The PAWIKAN FESTIVAL 2016 is an annual celebration held in the Municipality of Morong, Bataan in cooperation of the Provincial Government of Bataan and Bataan Tourism Council. This festival is not an ordinary type of festival as it’s main priority is to help raise awareness in saving the Pawikans (Marine Turtles) which are considered endangered.
Bataan, along with other coastal provinces in the Philippines, is one of the major nesting places for our marine turtles. But due to climate change, coastal degradation, and human encoachment they are considered as a highly endangered species. But the Pawikan Conservation Center and the rest of the citizens of Bataan are not losing hope that we can also do something to save these turtles. That is how PAWIKAN FESTIVAL began!
We arrived on the 26th and went straight to the Pawikan Conservation Center where talks and research about our Marine Turtles were presented. They discussed the current situation and how pollution and climate change can affect the survival rate of our turtles and also discussed the recommendations as to how we could save and protect the Marine Turtles.
Different activities were lined up during this weekend. We started the activity by joining the volunteers of the Pawikan Conservation Center on their night patrol.
This is where volunteers walked along the coast of the beach and look for turtles who are nesting and take the eggs to the hatchery in the conservatory for hatching before being released to the sea again. We were also told that the nesting season of the turtles is from November until February.
While talks were going on, Guhit Pinas – Bataan Chapter was busy creating a masterpiece. They body painted these girls and when they were joined together, what came out was just astonishing!
If there is one song I will remember for this event, it was “Manong Pawikan” originally sang by Joey Ayala.
On the second day, we arrived at the Pawikan Conservation Center early in the morning. You could already feel the vibe of the festivity as tourists and different municipalities and schools arrived to witness the festival.
This is also a big day of the Pawikan Festival 2016 as different competitions would take place on this day such as the street dances, kite flying and sand sculpture.
Hatchery is the place where they put all the turtle eggs they gathered during the night patrol for hatching. Once they hatch, all turtles will be released to the ocean and, luckily, as part of the festival, I was given a chance to get a close look at baby turtles being released into the ocean.
I was also privileged to meet and listen to the beautiful voices of this Aeta minority group, Bangkal Bigkin Children’s Choir where they sang the invocation and the Philippine National Anthem.
While preparing for the Street Dance competition, we were called to the shore for the releasing of baby turtles. They were so cute! The whole process of releasing these baby turtles was fast so as to not stress them out. In reality, only a few of these turtles will survive in the open ocean. But we are hoping that with the conservation efforts of Bataan, they will be able to release more hatchlings and protect their nesting areas.
With the intense heat of the sun, the street dance competition kicked off as 12 municipalities competed for the title as Champion.
With months of training, the students from different municipalities in Bataan gave of their best in the dances to make their municipality proud.
What I liked about this street dance competition was aside from the different dances, raising awareness of saving our Pawikan still was the central point of the whole competition.
Hats off to all the participants of this event as it was hot, the costumes were heavy, and yet you still have the genuine smile on the faces.
The experience of seeing the turtles for real is a dream come true for me and I would personally like to thank Bataan Tourisim Council for making it all a reality.
This festival may not be as a big as the others but the message is very strong: saving and protecting our Pawikans ( Marine turtles) is a lifelong commitment and if we are all going to be ONE on this, WE CAN!
I was one of the very lucky media representatives who was invited to witness and experience the PAWIKAN FESTIVAL 2016.
How to get to Pawikan Conservation Center:
1. Take a bus from Manila to Balanga Terminal Station via Genesis Bus
2. At the terminal, take a bus to Morong and disembark at Petron in Barangay Nagbalayong
3. Take a tricycle from there to the conservation center.
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