes author, researcher and member of a beekeeping society Julian Wright on his website, which deals on pollination in the country. They are “appreciated as a valuable pollinator for a range of crops.”
The UPLB Bee Program, headed by Dr. Cleofas Cervancia, has been using the kiwot bees for large-scale pollination of high-value crops like mango, lanzones and rambutan in certain communities in Luzon.
Kiwot bees have all the features of a honeybee, except the sting. Because pollen serves as their food, they also pollinate the flowers they visit. For these and the abovementioned reasons, it makes production affordable than with imported bees. It is safer too, given the lack of sting and farmers can sell hives as well.
Stingless bees are number one pollinators of mango, said Cervancia in an interview for a government TV network. In Bicol, it increases yields of pili nut and other crops. Luz Gamba, the farm’s owner, said in the same TV interview how not only their crops get pollinated but also the crops of neighbor farms.
Gamba is one of the collaborators in this program, which addresses certain needs of a community. Where she had a hard time starting, it helped fill the gap when technologies and training for their proper use (including of honey harvesting) were made available. Now, the farm is earning and getting known including to researchers.
Bees produce products like honey, pollen, wax and propolis. Propolis is a high-value clinical ingredient; and in the Philippines, it is a component of soap, toothpaste and shampoo. The farm now has honey products and another demo farm in Guinobatan produces pollen. The program’s participatory approach creates livelihood in the community.
Incidentally, it attracts tourists and researchers too that the farm has huts and other types of accommodations for visitors that want to stay overnight. It also used honey in cooking meals for guests.
National Economic Benefits
Stingless bees produce a high amount of propolis, which is rich in anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Inquiries from China and Japan are a chance to penetrate global market through propolis and stingless bee exportation.
In the meantime, this increase in local production narrows the gap between imported products and locally made. Thanks to the increasing awareness of bee products and in backyard beekeeping as a sustainable livelihood for farmers and the community.
As a Tourist Attraction
It offers a farm living experience in a serene and nature-calming environment. The Mount Bulusan is visible at the farm and the thick rainforest that surrounds it. There is a natural spring pool where water comes from Bulusan Lake and a fishing pond too.
If the need for adrenaline rush beckons, there are outdoor activities to try nearby. These include kayaking at Bulusan Lake, hiking at Mt. Bulusan, dipping in hot springs and surfing in Gubat – the next featured destination in this article.
Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp
The Rizal Beach in Gubat attracts tourists for surfing. A group of grateful surfers turned a part of this beach, which was a deadly area, into a thriving tourist destination.
Its mantra: pure fun, healthy eats and clean, simple living. There, visitors have the beach for the playground; the two-floor modest huts for accommodation; the beachfront detox area for idling sans drinking and smoking.
As an ecotourism site, it promotes environmental protection in a number of ways. One is through the use of natural and sustainable materials. From the huts to the restaurant and the function area, everything is built with bamboo.
Trees surround the bamboo tables in the outdoor dining area. The huts’ first level doubles as a day bed, which is open-air and comes with a pitched hammock. It is only at night time will you use electricity and during occasional trips to the bathroom.
Expect locally sourced ingredients – often from the market, sometimes from their backyard – for their homecooked meals. The cook’s unique take on its menu brings about these flavorful meals: tuna seasig (seafood sisig), smoked fish cooked ala bicol express and the grilled tuna jaw. Pair them with fresh fruits and vegetable shakes.
These simple, signature dishes reintroduced Bicol and Filipino food, the Granny’s Hearty Grub way. For that, it was one of the featured destinations in the region for the Flavors of the Philippines last April.
Its founders give their passion for surfing a greater purpose by forming a non-profit organization that is Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp. It helps send local boys and girls to school; welcomes youths to their club, and hold environmental and health-related seminars for the community.
Both promote a simple lifestyle where comfort is found in nature and developed in sustainable ways. So that communities will benefit too, while attracting tourists in the process, without harming the environment.
Photos courtesy of Balay Uma sa Bee Farm Facebook page and Laurie Gucilatar.