Most Eco-Friendly Whaleshark Interaction in the Philippines: Pintuyan, Southern Leyte

Planning to go to Oslob? Visit Pintuyan instead! The most eco-friendly whale shark interaction in the Philippines.

When it comes to whale shark watching in the Philippines, Oslob comes first in the mind of most Filipinos and foreigners but people should stop supporting this exploitation!

It is really not surprising with all the Instagram and Facebook posts about it getting crazy popular if not viral, it has been the known circus. I one article it has been said that during the tourist season, more than 1,500 sightseers descend each day on Oslob, a town of 30,000 on the island of Cebu. If you want to watch real whale sharks and not puppies being fed, your best option in the Philippines is found in a lesser known site called Pintuyan.
Pintuyan is a fifth class municipality in Southern Leyte province is home to the most eco-friendly whale shark interaction in the country.

Why Choose Pintuyan over Oslob?

The difference between Oslob and Pintuyan is quite huge in several aspects.

  1. Less Crowd. Far from them park feeling you get when in Oslob, Pintuyan is a remote place that is not frequently visited by countless of Korean and Chinese tourists. Compared to hundreds in Oslob, in Pintuyan, you will probably have 20 other people the most.
  2. Longer Interaction for Lesser Cost. In Oslob, you only get to be in the water for 45 minutes and pay more while in Pintuyan, it will be for a three-hour long sea-based adventure. Since they do not feed the whale sharks, you will have to wait it out for a bit and have several chances in interacting with them.
  3. Directly Supporting Local Community. In Pintuyan, when you pay the fees, you are paying a small portion to the local government while directly supporting the local fishermen who are advocates of conservation, for a disadvantaged community this is helping them a lot unlike in Oslob where the government is earning millions per month without full transparency where the money is going.
  4. See Raw Nature and Real Local Life. Oslob has already gotten touristy while Pintuyan has remained simple and raw. You can sit back and watch the sunset from their port and enjoy local priced food and drinks in town.
  5. Taking An Ethical Stand Against Animal Exploitation. As travelers, it is easy to not think of our impacts when we support local destinations and activities. Saying No to Oslob is changes the perspective of tourism to a more sustainable approach and it is empowering communities that are opting to be more eco-friendly in their approach.

Getting to Pintuyan:

Traveling to Pintuyan involves several transfers but the scenery is worth it. Southern Leyte being a less frequented place has a lot to offer. I would suggest leaving Cebu at night and arriving early in the morning in either Hilongos or Maasin.

From Cebu:

To reach Pintuyan, you can either go on a fast craft or overnight boat to Hilongos or Maasin (closer) which can take 3-6 hours. Check out Roble Shipping Lines, Gabisan Shipping Lines or Weesam Express. You can then take a van or bus to Sogod where you can take another ride to Pintuyan. From Hilongos to Pintuyan takes about 3 hours and costs around 180PHP. You can also fly to Tacloban and then take a bus to Southern Leyte, however, this will cost a lot more money.

From Bohol:

You can take a local boat called Leopard Shipping Lines from Ubay to Maasin and from there to take a van or bus to go to Sogod Bus Terminal and then catch a van or bus to Pintuyan.

How Much Will The Whale Shark Interaction Cost?

Before you could swim with the sharks, all tourists must undergo briefing before given trip tickets to engage in whale shark interaction. Then you’ll need spotters and tour guides and KASAKA will provide that.

Charges are collected from persons engaging in Whale Shark Watching and Interaction. Interactions can be done from morning until early afternoon.

Whaleshark Interaction Fees:

Conservation Fee: Php250.00 per person

Boat Rental (Good for 3 people): Php700.00 boat tour within the Municipal Water of Pintuyan Proper.

Php800.00 boat tour within the Municipal Water of San Ricardo.

Tour / Naturalist Guide: Php350.00

Shark Spotter: Php300.00

For more questions:
Mr. Virgilio Plazon Flores
KASAKA Collector and also one of the P.O.’s Tour Guides
Mobile Number: 09359296626

Whale Shark Interaction Guidelines:

Make sure to strictly follow the guidelines before and after entering the interaction area.

guidelines

Also important to remember that you SHOULD NOT WEAR SUNSCREEN as these chemicals can affect the whale sharks.

