Adopting Turtles

Morong Travel Blog

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The long and wide sand beaches of Morong.

I had quite a tight week at work on the last week of November 2007, but luckily towards the weekend, everything slowly loosened up and I was able to find time to do some of the things I wasn't able to accomplish. One of them was the meet-up with travbuddies Josh(The_bloosucker), Bryan(Ryan_84), and Mark(howYOOdoinn from Korea). We were supposed to have dinner on November 29, Thursday, but it was quite impossible for me to join them. That afternoon, the whole of Makati City was in a frenzy due to an abrupt military coup attempt with a siege ongoing at the posh Peninsula Hotel. There was momentary chaos with traffic gone berserk, worried employees fleeing Makati to be in their homes, and urgent staff meetings called by expat bosses for contingency plans.

Adopt a Turtle
Thankfully, the coup led by an outnumbered rebel soldier group was controlled peacefully by the government forces on that very same afternoon. The three buddies were in Manila at that time, while I was in Makati.

I was able to make up for my absence on the first meet-up when I joined the three guys at Quezon City for dinner and drinks at OFF THE GRILL on Timog Avenue on Saturday. That was my very first Manila travbuddy meet-up meeting Josh and Bryan for the first time. We met at around 11pm ,had food and drinks and enjoyed the music played by a live band. Definitely not a boring bar, the singer and the band sounded pleasant, and the food tasted good and priced fairly but we wanted some more action .

Hatchery- Eggs buried inside the sand
At around 1 a.m., we decided to transfer to another bar so we drove to the Fort at Bonifacio Global City, to PIER ONE  where we had another round of beer. We stayed at the place till 3 a.m. We would have have loved to stay longer but we had to leave because I had to catch my bus to Morong, Bataan at 5 am, and Mark has to pack his stuff as he was scheduled to fly to Seoul that same day. From Bonifacio, I dropped the three guys at THE PEARL  MANILA HOTEL at Taft Avenue, Manila, where Mark checked in. From Taft, I went home straight to Makati. It was already past 4 am when I reached home. I took a quick shower, packed my camera, some extra shirts, and my meds into my backpack, then took a taxi to the bus terminal at EDSA, Pasay City.
I adopted a pair of hatchlings and am bringing them home - their home...
I reached the place at 5:10 am and my bus had already left! Gosh, I can't be late because the people from the conservation center told me to be there before 11 am for the release of the hatchlings.

The next bus will leave after another hour so I decided to take the bus to San Fernando, Pampanga then from there proceed to Bataan. I thought that in San Fernando, there surely will be a lot of buses going to Bataan so I can still reach Morong by midmorning. I hopped into the nearest bus that had SAN FERNANDO as its destination signboard, found a seat, and prayed that the bus will leave in 10 minutes as promised. Ten minutes later, the bus was already on its way to the EDSA(Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) northbound to Pampanga. By the time the bus was moving, that was the only time that I realized I haven't had a bit of sleep over the past 24 hours.

turtle babes...
My head was beginning to spin and my eyes where so heavy that if I closed them I'd fall into deep sleep stat. But my estimate travel time to San Fernando is only an hour and I was thinking that if I fall asleep and wake up forcefully after an hour, that might lead to an acute biorythmic change that might affect my physical condition that needed to be in normal and active state for the day's upcoming activity at the Pawikan Center. I stayed awake until the bus dropped me off at the terminal in San Fernando, where the buses going to Bataan where parked. There is no direct bus route to MORONG. I had to go the town of BALANGA, then take another bus from this town to MORONG.
I now release you into the deep blue sea...
Travel time is 2 hours. This time, I could get some sleep. And I did.

I woke up soon as the bus was already entering Balanga town. I was dropped off at the bus terminal which was located quite far and secluded from the town proper. It was already 8:15 am and the bus left 15 minutes earlier before I got there. The next bus will leave at 9 am and so I estimated that with 1 hour travel time from Balanga to Morong, I would be at the center by 10 am. I had no choice but to sit and wait for my bus to leave. At that point, I was already feeling woozy from lack of sleep; and hungry. I needed to have breakfast. My anti-diabetic meds must be taken after breakfast meals. But where am I gonna buy food, I thought.

The journey begins...
It was quite odd but I didn't see any food stalls around the bus terminal. Since I still had an hour of free time, I decided to go out of the bus terminal compound to search for nutrition. Luckily I spotted a carinderia(canteen) at around a hundred meters from the entrance. I checked out the place and found out  they were selling steamed rice and ulam (any cooked meat or veggie that is eaten with rice). They also have sabaw(soup) but I ordered coffee. Judging from the appearance of the ulam on display, I thought they were freshly cooked so I ordered for ulam (chicken with coconut cream) and rice. The food was hot , and the spoon and fork they gave were dipped in boiling water so that gave me the assurance that what I was ingesting was clean and safe.
Go go go....
After the quick meal and taking my meds, I went back to the bus, seated myself at the right side same row as the driver, and resumed my sleep.

I arrived at the PAWIKAN CONSERVATION CENTER 10:30 am. The trip to Morong from Balanga took more than an hour because the mini bus was running at a slow average speed of 40mph! The bus dropped me off at NAGBALAYONG, a barrio(county) before Morong town proper. From the center of Nagbalayong, I had to walk around 500 meters towards the aplaya (shore) where the Pawikan Center was. At the street corner where I was dropped off, there was a small welcome billboard with fading paint colors, and that was the only sign of the direction to the Center. There were no pointing arrow signs. All I saw was a long very narrow road with shanties all over the place, littered with children, and folks tending to their daily rural life routine.

