Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beautiful, Bountiful Banate

The coastal town of Banate in the northern part of the province is primarily a fishing and agricultural municipality. It is well known for their bluecrabs locally known as kasag and ginamos or shrimp paste.

Comprised of 18 barangays, it has a land area of 11,886 hectares, about as big as the city of Iloilo, is 50 kilometers away from the province’ capital.

If you are looking for an all-day adventure, the coastal and mountain areas of Banate provides a glorious backdrop attractive all year-round. The town is a great place for outdoor experiences, from snorkeling to challenging wilderness hikes.

The coastline of Banate covers approximately 8.38 kilometers blessed with coral gardens, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. It is a productive fishing area and also popular for snorkeling and diving.

Reserve status was called for by international organizations such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), due to the unique formation of coastline, the abundant fishery resources and the an interlinked system of coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats in this area.

The marine conservation program in the area, the Banate-Barotac Bay Resource Management Council Incorporated with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the provincial and municipal government contributed to the reserve process when they and residents discussed basic marine ecological concepts, and the idea of creating a marine reserve evolved.

Active enforcement began through Municipal Resolution No. 50, series of 2000 establishing the area as a marine reserve. Studies have been made that provided long-term understanding of biological changes in marine reserves. Results show that reserves can lead to increases in abundance, size, and biomass and that they can benefit the surrounding fisheries. These reserves have provided economic benefits to the local communities by increasing tourism and associated revenues.

University of San Agustin sophomore tourism students in Hibotkan for Tumandok 2011

An important attraction to the reserve is Hibotkan, a 25-hectare rock sanctuary situated in the waters of Barangay San Salvador. It is a marine protected resource supported by Municipal Ordinance No.12. It appears only during low tide and can be reached through a motorized banca. With a distance of 3-kilometers from the wharf, one can go snorkeling to explore several species of corals that are abundant in the area. The presence of these unique corals actively encouraged the area as a tourist attraction; the shallow clear waters make it an ideal spot for snorkellers to observe them.

Get acquainted with another spectacular piece of nature, the hypnotizing natural phenomenon of Caniapasan Falls located in the wilderness area of Barangay Managopaya, 13 kilometers from the town proper. Fairly located in a remote barangay, this relatively small but scenic cascading waterfall has series of smaller water falls on the rugged, upturned rocks. Located in a sheltered, beautiful spot, the water gushes much over a wide ledge and drops about 10 feet. The walk to the falls is moderate. The trailhead is not so difficult to reach but physical stamina may be required.

From Iloilo City, to reach Banate, one may take jeepneys that are readily available in Tagbak Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. Air-conditioned vans are also available at the terminal.

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