2 New Sorsogon Ecotourism Sites in Bloom: Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm and Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp

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.

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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

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Coconut shells turned into technologies for beekeeping.

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.

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Colonies of Trigona biroi or stingless bees.

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

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Ant-like size kiwot 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.

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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.

Main Benefits

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.

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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.

Bi-Products

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.

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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

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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.

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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 SURFING SITE

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fresh Eats and Clean Living at Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp

You’ll know there is something special with Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp when you visit its website. The words speak sincere promises of what you can experience with nature and simple things, and at the same time express firmness of its rules.

At the campsite, the beach is your playground where you can practice to master the art of natural high via surfing.

Surfing lessons help you get familiar with the process, while the surfboard for rent encourages you to try and try while having fun.

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As  its mantra goes:

We cannot offer a fancy room with minibar. But therefore you will leave as a surfer, with a new born soul, new friends and a beautiful place in mind where you are always welcome to return and learn how much happiness the simple things in life can give you.

The Experience

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First-time surfing means trusting your teacher wholeheartedly. That will wash away your fears (especially of big waves), and replace it with the thrill to do it right and stand on the board.

Focus, especially things can happen fast. Put your coordination skills at work. It will take care of your weight and balance.

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We made it partially on our first attempt. We almost made it on second and third.

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In the end, you’ll find this reminder true when surfing: The only thing standing between you and your goal is doubt.

Delightful Surprise

Are fresh eats and clean living part of your travel goals? At this campsite, you can achieve both.

You’ll feel lucky if one of the cooks is in the mood to share personal stories.  Like how they left their full-time work in Manila to help manage it; how surfing bonded their friendship since childhood, and how it almost took his life and yet found himself coming back.

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These surfing buddies give their passion a greater purpose by sending boys and girls to school, welcoming youths in their club and organizing health-related seminars for locals through Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp.

Admirable, isn’t it?

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For reservations, please get in touch with Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp.

Contact Person: Mr. Noli John

Phone: +63905242193 / +639994061497

Email: Lolasayong.org@gmail.com

Rates:

Camping P150

Cottage P800

Environmental fee P25

Photo credits to Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp and Laurie Gucilatar.

 

Subic beach: a rare find in Matnog, Sorsogon

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There are travel destinations worth sharing with others, but there are also places we wish only very few people know they exist. The latter may be a selfish act but we can’t really blame people for doing so especially when the place is a rare find. Among the places that can be ranked alongside this category are the beaches in Matnog, Sorsogon.

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Via a 30-minute boat ride, you can reach Subic beach– an unexplored, virgin island with pinkish sand, clear, bluish water, cool breeze air, and a very tranquil atmosphere. This beach is also a haven for marine biodiversity thanks to its unexploited natural environment.

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The beach can’t promise much in terms of activities that visitors can do aside from swimming, lazing, and taking a few photo souvenirs. Maybe it’s the reason Subic beach is so accessible—to allow people to get back to town proper before it gets dark.

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But if you have the chance to stay overnight, then grab it. Crowds these days seem to be everywhere— at the malls, supermarkets, movie houses, concert halls, on the streets, and even on beaches. So if there’s a gift the beach can offer to its visitors like you, I think, it’s the chance to enjoy the island all to yourselves and share precious memories with people who are important to you. You can do all these as long as you have brought with you a tent, clean water, food, and other camping necessities.

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Camping may be a bit uncomfortable but doing a “nomadic lifestyle” at least for a day also has its rewards. You get to experience making fire out of twigs and branches that scatter on the island. You cook and prepare your food with your family and friends, though most often it’s the bangkero who volunteers to do the cooking. You get to enjoy the company of people you are with even without using modern gadgets through honest and (often not-so-sensible) conversations, sharing of experiences, and endless laughter while eating, or simply watching the stars.

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When leaving the island, don’t forget to collect your garbage and bring it with you. The island already has an owner (according to our bangkero and development is already underway) but it’s not an excuse to leave trash on the beach. Even if there’s already a fee, it’s still your responsibility not to throw garbage anywhere.

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Also, don’t forget to drop by at Juag fish Sanctuary and Tikling beach. This fish sanctuary is near the coast of Matnog and it is a haven of different species of marine life. Most of the marine species in this sanctuary are not meant for human consumption. The owner rather wants them to grow and breed, live in longevity, and multiply as many as they can. To do this, the owner allows studies so he’ll know how they can be properly nurtured.

swimming with a school of fish at juag fish sanctuary

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Visitors can feed the fish by throwing fish pallets to the water. It is also allowed to swim in the area to give tourists a chance to see different types of fish up close and experience in an hour the joys of being this close with some of the nature’s marine organisms.

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photo credit: travel buddies. Thank you ate tessie for allowing me to use some of your friend’s pictures of the Subic beach and Juag fish sanctuary. =)