Text and photos by Bombette G. Marin
Mangroves are a highly valued resource in the province of Iloilo. They are mostly found along Iloilo’s coastline. The most extensive mangroves are in the northern district, with the town of Ajuy having one of the most luxuriant mangrove covers.
Ajuy is also home to a diversity of marine organisms. One of the most valuable features of its biodiversity is the presence of a mangrove ecosystem. The town is an ecotourism excursion destination that visitors should include in their itineraries when making plans to explore Iloilo.
Barangay Silagon, situated 10 kilometers from the town proper, is a destination you can consider as an itinerary if you have enough time visit to Ajuy. The area offers lush mangrove forests worth visiting with family and friends who seek a unique experience. The barangay
Opened last December 23, 2019, the Silagon Mangrove Eco-Park is a 240-meter bamboo boardwalk extends beyond the existing mangroves and has become a special feature for visitors to the barangay.
Take a stroll along this coastal boardwalk, while enjoying the different views of the area’s expansive waters, its lush greenery. During high tide, the boardwalk will bring you half close to the water surface where schools of fishes can be sighted; while at low tide, you can also spot different species of crustaceans found on the extensive mudflat, which is a habitat that supports a wide variety of marine organisms.
The trail has an elevated pavilion with scenic views of the neighboring islands. It has a series of lookouts with shaded nooks to enjoy the view. Each decorated nook represents the Sitios of Silagon. There are plans to include educational installations and interpretive signages, launching facility for motorized and non-motorized crafts.
The Eco-Park provides visitors with a wide variety of habitats to explore – mudflat, mangroves, coastal forest, and rocky shore. There is a myriad of experiences that will thrill and enrich every visitor’s senses as they embark on this tour. This tranquil nature spot is an oasis of calm for visitors amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.
The people of Barangay Silagon are the key actors who play crucial roles in both maintaining the beauty of the surroundings and the conservation of mangroves in the area. They are working hard to protect, manage and restore priority mangrove habitats in the area.
Each household contributed bamboo poles that were used in building the 240-meter bamboo trail, information center, function hall, and the viewing deck. Without the participation of the community, successful conservation is considered to be impossible. Their participation in the management of mangrove forests will eventually bring sustainable environmental, social and economic benefits.
Key people from the municipal and barangay levels were also involved in the conservation of mangroves in Silagon Mangrove Eco-Park. This included Ajuy Municipal Engineer Nilo Hinojales and Municipal Tourism Officer Romina Capalla and the Barangay officials headed by Barangay Captain Ruben Rojas Jalando-on.
Several recommendations were discussed. Among them is the need to formulate specific policies that support the development and protection of mangroves in the barangay and such policies should provide ample room for participation of local communities in mangrove forest management.
To ensure the implementation of such policies, there is a need to develop a specific organization responsible for managing the mangroves.
The success of the project is the participation and involvement of the local community. Lastly, the need to raise local awareness of the mangroves and to ensure frequent communication needs to be in place as it will help to increase participation in mangrove forest management.
Mangroves are recognized as one of the richest ecosystems in the world that serves as habitats for the majority of aquatic animals as well as overall and terrestrial animals. There are 54 species of mangroves in the world. The Philippines has 44 recorded species.
Unfortunately, mangroves are becoming vulnerable to degradation as numerous tracts of mangrove have been converted to other uses.
To get to Silagon Mangrove Eco-Park in Barangay Silagon, one must take the route in Puente Bunglas going to Concepcion from Ajuy. Tricycles at P200 one-way and single motor at P100 one-way operates in the area. For those with vehicles, there is limited parking space in the park. The entrance fee is P30 for non-residents and P15 for residents, students, and PWDs.
The scenic town of Ajuy has a land area of 19,346 hectares subdivided into 34 barangays. It is 91.9 kilometers or a two-hour drive away north from Iloilo City. It is bounded in the north by Sara; south by Ajuy Bay; and the west by Barotac Viejo.
To get to Ajuy, busses are available daily at the new Ceres Bus Terminal in Barangay Camalig, Jaro, Iloilo City. For more information, please contact, Miss Romina Capalla-, Municipal Tourism Officer at 09771126958.