Learn About and Help Save the Sea Turtles at Bataan’s Pawikan Conservation Center

Sunday, January 14, 2018

pawikan conservation center guide
We Travel, We Care is a series of essays discussing and exploring issues related to travel and tourism.
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For the past months, I’ve found myself frequenting Bataan. It was the second province I’ve visited in 2017 that truly felt like a second home (the other being Northern Samar – will tell you all about it later). Even though I was there mostly for work, I was able to make great memories and partake in both enjoyable and meaningful experiences.

One such experience is the visit to the Pawikan Conservation Center in the town of Morong. I got to see it in a most auspicious time: during the Pawikan Festival last November, when everything it stands for is celebrated.
bataan pawikan festival

Started in 1999, the Center is a community-based initiative dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, protecting, and propagating marine turtles that are locally known as pawikan. Headed by the Bantay Pawikan Inc., the program was responsible for reviving the turtle population in Bataan. Three – the Hawksbill, the Olive Ridley, and the Green Turtle – of the five species of marine turtles found in the Philippines come to the coasts of Morong and Bagac to nest and breed. They’d been threatened mainly by poaching. Interestingly, the individuals who pioneered the movement used to be poachers themselves – an awesome turn of events that fills me with hope and joy.


Now, the conservation efforts are supported throughout the province, with the annual Pawikan Festival an anticipated affair. Stewardship of the environment, too, is being taught in classrooms. Local students participate in volunteer programs as well. The Center is also open to visitors who would like to learn more about and have close encounters with the pawikan.

Guests can have a look at the museum and learn about the life cycle of the turtles. They can also see rescued eggs in the Center’s hatchery where they would hatch after 51 days. The hatchlings would then be released back to the ocean usually within a week, often immediately on the next day. People can also sign up to volunteer for the night patrol – a year-long effort that involves roaming the 7-kilometer shore to protect turtles laying their eggs.
turtle hatchery philippines

The period between November to February is when the turtles come to breed, and it’s also the busiest time for the Center. During these months, students from all over the country, as well as from abroad, flock to the Center to volunteer. They stay for up to a week to witness the laying, the hatching, and the releasing. November is also when the Pawikan Festival is held.

The whole ordeal is tiring but the volunteers of Bantay Pawikan (Sea Turtle Patrol) are hopeful. So if you find yourself in Bataan, drop by the Center and learn more about why we need to save the pawikan, and how you can help.


GETTING THERE
From Cubao or Pasay, there are buses bound for Balanga. Fare is Php200 to Php220 pesos. In the Balanga town proper, there are buses to Morong until 8PM. Fare is about Php55 to Php60.

REMINDERS AND OTHER CONCERNS
- First and foremost, please make yourself familiar, if not already, with the Leave No Trace Principles.
- Entrance fee at the Center is Php20 per head
- Reservations are not required, but if you want to see turtles being released, come early. To make sure, you may call Mr. Manolo Ibias, leader of the Bantay Pawikan, at +63 921 630 2842. You may also address your inquiries about volunteer opportunities to him.
- You may release a baby turtle yourself for Php50
- There are rooms that can accommodate up to 15 people available in the area. Room rates are at Php2,500 to Php5,000/night.
- For more information about the Pawikan Center, read this awesome piece by my friend Claire.

Pawikan Conservation Center
Purok VI-Aplaya, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan
Open Mondays to Sundays, 8AM to 5PM
+63 921 630 2842


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