Coron has become known as one of the most beautiful places on this planet.
“The land is meaningless without the sea”-Tagbanua Tribesman
No description has come close in perfectly describing Coron other than, “Damn, the place is just drop dead gorgeous”.
It looks like nothing much has changed, since the Tagbanwa/Tagbanua (local indigenous tribe) set foot on Coron paradise, 5000 years ago.
(Coron’s rich marine life)
It seems like the beauty of Coron have endured the test of time. Its lakes still crystal clear, limestone rock formations both above and underwater remain intact, coral reefs pristine and with life teeming.
(Limestone Rock Formations)
All accolades deservedly belong to the Tagbanwa (Tagbanua) tribe, who have not only taken the island to serve as their residence, but also have taken the role taking care of the island’s riches. They have engraved the culture of preserving nature through believing that their God’s and ancestors reside in the island’s land, lakes and seas more than the heavens.
(God found underwater)
Therefore it’s no coincidence that Coron has only gained praise from visitors. As a matter of fact, the Tagbanwa (Tagbanua) so much considered Coron a holy land that it wasn’t until 1998, when they were awarded a certificate of ancestral domain, that they fully consented on allowing outsiders visit Coron. The ancestral domain certificate recognized the Tagbanwa (Tagbanua) as the rightful owner and thus official overseer of the 22,000 hectares of land and sea.
(Tagbanwa/Tagbanua guide explaining the provisions of ancestral domain to travelers)
Deservedly so, the Tagbanwa would not hesitate to instantly prohibit access Coron’s lands and seas at the slightest sign of environmental abuse. As a matter of fact, there has been countless news about the Tagbanwa threatening to close down famous tourist sites, due to destruction caused by outsiders.
True to their principles, the Tagbanwa don’t care about the dollars they’ll lose from closing the place down, they believe preserving what’s natural is greater than commercialism; that loving nature is the utmost way to love God. Just imagine if the whole Philippines had the same beliefs as the Tagbanwa. Surely there would be more natural wonders that the Philippines can boast about today. More sustainable source of livelihood will be available for everyone compared to short term ones.
(Common Lionfish sheltered by the branches of a Robust Staghorn Coral)
(Goldtail Demoiselle swimming above a Delicate Branching Coral)
But not everything is rosy in the Coron paradise. For the Tagbanwa preserving the Coron is getting more difficult. Greedy and selfish outsiders are keen on destroying their rich lands and seas that for centuries the Tagbanwa strived to preserve. This is evidenced by the destruction being on the rise; fishing stocks have declined due to dynamite fishing and muro-ami (diving and smashing the corals to force the fishes out in the open), the swiftlet bird which provides edible birds nest already disappearing due to noise brought by visiting tourist.
“Wala naman silang paki kasi hindi naman sila taga rito [They don’t care because they are not from here]”, a member of the Tagbanua tribe said.
It is not too late to prevent Coron and the Tagbanua tribe from perishing. Although progress can’t be stopped, especially in this fast changing world, something can be done to prevent any negative changes from happening in the first place. We can’t stop the influx of outsiders to Coron, but we can put a stop to the destructive human attitudes and practices.
(Dan and Sabrina with other visitors on Kayangan Lake)
Go to Coron. Along with the thousands of tourist observe firsthand the “Tagbanua Way” which successfully preserved Coron. Learn about their beliefs and way of life. Make a fuss about how great the Tagbanua and nature benefit from each other, so more would be informed and follow suit. Raise awareness and demand that tourism shouldn’t be destructive in any way. Doing so will result to our collective demands forcing tour operators, tourist and the government into adopting conservation as the norm.
(Tagbanwa/Tagbanua Preservation Efforts)
When you meet the Tagbanua, praise and urge them to continue their preservation efforts even amidst all the external difficulties and modern temptations. Tell them that they should be proud of their heritage and continue living as Tagbanuas in the modern world. Instilling a sense of pride to the Tagbanua especially in the young generation would result in making sure that the last remnants of the disappearing real Filipino culture and identity would continue exist.
These efforts are all in the hope that Coron will be able to preserve its beauty, so that other places in the Philippines will learn from their example to be able to recover from the nature’s destruction and enjoy Coron’s success as well.
(Female Spinecheek Anemonefish)
(Long-tentacle Plate Coral)
In the words of Joshua, a local tour guide operator: “Kung wala ang Tagbanua wala na ang Coron; dahil sa kanila suwerte ako na nagtratrabaho sa paraiso. ” [If there is no Tagbanua there is no Coron; it’s because of them that I am lucky to be working in paradise].
(Joshua Coron boat tour guide)
(Nicco Lampa visited Coron, Philippines on August 8, 2011 until August 13, 2011)