The Lure of Agusan Marsh

 

By Ramon Jorge Sarabosing

I had a sleepless night when good friend Francis Uy, an adventurer, invited me to join him to Agusan Marsh this recent.

Every visit to the marshland is an expedition-whether if you have or don’t have an idea what “corner” to go to. The marsh territory after all, is a thousand hectares big. (The country’s biggest and as big as Metro Manila.)

It is never an ordinary outdoor trip but a test and discovery, both to yourself and the place and your connection to it.

Some people who’ve been there don’t realize this but once you do, you enter into the grace and mystery of the web of life.

I may be exaggerating but having been there three to four times the past two decades and published stories in newspapers and magazines, I thought I had covered enough.

But not quite it seems, for I’m still dazed at the idea of returning to the “giant sponge” this corner of Northern Mindanao, as scientists call it.

So, I immediately said yes I would join him (who came all the way from the Middle East).

But a few days later I figured I cannot because of previous commitment, that’s why I can hardly sleep after learning the end-goal of the expedition is to come up with a coffee table book (in partnership with Department of Tourism-Caraga and Local Government Units of Agusan del Sur.

For a long time this has been a dream of mine. To come up with a package of this natural treasure, our very own and give meaning and relevance to it.

Francis, Charlie to family and closed friends, is on the right track, even on a personal level, to initiate it. An outdoor enthusiast, starting as a mountaineer (who’s into spelunking, canyoning, etc.) and now a professional diver and creative nature and event photographer with the interest to pursue film (documentary).

What is it in Agusan Marsh that lure adventurers, explorers, environmentalists and Earth guardians, creative people and visionaries, community development and cultural workers?

“Because,” as one searcher way ahead in another part of the world answered, “it is there.” And as others added, then and now, “We badly need to appreciate it protect its importance to our lives and to the planet.”

Now, officially known as a wildlife sanctuary, the AM is composed of 58 lakes, river tributaries, canals, plains and mounds and home to a hundred flora, fauna, insects and the Manobo tribe who live in floating houses and survived heavy rainy seasons.

If you come, it is best to become a responsible traveler and guest. Always respectful and mindful to the ways and demands of nature and culture.

At best, seek assistance from the right people and agencies, the DOT-Caraga, provincial and municipal tourism offices, Department of Environment and Natural Resources , the non-government organizations and people’s organizations .

In the end, as a foreign friend told me, as we were paddling towards the humble floating village, “You know, this place has more character than Venice and other funny imitations of it. This is truth.”

Photos Francis Uy

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