Almost there....
For the nth time, I came face to face with the grim reality that a wide gap between the rich and the poor in this country exists, and the government is not prioritizing this issue.

After walking for around 15 minutes, I finally reached the aplaya and saw the Pawikan Center at a lot that served as a boundary between the beach and the shanties behind. The place was almost deserted except for the volunteer watching the hatchery. I moved around to see what the center has. There was a small room that served as an office, a lobby that displayed the list of benefactors to this NGO unit, some pictures of turtle species displayed, a  stall for souveiner items, and some airconditioned rooms for guests who would want to stay overninght. I checked out the hatchery ,which is a small portion enclosed with low fence, and with dug holes to bury the eggs for hatching.

Here I come, take me....
During the evening when the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, the volunteers collect the eggs, put them in the dug holes, and cover them with sand to incubate for 40-60 days. When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings will crawl out to the surface from beneath the mound of sand. They will be collected and placed in a small pond adjacent to the hatchery for release back to the ocean. I learned that during the night, there are volunteers assigned to patrol the beach area to secure the place from poachers and ensure the turtles' uninterrupted egg laying until they go back to the waters. I would return to this place someday to experience Turtle Patrol. I also learned that in the eight years that this center existed, almost 50,000 hatchlings were already released to this protected area.
Finally....

The group I was supposed to join for a film show and orientation already left 2 hours earlier for the mangrove plantation and conservation area. They were also done with releasing the hatchlings as they were in the center as early as 8 am.  After a few minutes, Aling Nida (Ms Nida) the center coordinator I spoke with on the phone prior to my visit, arrived. I immediately apologized for my late arrival but she said it was okay and I can still release some hatchlings while the sun was still not at its hottest. She said I can come back someday if I was still interested to see their lecture videos on the Olive Ridley turtles and the lecture on the importance of mangroves to marine ecosystem.

I told Aling Nida that I was willing to adopt two turtles so I signed the 'adoption papers', gave my donation for the center, and went to the pond to get my babies.

Turtleprints in the sand....
One of the volunteers assisted me. We picked up two hatchlings from the pond, and placed them on my palm to dry while we walked to the beach. I didn't understand much why we needed to dry a bit the hatchlings bodies, but the reason the volunteer gave me was for the hatchlings to move freely while they crawl from the beach to the waters.

The beach was deserted except for some boys frolicking in the very wide open beach that faced the South China Sea. There was no rain during that day and the sun was shining brightly up the almost cloudless sky. The sea was very calm and the waves were soft. When we were about a meter away from the waters, I placed the two turtles on the sand, and told them to go. As if following my orders, they immediately began to crawl slowly towards the waters. The sound of the small waves and ripples seemed to energize them as they crawled faster to meet the waves that will pull and push them home into the deep blue sea.

I could see and feel their eagerness to get home. I didn't take my eyes off them until the soft waves completely pulled them into the sea out of my sight, into the home where they belong.  I was just awed with that brief encounter. I can't describe the feeling and I thought that this trip, although a brief one, will be one of my most memorable travels.

As I was walking back to the Center, I decided to come back to this place and support the Center's cause in my own little ways. From all the observations I made, I have already listed some planned activities when I return. After thanking Aling Nida and the volunteers, I said my goodbyes and started my walk back to Nagbalayong to resume my return journey to Manila. I was tired, hungry, and miss my home, but I was happy.

ted332 says:
It truly is an amazing experience. :)
Posted on: Apr 26, 2008
keef_mon says:
very cool!
Posted on: Apr 26, 2008
jennjeff1 says:
Ted, we had 12 sea turtle mothers give birth on our beach in Okianwa. Seeing 1,000 of those baby turtles (Japanese: Kame) going out to the East China Sea is an awesome experience we'll never forget! Glad to see your contributions to save the sea turtles! ~Jeff (and Jenny)
Posted on: Apr 26, 2008
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The long and wide sand beaches of …
The long and wide sand beaches of…
Adopt a Turtle
Adopt a Turtle
Hatchery- Eggs buried inside the s…
Hatchery- Eggs buried inside the …
I adopted a pair of hatchlings and…
I adopted a pair of hatchlings an…
turtle babes...
turtle babes...
I now release you into the deep bl…
I now release you into the deep b…
The journey begins...
The journey begins...
Go go go....
Go go go....
Almost there....
Almost there....
Here I come, take me....
Here I come, take me....
Finally....
Finally....
Turtleprints in the sand....
Turtleprints in the sand....
Hatchlings
Hatchlings
Hatchery
Hatchery
free at last..
free at last..
home sweet home...
home sweet home...
What a home...
What a home...
South China Sea, Vietnam accross
South China Sea, Vietnam accross
Endangered turtle species...
Endangered turtle species...
sponsors...
sponsors...
Pawikan(Sea Turtle) Conservation C…
Pawikan(Sea Turtle) Conservation …
The hatchery.
The hatchery.
Ang Bata at ang Munting Pagong (Th…
Ang Bata at ang Munting Pagong (T…
barrio NAGBALAYONG
barrio NAGBALAYONG
my guide through the maze of shant…
my guide through the maze of shan…
rural shanty
rural shanty
barrio life
barrio life
path to the Center
path to the Center
my bus - business class
my bus - business class
Balanga Bus Terminal
Balanga Bus Terminal
the road to Morong - palay(unmille…
the road to Morong - palay(unmill…
footbridge
footbridge
Sponsored Links
Morong
photo by: ted332