After around more than an hour from Dunsulan Falls, we are now at the municipality of Morong to visit the Pawikan Conservation Center. The Pawikan Conservation is located at the silent fishing town of Barangay Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan. It's not easy to miss as there are a lot of road signs pointing to the direction of the center along Gov. JJ Linao National Road.
Entrance to the center costs only P20/head and as we entered, we were warmly greeted by the caretakers who told us a little bit about the center. According to them, they were former poachers who take sea turtle eggs in exchange for money. While doing that, they grew awareness that they have to protect these delicate creatures and what used to be poachers are now reformed and they help the pawikans reproduce because as of now, they are considered as a critically endangered species.
Every night, they patrol the very long shoreline stretch of Barangay Nagbalayong to search for eggs from the sea turtles. They retrieve the eggs and place them in their own hatchery inside the center to protect the eggs from poachers and other things that might harm them. The shoreline of Brgy. Nagbalayong is home to three out of seven species of marine turtles, namely the hawksbill sea turtle, the olive ridley sea turtle, and the green sea turtle.
|The blind pawikan|
|This sea turtle has a tumor on it's neck (see the bulge on the right side of its neck)|
|This sea turtle has a hunched back|
|Hatchlings not yet ready to be released in the ocean|
Part of the visit to the facility is also their lecture regarding sea turtles. By doing this, they are raising awareness to the visitors one by one to help spreading the word as they alone cannot protect all the sea turtles from going extinct, they also need the help of everybody.
|How it looks like after the eggs are hatched. Ping pong balls represent as the eggs|
The marine turtles are reptiles related to snakes, lizards and dinosaurs. Being cold-blooded creatures, their body temperatures fluctuate with the environment and they have a pair of lungs that need to breathe every few minutes while swimming unknown distances in the vast seas. Marine turtles have powerful flippers which help them navigate but cannot retract into their protective shells called carapace which sets them apart from their freshwater relatives that can easily hide their heads and legs inside their bony shells. During the Pawikan Festival which is usually held every end of
November, involves the release of these super cute baby turtles racing into the sea where they will feed, grow and explore the vast oceans only to return one day back to the beaches where they were hatched when they are ready to lay their own eggs.
|The hatchery with freshly hatched egg shells|
|The conservation center as viewed from the beach|
|The long stretch of sandy beach where the sea turtles return to lay their eggs|
For the P20 entrance fee, you are given access to the beach, their shower facilities, and the nipa hut tables along the beach. Camping is also allowed on the beach and they have dorm rooms and cottages available too for overnight stays.
As we were about to leave, one of the caretakers called us and told us that they will be releasing a bunch of hatchlings on that afternoon. We're lucky as we were able to witness how the cute and tiny sea turtles race to the open sea. After letting them out of the sand, the caretaker selectively took a few of them back to the center. He told us that the ones he took are not yet ready to be released in the ocean.
The Pawikan Conservation Center is a non-government organization. Please help support their cause by donating or by visiting them directly and availing of their products and services.
For more information:
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (63-928)718-5721 or (63-921)630-2842 or (63-906)615-5546
Bantay Pawikan Conservation, Inc.
Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan, Philippines 2108
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