Accommodations in Pintuyan:

You might want to go a day before the whale shark interaction to have enough time to rest before the interaction as it will be an action filled interaction involving a lot of swimming. Whale sharks seem like they swim slow but trust me they can swim fast! Pintuyan has only three options for you should you choose to stay for the night:

Pintuyan Dive Resort :  

They have twin rooms at around P5,000+ You can use my code to get a 10% discount in Booking.com:

D&D’s Lodge:

Located near the parish church of Pintuyan
Address: Barangay Poblacion Ubos, P.S.L.
Care Taker’s Name: Mrs. Emmylou Banol
Contact Number: 09069372486

La Guerta Lodge I and II:

I would suggest staying at Lodge I as it is closer to the local food places, more spacious and Municipal Hall where you pay the conservation fee. A room there costs P 600, it has aircon and an own toilet but no hot shower. You can share one room with two other people though it is quite a tight space and one has to sleep on the floor with a mattress while the two has to share a double bed.

La Guerta Lodge I
(In front of the Municipal Hall)
Address: Barangay Poblacion Ubos, Pintuyan, Southern Leyte

La Guerta Lodge II
(In front of the Pintuyan District Hospital – P.D.H.)
Address: Barangay Poblacion Ubos, P.S.L.

Care Taker’s Name: Mrs. Lynrie B. Guias (for La Guerta Lodges I and II)
Contact Number: 09261426986

6A’s Resort

6As’s Owner: Amy Tandayag – 09173211024

Staying in the Town:

  1. Palawan Pawnshop
  2. Reymart Bakeshop
  3. Mosqueda-Tandayag Building
  4. Basketball Court
  5. Michael Pharmacy
  6. CM Bakery
  7. Ayen Sari-sari Store
  8. Chapel
  9. Lucky Seven Trading
  10. Miq’s Haus
  11. Eatery
  12. Roselyn’s Sari-sari Store and Lotto Outlet
  13. Venus Sari-sari Store – BBQ, Vegetables and Fruit Stand
  14. Rucat’s Sari-sari Store
  15. Alice Store Sari-sari Store
  16. Water Market
  17. Pinoy ATM
  18. Cade’s Sari-Sari Store – Meat and Vegetables
  19. Richard’s Snackhouse
  20. Cebuana Lhuiller Express
  21. Surigao Sari-sari Grocery
  22. Ramos’ Store – Photocopy/clothes/house supplies
  23. Chapel
  24. Lelot Store – Fruits and Vegetables
  25. San Juan “Ubos” Barangay Hall
  26. Ariane Jee Lechon Manok
  27. Lhuiller Pawnshop
  28. La Guerta Lodging House
  29. Rowena’s Store
  30. Basketball Court Gym
  31. Municipal Hall
  32. Bakery
  33. Pintuyan Central School
  34. D&D Lodge
  35. Pintuyan National Highschool
  36. DJ BA Pharmacy
  37. La Guerta Lodge II
  38. Pintuyan District Hospital
  39. Ginell’s JenielJunJames Gen. Merchandise and Eatery
  40. Karaoke Bar

Another tip is to catch the sunset from the port, grab your beer and just chill. When sunset comes, you will be able to see the local fishermen head out to the sea. It is like seeing the boat version of Bagan’s air balloons. It is quite a sight to see. Also, remember that everything closes early in this place so make sure to buy dinner by 7:00PM as all stores pretty much close after. You can also use the dirty kitchen in La Guerta and cook, you can borrow the pans from the caretakers they are very helpful.

Other Activities You Can Do When in Pintuyan:

Hike Son-ok Peak

Located within the Panaon Point of Barangay Son-ok near Pintuyan Ecotourism Park, you will get a bird’s eye view of the bay.

Explore Pintuyan Ecotourism Park which has an area of 22,729 sq. meters, home to the Philippine long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis philippensis.)

