Bais, PH: The Underdogs


People love to root for the underdog. Our own life obstacles allow us to relate to any underdog. And when an underdog overcomes the odds it gives us hope that it’s possible for us to do the same. But as much as we want all underdogs to be beat the odds, it’s not possible. That is why we can only hope that underdogs whose cause really matter are the ones that who at most times succeed.

“These big players don’t care about the long-term consequences of their activities” – G. Pancho

The Ata Negritos, an indigegenous tribe in Bais, are underdogs whose cause belong with the most important ones.

The Ata Negritos are coastal people, utilizing the every resource the sea can offer. Since the time when Bais was at its peak of splendor, they have been dependent on the ocean’s provisions for livelihood.

It is therefore no surprise that the tribe has become Bais Bay’s caretaker.

Bais Bay Indigenous Group(Ata Negritos line up for the morning fishing run.)

But sadly it seems that the odds have always been stacked against them in successfully preserving the Bais bay’s resources.

Outsiders, who have always been a constant destructive threat to Bais have already succeeded in the past.

Bais was once a flourishing fishing community with its healthy coral reefs until information reached outsiders. Instantly large-scale fishing from outside of Bais came, using abusive fishing methods like dynamite and cyanide to name a few. But the most damaging of all of these methods was bottom trawling, which was done by dragging heavy steel plates, cables and nets across the ocean floor with the aim of dramatically increasing the catch regardless if it crushes the coral reef.

Bais Bay Illegal Fishing Coral Reef Destruction(A destroyed honeycomb coral with resident anemonefishes)

Consequently, Bais was overfished and its marine life destroyed for short-term gains.  By the time large-scale fishing boats finally decided to leave in search for another fishing ground, the have turned the coral reef to what can be considered as an underwater wasteland.

Bais Bay Illegal Fishing Coral Reef Destruction(What remains of majority of Bais’ coral reefs.)

With their source of livelihood destroyed, the Ata Negritos had to find another. Seeing the numerous dolphins around Bais Bay, they decided to venture into the tourism sector. Just like before information reached the “big players” about the successful dolphin watching tour.

Once again their purely profit motivated activities are now threatening Bais.  Jen Pancho, an advocate for the preservation of Bais, described the situation:

“Since these big tour boats came, spotting dolphin pods has become harder than before. The big noisy motors of their boats are driving away the dolphins. When a rare dolphin pod is sighted, every big boat charges towards it. They engage in a mad scramble of who gets there first. It’s very noisy and chaotic.

It’s difficult for the tribe fighting back as the big players are backed by influential people from the local government. More times than not it is the families of the government officials that owns these big boat tours. Now they are passing regulations which are prohibitive towards tribesmen participating in dolphin watching tour industry.

It is sad that the group who are responsible for starting the dolphin tour and the real advocates of Bais’ preservation are the ones who are being alienated by parties who don’t even originate from Bais. Our rights under the ancestral domain law are being disregarded.

What’s frustrating is that these big players don’t care about the long-term consequences of their activities. Why would they be concerned when they don’t even consider these waters as home? “

Bais Bay Gen Pancho(Gen Pancho discussing Bais’ current environmental and social problems)

It’s not hard to sympathize with Gen and her concerns that the dolphins sighting is becoming rare. Given that dolphins are acoustic animals, they are very sensitive to sound.

Compared to the big boats the Ata Negritos chooses to turn off the small motors when coming close to a dolphin pod, minimizing noise as much as possible so as not to disturb their natural behavior in the wild. These enables the small boat to float side by side with a dolphin pod for a more close up and natural interaction.

Bais Bay Small Boat Dolphin Tours(The quieter engine of small boats allow it to move closer to a dophin pod.)

Bais Bay Small Boat Dolphin Tours(A curious dolphin playfully swimming back and fort in front of the small boat’s bow)

Bais Bay Small Boat Dolphin Tours(A dolphin suddenly appearing out of nowhere splashing water towards curious observers)

In contrast the big boats noisily rev up the motor in order to bring the boat close to the dolphin as fast as possible. Such method allows big boats to tail the dolphin pods for a longer period.  As a result the dolphins end up being harassed which causes them to either spilt their pods up or dive deeply. Such method not only results to the natural behavior of dolphins not being observed but also the high bow of the big boat causes the tourist to be distant from the waters.

Bais Bay Big Boat Disturbance  (Tour boats owned by big operators)

Bais Bay Big Boat Disturbance(Big boats speeding up to follow are harassing dolphin pods causing the pods to split up)

The conclusion that the aggressive approach of large operators along with the heavy motor sounds are “driving these dolphins away” are not only backed by observation but also by scientific studies conducted in dolphin watching areas to determine the effects of  boat activity to dolphins.

Studies have demonstrated that high intensity of disturbance directly related to the number of tour boats, increased noise levels and the aggressiveness of the approach can affect the feeding and resting patterns of dolphins in an area. Stress caused by the activities can possibly result in a decline of the local population of dolphins in the future.

Bais Bay Dolphins Tour Pod Group Underwater(Would these dolphins still be found in Bais in the future?)

It therefore is essential for you to go to Bais to patronize the small boat tours. This is an action which on its own would demand for a responsible Bais tourism sector.

Patronizing the small boat tours will pave the way for the creation of regulations that would not only protect the environment but also prevent the alienation of the indigenous Ata Negritos  responsible for protecting it.

The underdogs of Bais need your support to win this fight. Visit to ensure the sustainability of Bais tourism industry.

Contact Gen Pancho (+639202539099) to set up a truly natural dolphin watching experience.

Bais Bay Dolphins Tour Close Up(Patronize small boat tours and be able to protect these beautiful beings)

(Nicco Lampa visited Bais, Negros Oriental, Philippines on July 13,2013)


  1. Such a wonderful insight on Bais. Traveling with a cause. And the article is very well-written. Will repost this to support your Bais and Jen Pancho.


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