Bangrin Marine Protected Area: A Trip Down Mangrove Lane

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

bangrin marine protected area bani pangasinan

Found in the heart of Tambac Bay, the Bangrin Marine Protected Area (Bangrin MPA) is comprised of 42.25 hectares of mangrove forest. It is home to 53 species of migratory and indigenous birds, according to the Local Economic Development arm of the Department of Interior and Local Government. It is also one of the 13 birdwatching areas in the Philippines identified by the Department of Tourism.(Update: According to the most recent assessment of the Bani's Agricultural Office, there are now 122 bird species in Bangrin. WOW!)

Related Adventure: Angel Cave

Birdwatching activities in Bangrin can be done before sunrise as well as before sundown. Early morning, usually around 5AM to 10AM, is often cited as the ideal time for birding. But in the Bangrin MPA, birders are also treated to a "meet-up" of diurnal and nocturnal birds before the sun sets.
bangrin marine protected area pangasinan
The Bangrin MPA spans 42.25 hectares on the heart of Tambac Bay

Having firsthand experience of this pre-evening feathered concourse, I can tell you that it is an astonishing episode. It reminded me of Lion King, and for good reason.
bangrin marine protected area mangrove forest
Flocks of birds explode as we made our way to the mangrove forest

As we sat on a paddle boat, making our way to the dense mangrove forest, the birds flocked from every direction, like an explosion of confetti in the purple-orange sky. The water was still, glinting like a sheet of oil, and the only sounds were the wing-flapping and throaty cawing. We spotted Philippine ducks, night herons, egrets, and other birds I don't know the names of. It was like a scene from a National Geographic documentary!
bangrin marine protected area bani pangasinan
A spectacular of birds as the sun sets over the mangroves at Bangrin MPA

Related Adventure: The Flavors of Bani

We passed by a desolate boardwalk, half ruined from a typhoon that had passed through Bani. Reconstruction hasn't yet begun, but what remained of it still possessed a poetic character.

Our boat glided inside the bakawan forest. The slowly setting sun faded in and out behind the mangroves' roots. Flanking us were thick hedges of mangroves, the inner part of the forest consisting of young bakawan planted by guests and the locals.
bangrin marine protected area
Thick hedges of mangroves blocking the sun

The thirty-minute tour ended as we emerged on the length of Tambac Bay, the sky more purple than gold now. The last stragglers flew in threes or fours, towards the covers of the mangroves.

Related Adventure: Across the Shores and Over the Hills of Surip

But beyond the wonder of Bangrin, the MPA faces several issues which threaten the ecosystem that had prospered within it. One is the nearby clusters of fish pens, on which the birds often hunt for food. Fish pen owners, complaining of "loss," have suggested hunting the fowls in turn, while some have allegedly motioned – whether in jest or in sheer ignorance, I don't know – for low-grade bombing of the mangrove forest to drive away the birds.

Young mangroves are planted by the locals and guests to replace the old ones
Another concern is the silt that washes to the MPA from the fish pens, not to mention the illegal expansion of pens as well as fishing along the protected area.

Steps for cooperation to resolve these matters are being taken by both sides. And, as I look back on the memory of my out of this world experience at Bangrin, I became even more determined to promote ecotourism and sustainable development, while hoping that fish pen owners and the LGU find common ground without putting Nature in the backseat.
bangrin marine protected area pangasinan


For inquiries about the Bangrin MPA, kindly send an email to banipangasinan@yahoo.com.ph.

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