3 things you never knew about Pawikan conservation

Raring to do something different before summer ends? Have a fun and d meaningful break by supporting a local marine conservation program.

Earlier this year, me and my colleague Reby, visited the Pawikan Watchers in San Juan, La Union. Pawikan Watchers is a volunteer placement program that aims to help existing Philippines-based turtle conservation programs. Its pilot program in San Juan, La Union is a partnership between Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions (CURMA), Route +63, and Save Philippine Seas. Its pilot run had a team of 7 (6 Filipinos and 1 Swiss).

Newly-hatched baby pawikans.
Newly-hatched baby pawikans.

Background: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources started the Pawikan Conservation program in the 1970s. Due to manpower and budget constraints, however, DENR was not able to collect enough data on the country’s marine turtle population, and nesting grounds. There was not enough data on many of the nesting grounds of the marine turtles – and this affected the pace of legislation to protect the turtles.

Basically, the Pawikan Watchers helps DENR collect and share data about sea turtles. Sounds easy? Here are 3 things you never knew about Pawikan Conservation programs:

1. Conservation entails a lot of walking in the dead of night.

Pawikans come ashore at night to lay eggs. This means that to be able to record how many nests there are and to protect the eggs from poachers (yikes!), conservationists have to do their beach patrols between midnight to around 4 AM. And not only will you be looking out for nests, you’ll have to be able to transfer the eggs to a safer location — the hatchery….

Transferring eggs at night,
Transferring eggs at night.

2. Transferring pawikan eggs is (literally) back breaking business.

Transferring eggs to the hatchery can get stressful, very fast. You dig the eggs up gently, using your arms and hands (think pawikan fins).

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Back breaking work.

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and you have to transfer the eggs in the exact position you found them:

Two person team to transfer from nest to hatchery to ensure eggs are in the exact same orientation as they were found.
Two person team to transfer from nest to hatchery to ensure eggs are in the exact same orientation as they were found.

and count them too.

Monitoring sheet.
Monitoring sheet.

at night.

*No data means no legislation gets passed. Mapping nesting grounds are essential for passing legislation to protect them. It’s like a more complicated way of saying “pics or it didn’t happen.”

Measuring pawikan tracks are just a few of the things a conservationist needs to tabulate.
Measuring pawikan tracks are just a few of the things a conservationist needs to tabulate.

3. And after they hatch, you have to release them into the sea immediately. Hatchlings need to be release immediately into the sea or else they will lose their “frenzy” or expend the energy they need to swim to open sea.

Hatchling
Baby Pawikan off to sea. (photo by Jason Marges of Pawikan Watchers)

Want to help out Pawikan Watchers and other conservation efforts? Contact: http://savephilippineseas.org/ to see how you can help. 🙂

My Cheapskate Pagudpod Adventure (Bagnet Pig Out Weekend)

I like going on trips but I don’t like spending insane amounts of money. As such, I’m always on the look out for bargain vacations. Granted, summer time isn’t the best time to make a “tipid” trip, my cheapo beach birthday proves it’s still possible. For my twenty-fifth birthday, I decided to go on a trip to Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte with my college friends.

We started our journey on the eve of my birthday (May 5). We boarded a Laoag-bound Florida bus at Cubao at around 7pm. Since it’s a ten hour, 500 kilometer trip to Pagudpod (it’s a little farther than Laoag), I’m happy we got a bus that was equipped with a mobile toilet.

Wallet damage for a one way ride to Pagudpod’s town proper: 700

This is how far we traveled.

Well, we got there alright. We took trikes to Polaris Beach Resort (there were eight of us) and that cost us about ten pesos each. Polaris Beach Resort’s rooms aren’t spectacular, but they have the basics: functioning air conditioning, TV, extension cords (upon request) and a shower. The rooms we got had two beds each and were good for four people. At around P 2,500 per night, each of us had to chip in P1,125 each. Still wallet-friendly.

View of beach from Polaris Hotel

A twenty minute stroll along the beach brought us to Emohruo Restaurant at Evangeline’s Resort. Their extensive menu includes breakfast favorites like eggs in a basket and pancakes, a variety of fruit shakes and alcoholic drinks (their specialty? The must-try Pagudpod Sling – a combination of orange juice, rum, coconut juice and god knows what else), surprising chicken dishes (like their Mango Chicken) as well as Ilocano favorites: Bagnet in Coconut Milk and Bagoong, KBL or Kamatis, Bagoong at Lasona and Pinakbet.

Specialty Shake: Banana, Apple and a host of other vitamin-packed energy-giving fruits. YUMMEH!

Wallet damage at Emohruo is around P100 to P300 per meal. While their food is spectacular, expect to wait anywhere from thirty to an hour and a half for your food if you go there for dinner.

Lovely Liempo, staple beach food!

Another great place to try is Kapuluan Vista Resort’s Restaurant. It’s near Blue Lagoon beach and it serves organic food. Must try: The gigantic empanda, the homemade butterscotch ice cream and their bagnet.

The Giagantic Empanada

Wallet damage for Kapuluan is slightly higher, averaging at around P400. But the food is so delicious and their service is tops, so I feel it’s totally worth it.

Munch, munch, oink. Bagnet in all its glory!

We visited a couple of other places courtesy of the friendly tricycle tour (P 600 per trike and three can ride, so that’s 200 per person). We went to Blue Lagoon, Bantay-Abot Cave and the Patapat Viaduct.

All in all, I spent around 4 thousand pesos (trip back and other snacks included). Not bad, in my book.

And here’s a picture of me looking oh so happeh on the afternoon of my twenty-fifth birthday (consequently, it was taken around the time I was born, wala lang) taken by my good friend, Lauren Dado: