27 April 2010

Woodland Resort, Donsol

We have not been to the Butanding Festival since 2003. It was exciting to be here again during the festivities and the fluvial parade was not to be missed.

Woodland Resort. The very resort we hosted our German guests when we used to run whale shark tours from 2000 - 2003!

Woodland Resort. The very resort where we hosted our German guests when we used to run whale shark tours from 2000 – 2003!

We went to Donsol via night bus from Manila. It was a 12 hour drive to get there and upon arriving Woodland Resort, our home away from home, we unpacked quickly, fixed our snorkeling and underwater camera gears and immediately rendezvoused with the whale shark tagging team who were patiently awaiting our arrival to deploy the last two tags they saved for us to document.

After we accomplished our tagging activities, we joined the task force boat at 6 am on April 27 to start the fluvial parade from Sta Cruz, the farthest coastal village of Donsol parading all the way to the town proper. This was to be our last day in Donsol before we took the night bus back to Manila again. And as we had anticipated, the event was festive!

An armada of outrigger boats decorated with whale sharks and festive colorful little buntings all over the boat

An armada of outrigger boats decorated with whale sharks and festive colorful little buntings all over the boat proudly paraded the coast for all to see

A jam-packed boat full of decorations and of course, a whale shark!

A jam-packed boat full of decorations and of course, a whale shark!

There were more boats participating in the parade than we ever remember but we noticed the man-made whale sharks got considerably smaller this year – no trace of the gigantic whale sharks of the olden times which needed to have its own raft to be dragged by another boat. Oh well. Perhaps it was a matter of economics?!

Tiny whale shark mock-up sitting on the bow of the boat with Mayon volcano in the background

Tiny whale shark mock-up probably designed as “juvenile” sits on the bow of the boat with Mayon volcano magnificently showing herself in the background

Butanding Festival. After 10 years, Donsol still found the time and energy to give thanks through this annual festival

Butanding Festival. After 10 years, Donsolanos still found the time and energy to give thanks to their “patron animal” through this annual festival

And by two in the afternoon under the scorching heat of the sun, the street parade in town began. We couldn’t join the entire parade but we were so happy to see the children’s participation in the event. Even before the parade began, Barangay or village San Antonio won it for us! Here are some amazing shots of this village’s creative involvement.

Perhaps they are human plankton with a creative flair for colors?

Perhaps they are human plankton with a creative flair for colors?

These white faces and blue bodies - how could we not be enamored?

These white faces and blue bodies – how could we not be enamored?

Wonderful smiles and laughter of the white faced boys . . .

Wonderful smiles and laughter of the white faced boys . . .

The thorn amongst the spotted roses!

The thorn amongst the spotted roses!

It was good to see all this again. Donsol has grown in so many ways.  There are many mobile phone towers now where there used to be just a single telephone operator with two phone booths in town with a long line of people waiting. Now I could have internet access using an internet dongle!

When we started hosting tours in 2000, there was not a single resort in the whole of Donsol.  We had to ask the Mayor’s wife to open their rest house for us to rent for our guests to stay in! Now the coast is littered with resorts – about 8 of them!  Donsol is now a number four municipality coming from a one which meant it was one of the poorest.

And the chaos in the water with unregulated whale shark interactions, well that is being addressed with the task force monitoring boat. Unruly boat operators and BIOs who go against the codes of proper whale shark conduct are immediately suspended! At last there will be some order in Donsol Bay. That for me is a great improvement. A clear step towards progress.

And before we said goodbye to Donsol, our special friends who always made us feel welcome and truly at home in Woodland Resort, we have a final photo session with our flag.

And before we finally said goodbye to Donsol, to our special friends who made us feel always & truly at home in Woodland Resort, we give our deepest thanks. Our final photo session in the presence of our Panda flag (L-R) Mel, Tita Eden, Jack, Paolo, Doc Alcantara and the Freunds.

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