Chase Waterfalls

A series of five waterfalls that stretch along 4.5 kilometers of river flows of Barangay Catbawan seven kms. Northeast of the town proper.

The site boast of its unique features thru different shapes of waterfalls.
The 212 hours of river trekking along the stretch is worth an adventure as one will hurdle each falls using roots and hanging “Bagon” leaving behind memories of hard knock efforts while enjoying what nature can offer. S

Snorkel or Dive

Pintuyan has several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that boast beautiful coral coverage and an abundance of reef fishes: Dan-an, Manglit, Son-ok, and Balong-Balong. But there are also interesting spots just along the coast like right in front of the Brgy. Sta. Cruz Pier or the sandy area in Brgy. Punod for muck diving.
Before you swim or indulge in any water activities, especially in the MPAs, please contact or visit the Tourism Office first to settle conservation fees, suggestions on where you can rent gear (mask, snorkel, fins) if you do not have any, and instructions on if and where inside these areas is allowed for recreation.

Now that you have a better option than Oslob, please spread the word and help promote Pintuyan, a hidden gem in Southern Leyte.

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Monday Musings: A Duty To Protect Beauty

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Earth’s beauty is undeniable yet a lot of people are too distracted to see how we are slowly killing it. I never understood people who would rather be on their phones instead of taking a few minutes to see the sun graciously setting over the horizon. I guess with all the mobile stuff, the rest forget the simple things that surround us. It is either they see cash or likable over social media.
Everyday while I walk along the streets of the busy metropolis, I see people mistreating nature by throwing trash improperly or treating animals poorly. These are the same people you follow in social media. With each like you give, you are giving birth to a fake persona created for the sake of likability. They put up photos of the beach, forests and mountains to win people over but only a few dedicate time to give back. They show little gratitude to their homes. Are you one of those who appreciates our planet?

It is a known fact that humans are not the first organisms in the planet. We are young dwellers compared to sharks but we have done so much damage. I guess it happens when we are given a lot, you fail to appreciate but now time is running out. We have misused our mother Earth too much. If you are like me, then you must realise that we have a duty. Like a mother reminds her children and teaches them lessons, we should do the same to our fellow earth dwellers. Our resources are limited and if we do not protect it vigilantly, we are putting an end to our own existence.

My Untold Tacloban Story

January 5, 2015 started with the sun slowly beaming over the mountainous horizon. I woke up to the sight of Allen Port, the ship has finally reached Visayas. After 30 hours of travel by land and 2 hours on the ferry, I knew that my life has reached a full restart. I kept repeating “Tabula Rasa” in my head.

Traditional Costume

I will never go back to Tacloban! I swore myself this 4 years ago out of scorn. It was after I joined Ms. Pintados and lost. It was such a big dismay, I felt that I deserved at least a spot in the top five. I felt cheated and clueless. I did not know of the reasons for my exclusion in the final five.

Photoshoot at Rafael's Farm
Swimsuit Shoot at Rafael’s Farm

I felt that my performance was flawless, that they had no real reasons. It was impossible for me to mess up. I tried to see the logic behind my defeat. Perhaps because I was not a local or politics.

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I felt humiliated that night, after all, I already had enough experience. As the night ended, I was certain that I would never set my foot in Tacloban again.

I buried all that in my past til Typhoon Haiyan came. I could not help but put myself in the same situation. I almost perished during the Ormoc Flood of 1991, one of the worst natural calamities with more than 5,000 people dead. I was one of those children who would queue up for food and clothes.

As news broke of the terrible devastation, I donated half of the clothes I owned and my camping gears ( it was nothing major, I had a yearly tradition of giving away half of the clothes I own as to be a minimalist). I headed to Red Cross to join the other volunteers in the repacking but I felt I could do more.

Repacking at Red Cross Boni
Repacking at Red Cross Boni

After a couple of days, I ended up in Villamor Air Base as one of the head marshalls over seeing the flow of evacuees from Tacloban. When I went home, I was also an online volunteer, encoding all the names of the survivors of several baranggays. Although, I was doing a lot and barely getting any sleep, I felt that I needed to do more.

