Caracoles festival, Samal Island
Samal Island folk lores
Mangrovetum Project, Samal Island

MANGROVETUM PROJECT

Mangrovetum ProjectMangrovetum ProjectThe DENR-ERDS XI mangrovetum is the first of its kind in the country. It is a place where various mangrove plant species are grown and preserved. Its purpose is to ensure preservation of the 47 species of true Philippine mangroves. This mangrovetum was established by the Mama Earth Foundation through the initiative of Ulrich Kronberg, a German environmentalist, who found Samal Island and ideal place to put up this mangrove conservation project.

The mangrovetum project officially opened and established in March 1, 2001. Presently, it covers about 10 hectares and is located within the timberland and protected area in the shore lines of Baybay, Brgy. San Isidro, Babak District. It also serves as biodiversity and conservation site for birds and other wildlife’s wonders.

Over 50,000 seedlings are being cultured in mangrovetum. With the assistance of the DENR XI, hundreds of mangroves have already been distributed by the “MAMA EARTH” Foundation to the different barangays and schools for their tree planting activities. The laudable project has become instrumental in the campaign of the DENR XII to heighten the awareness and appreciation of mangroves to the community and to the people.

Mangroves are important in propagating and maintaining the marine ecosystem. Though some species grow in dry lands in coastal waters occasionally affected by tides, most mangroves flourish in water logged areas where daily low and high tides occur. The mangroves provide economic and ecological benefits to people and to the community by providing refuge to myriad schools of fishes and other marine lives.

The Samal Mangrovetum Project has gained considerable recognition from the Coastal Resource Management Project as the southern Mindanao showcase for CRM best learning destinations. As reputable field laboratory and show room for mangrove ecosystem in Region XI, it has become a favourite fieldtrip destination by environmentalists and students.

Recently, a two storey building for Mangrove Training Center has been constructed with the help of People Organization Foundation to serve as venue for training, workshops, meetings, cross visits and seminars. Environmentalists and young learners from different schools are frequent visitors of the Training Center. Graduate students from different universities and colleges regularly visit the Mangrovetum Project for their research works and masteral thesis on environment protection of our natural resources.

SAMAL BATS

Samal Island Fruit BatsIf you’re wondering why there seems to be so much durian fruit in Davao, blame it on the bats. Yes – the 1.8 million fruit bats of Samal island – the largest known population of such bats in the world.

US bat scientist Jim Kennedy of Bat Conservation International who was here in Davao to study the famous Samal bats believes that the soaring production of durian in this part of the country can be attributed to these bats for pollinating thousands of durian trees in the city and surrounding provinces every night.

“Only these fruit bats can effectively pollinate the flowers of all the durian trees in this area which keep them producing more fruits,” Kennedy told mediamen here during the annual Samal Bat Festival recently which attracted hordes of tourists and visitors to the island.

Kennedy said all these pollination activities by Samal fruit bats take place during the night covering all the durian plantations in the Davao province, city limits and even as far as Cotabato. According to the American bat scientist, at least 300 plant species rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal. Kennedy confirmed that the durian tree is “bat-dependent” and the favorite of Samal fruit bats who also eat some of the fruit pulp if found cracked-open on the ground. “The nice thing about these fruit-eating bats, they can easily spread thousands of seeds every night after feasting on durian,” Kennedy said.

Samal’s bats are known by its scientific name Rousettus Amplex Caudatus and common name Geoffroy’s Rousette fruit bats. The almost two-million bats that are hanging on the rugged walls of Monfort’s underground caves actually came from more than 70 other underground caves in the island after escaping angry villagers sometime ago, who blame the bats for gobbling up their backyard vegetables, like stringbeans, cucumbers and squash. Only the timely arrival of Kennedy and the village chieftain of sitio Bandera pacified the fuming villagers and saving many of the bats from ending up in the steaming stew pots as “kaldereta”.

Although the almost two million fruit bats had been around Samal island since the early 1900’s and the second world war—when the Monforts used the caves as air-raid shelters—- no one knows for sure just how far these bats can fly by the hundreds of thousands over Davao at night.

