My family always supports initiatives that promote social awareness of the environment and caring for mother earth.    For instance, my youngest daughter carries her re-usable metal straw and a water container when going out for work.  We do away with straws when drinking soda and recently a mall launched a bag less shopping Sunday.  My daughter and I were quite excited to hand-carry our goods from that store one Sunday morning when we bought some household stuff there.

                Recently, I saw many of my FB friends going to this place in E.B. Magalona, which is located in the northern part of Negros Occidental.  The pictures they posted look interesting and I was intrigued by the place's catchy name.  So, we visited Tomontong Mangrove Eco-trail one sunny Sunday to experience what it's like to be in this latest eco-tourism project of the local government.

Going to Tomontong Mangrove Eco-Trail

We have no difficulty finding Tomontong.  There are signs in strategic corners that direct you where to proceed.  The local folks are friendly, they will answer all your queries about directions. 

From Talisay, we headed off to E.B. Magalona and took the street where the plaza and municipal hall are located.  From there, we asked for directions from tricycle drivers.

The inner roads leading to the mangrove forest is long and narrow.  I had difficulty driving our Nissan Terra because one missed turn will get you into one of the fish pens ("punong" in local dialect), which surrounded the roads.    In one portion, a tricycle had to take a backward turn to give way for our vehicle to pass. Parking space is also rare, we had to park our cars in a private parking space for a fee.

Walking through the Mangrove Forest

We walked through the forest using a bamboo bridge.  It was a different experience walking on the bamboo bridge while seeing the tall plants with its roots exposed.  Mangroves as I learned in my science lesson, serves as a natural habitat of certain fish and bird species.  They are vital in the ecosystem and they prevent soil erosion in the shoreline.

Walking inside the mangrove forest is through a bamboo bridge.  Photo grabbed from Bep-bep Regine's Facebook account.
  I read many signs about the environment along the bridge, maybe a way to remind visitors how important it is to save what is left of our environment.  There were birds on the muddy portion of the forest which means that the ecosystem is working.

                At the end of the wooden structure is the Tomontong shoreline where you can enjoy swimming in the waters during high tide and see the surrounding areas with the green lush greenery with the clear blue sky serving as the backdrop.

Eating Seafood on the Beachfront Cottage

 Getting a cottage for rent is difficult, especially because it has only around 6 cottages available for rent.    We need to book our reservation early as most visitors go there on weekends.  So, expect that during weekends, all the cottages are fully booked.   However, there are picnic areas at the other end of the shoreline where visitors are accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.

 The elevated cottage is made of bamboo and nipa.   But despite the use of natural materials, it was still very hot.  I saw that there were no mangroves along the shoreline to give shades, so we can feel the scorching hot breeze of the air.

The cottage is made of bamboo and nipa leaves. But it was so hot staying inside.
We did not mind the hot environment though but focus instead to the gastronomic feast of steamed talaba, shrimp in oyster sauce ( a must-try, I even mixed the sauce into my rice)  and grilled bangus, the former, we ordered from the restaurant inside the forest while my youngest sister brought the grilled bangus from her house. 

 It was heaven opening the talaba with its meat size just enough and dipping them in a sinamak (vinegar mixed with ginger, garlic, and onion), putting them in the hot white rice, and eating the mixture by bare hands.  Alternately, I mixed my rice with the shrimp sauce and the grilled bangus.  The saltiness from the sauce was just enough to add a little zest to the grilled food.

This talaba is best when dipped in sinamak and eaten with steaming hot white rice.
Keeping the Shoreline Clean

 While roaming around, I saw one corner wherein it was lined with colorful bottles from a well-known hard drink brand.  The discarded bottles were given a colorful look by putting cut-outs of junk food and candy wrappers inside.  Then, they were mounted on each other by bamboo trunks and transparent strings.

 I give a thumbs-up sign to E.B. Magalona for initiating this gesture towards a greener environment.  The artsy bottles were made by the townsfolk as a livelihood project.  The local government gives one kilo of rice for every eight colorful bottles.  The scheme works both ways.  It is an income-generating endeavor for the people and a green program for the local government.  

The local government consistently promotes green initiatives.  This time, they transformed candy wrappers and discarded bottles as work of art.
Livelihood Program

 Aside from the decorative bottle project, the operation of the place gives employment opportunities to the people of E.B. Magalona.  There were plenty of volunteer workers on the beach which you may call for assistance.  They can accommodate you even in facilitating the order of seafood to the restaurant in the vicinity, which we did.   I was told, that the income from the operation of the mangrove forest is divided among the three stakeholders – LGU, barangay, and volunteers.

 Our Tomontong Mangrove Eco-trail trip was nothing extraordinary.  We walked on the bamboo bridge, marvel at the tall mangroves and the majestic sights of the sea and clear blue sky and eat seafood.  I was extra full after lunch and we had a grand time chatting with my siblings and their families.  I climbed the bamboo tower and saw the shoreline covered by the mangroves and fishponds.

 And before I forgot, we had an issue with the restaurant where we got our seafood. While it was resolved to our satisfaction, it was not a good impression should this happened to other visitors.  If you want to do something new, then visit this place but do not expect too much.

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