They called us Team Avengers after receiving 3000+ evacuees working as head marshalls for 100+ volunteers.
They called us Team Avengers.

After Miss SCUBA International 2013, I decided to use the prize money to fund my own volunteer activities. I became close friends with the fellow Villamor Air Base volunteers (we ended up being collectively called “Team Avengers” for managing to organise the simultaneous arrival of 3,000+ evacuees with only 50 volunteers).

Bantayan group
Bantayan group

We decided to support the Bantayan Back to Sea project by DAMGO Inc. As we planned our trip, I realised that the C130 plane will drop us off at Tacloban City. The place I swore to never visit again.

Of all the moments I was growing up with a military officer for a father, I have only tried taking the C130 after Yolanda.
Of all the moments I was growing up with a military officer for a father, I have only tried taking the C130 after Yolanda.

First trip back to Tacloban.
First trip back to Tacloban.

Despite the promise, I swore to do more. After a couple of checks, we boarded the C130. Without proper ventilation or seats, it was like being inside a flying sauna.

Sweating!
Sweating!

Me and my fellow volunteers managed to meet other groups also on their way to Tacloban.

Together with volunteers from other organisations.
Together with volunteers from other organisations.

The flight seemed longer than I thought perhaps because I was feeling the sweat dripping from my forehead.

Fell asleep while on the plane despite the heat.
Fell asleep while on the plane despite the heat.

It was a spur of the moment trip, we had no idea what was before us. It took a lot of effort to reach Bantayan.

Heading to Bantayan.
Heading to Bantayan.

We had to take the van to Palompon but the ferry did not leave until the next day so we had to spend the night in their terminal. I slept on top of boxes of stuffed toys that someone from Manila donated.

The next day we took a ship to Cebu then another bus to Daan Bantayan and another hour-long trip on a ferry to Bantayan.

On our way to board the ferry for Bantayan.
On our way to board the ferry for Bantayan.

When we arrived at Bantayan, I realized how most of the locals thought they have no power to change the situation.

At the port of Bantayan
At the port of Bantayan

I was lucky enough to meet the people changing the current status like Mr. Allan Monreal, Michelle Lim and Mr. Francisco Pacheco Jr. I was all smiles when I heard all their projects because I have wanted to see more sustainable changes that would empower Filipino communities. Damgo sa Kaugmaon Inc., started from a grassroots project focusing on rebuilding the lives of fisherfolks by giving them back the livelihood that they lost.

Building boats
Helping out with the Bantayan Back to Sea program

After spending days in Bantayan, you get a feel of how it would be like if every Filipino see that they are not powerless, that they can change and make things better for themselves and for the community. I left Bantayan with lots of good memories and lessons learned. It reminded me of what I dream for this country and why I have not given up on it.

We can learn so much from children.
We can learn so much from children.

Temporary shelter in Bantayan
Temporary shelter in Bantayan

After that trip, the vivid images of Tacloban haunted me. It made me wonder if what I did was enough and if I could still do more. Luckily, I met some friends from Couchsurfing who were implementing a programme in Tacloban and they asked me if I wanted to volunteer. I could not make any commitments then being tied to contracts and commitments.

A sad reminder

A sad reminder

Resillience is innate in every child.
Resillience is innate in every child.

As months dragged on, I slowly forgot about Tacloban. I got side tracked by personal issues, to the point that city life became toxic for me. My life fell into a full paralysis. I was alive and yet dead from the inside. I would spend the money I earned to amuse myself with food and sights but it was an unquenchable thirst for significance.

10580039_10203036599570850_8055695129581708513_nAs December 2014 was ending, I meet the same friends who invited me for volunteer work in Tacloban. I remembered my unanswered question. I had lost everything in Manila and felt totally helpless. I needed to find a way to feel in control with my life again. I needed an escape.