“We hope to do some banding activities where we capture a few hundred bats, band them up with code numbers, stick a transmitter on their wings and monitor them with radar to find out where and how far they can fly. Right now, we can’t do that—- no funds for that,” says Kennedy as he watched the hanging bats at one cave start to stir inside the dimming cave. Bats were now flying all around as the sun sank behind the darkening Mount Apo mountain ranges in the distant.

Amidst the sounds of squeaking and flapping wings, thousands of bats start to flap their way past the coconut trees all the way up to the Davao sky, streaming like a thin, fast-moving black cloud under a rising full moon—– on their way to fruit plantations.

by Aurelio A. Pena PHILPRESS FEATURES

MAMACAO SPRING

Mamacao SpringThe beautiful place called Mamacao Spring is lush with small patches of green forest surrounding it. Downstream it thrives clusters of Nipa plants that look like sentries gallantly guarding the springs. Covering it like umbrella is a giant Balete Tree whose engorged root formations stand like giant columns. The Mamacao Spring is in a foot of a cliff where its gushing waters flow down to the shoreline.

The place is so diverse because of the numerous springs around it. One of the springs is even called Solomon, named after an old local resident of the place. Beside it is the vast mangrove forest popularly known as Mangrovetum. The spring is frequented by wild birds. Migrating ducks and mallards are some of its flying transients. Parrots, owls and hawks are occasionally seen here too. In the early 70’s, the famous Kalaw (Philippine Hornbill) used to breed in this place.

Mamacao is a broad leafed forest tree that usually flourishes near the bodies of water. A big Mamacao tree once majestically stood nearer the spring but a Balete tree outgrown it. The Mamacao wilted and perished. Before the water system was established in the barangay, the community converged in this place. Drinking water was fetched by jeeploads. The spring teemed with women and children doing their laundries, pounding the clothes with wooden planks or “palopalo”. Some were listening to the “binisayang drama” from the faint sound of the transistor radio. Stories and gossips exchanged…political opinions aired. Summer and especially during droughts, this place is an important watering hole. People are not the only beneficiaries of the spring. On the other side of the spring was a big mudpool or “lunangan, lubugan or tunaan” for carabaos. Here the beasts of burden frolicked in the soft cool mud after a hard day’s work in the field.

The place is not only famous for its beauty and greenery. It is also rich in stories, myths, mysteries and hair raising experiences accounted by the people frequenting it. The place is known to be guarded by a notorious Agta of Kapre who howls when someone makes noise in the spring. A lot of locals attest that every time a person makes comments (pamuyag) about the place he will have high fever, boils will grow in his body or his face will be deformed. There are also stories about lady of Mamacao who lures bathers at dawn. Some locals hear children voices palying and taking a bath in the middle of the night.

Mamacao Spring is situated in the boundary of Barangay San Isidro and Libuak, Babak District. It’s used to be a part of the vast property of COMBARI, an Australian firm who planned to put up an aluminium refinery in the early 70’s. COMBARI bought the almost the entire area of Barrio San Isidro. Most land owners migrated to other places after their land was sold that made the place almost a ghost town. The place is now a vast coconut plantation beside the forested area of Mamacao.

by hur camporedondo

DAP-AG… SHY STAR OF THE SEAS

StarfishBoy with StarfishSamal Island is not only blessed with world class beaches. It is also full of colorful unique marine creatures adorning its winding coasts. Some of them are creatures characterized superficially with radical symmetry known as sea stars locally known as “dap-ag”.

“Dap-ags” are amazing creatures. They radiate diversely in shapes and colors. They help provide a balance in the ecosystem by surviving chiefly on arthopods, small fishes and mollusks. They are believed to have withstood different phases of evolution. There are about 1,800 known species inhabiting all the floor of the oceans. Their habitats ranges from tropical coral reefs, kelp forests to deep-sea floor. No starfish are found in freshwater environments.

These shy stars of the waters are seen everywhere… sluggishly moving around and clinging on the rugged corals, burrowing its abodes and littering the coasts of the world renowned Samal Island. In some cases, dap-ags are used as ornaments during sandcastle building contest.

Children love to toy with these creatures which are sensitive to human touch. They grow stiff when touched. Sights of colorful dap-ags adorning the shores of Samal will surely make each visit worthwhile.

by adpsje