January 5, 2015 started with the sun slowly beaming over the mountainous horizon. I woke up to the sight of Allen Port, the ship has finally reached Visayas. After 30 hours of travel by land and 2 hours on the ferry, I knew that my life has reached a full restart. I kept repeating “Tabula Rasa” in my head.

“Football for Life” was the name of the programme teaching children football as a for of psychosocial support.

A photo posted by Paula Bernasor (@happinas101) on Jan 20, 2015 at 2:55am PST

I lived in the staff house and received living allowance.

At the start, I felt useless and clueless but as the days passed, I found my niche in the programme implementation.

Finding a place in the field of dreams.
Finding a place in the field of dreams.

I met the coaches, the children and the rest of the people who were working to rebuild the city. Their stories were equally vivid and it inspired me a lot.

Football is Life
Football is Life

We are all in the same boat!
We are all in the same boat!

Life was simple, everything closes by 9p.m. and there were not much to do after work. For someone living in the city for years, I was a bit in a shock ( no Family Mart, Coffee Bean, Divisoria or even 7 Eleven ).

Sunset over Tacloban
Sunset over Tacloban

The things that I got used to in Makati, nowhere to be found (like my favourite whole wheat bread or fresh basil, definitely first world problems).

At the sidelines.
At the sidelines.

Being used to living the metropolitan life, I ended up drowning in all the materialistic cravings. Day after day, I slowly managed to get used to things (except for the slow internet which I will never get used to because they are abusing consumer rights and charging to much).

Girls stick together.
Girls stick together.

I met new people who shared the same ideals and as January ended, I knew I had to stay longer. I planned to spend my birthday in Sagada and the idea of being in the office on my birthday did not bother me at all. I felt that I was where I needed to be. February came to an end, unknowingly Tacloban seduced me into staying for almost 6 months.

With the Pintadas!
With the Pintadas!

All smiles with these kids.
All smiles with these kids.

My loyal stalker Sandra
My loyal stalker Sandra

Those solo nights at Jose Karlo's
Those solo nights at Jose Karlo’s

Fun moments of Wizard and crazy talks at Naning's!
Fun moments of Wizard and crazy talks at Naning’s!

My usual order of tapsilog from Rafael's
My usual order of tapsilog from Rafael’s

The simple routines: walking to the shared office arriving with excited Sandra (the resident dog who pretended to be my pet) running towards me, staying until midnight in Jose Karlo’s while listening to a confusing playlist, and hanging out after work or taking random trips with friends during weekends, brought happiness and contentment.

Jumping at Calvary Hills with the guys of A World of Football

June came and we had to face that the programme is about to end. During the assessment, I was confident that the programme will get another year as there is none like it in Tacloban.

F4L Kids with their new jerseys!
F4L Kids with their new jerseys!

Traces of devastation remains.
Traces of devastation remains.

Everyone was rebuilding physical structures, we were rebuilding dreams. I always joked around when some of my friends from university ask if I do not want to practice my profession as a nurse. I would respond, “I am nursing dreams here in Tacloban.”

Fun time with the kids
Fun time with the kids

I never planned on staying long but I felt it was necessary. The time spent in Tacloban was not only to help the children recover but to help myself as well. The city reflected the turmoil that was hidden in me.

A dream of freedom.
A dream of freedom.

It is now funny when I remember those last few days of December where I would cry out of hopelessness. Tacloban served as my totem. It reminded me daily of life, its fleeting moments of defeats and triumphs. Moments of destruction is often followed with rebirth, a delicate balance we all need to accept. We too often forget life’s duality, not worry too much because everything falls into place.

During the CAC coaches training.
During the CAC coaches training.

We all have to embrace our nomadic nature, it does not have to be changing places but in constantly changing our minds and hearts for the better.

Leave footprints that cannot be erased.
Leave footprints that cannot be erased.

To always be open to life’s challenges and adventure, to set foot into the unknown with full trust that good things will happen.

On to another journey!
On to another journey!

I was a lost nomad with an unset direction and unclear vision. What Tacloban gave me was the priceless gift of clarity and hope.

Build your own bridges and roads to get you where you want to be.
Build your own bridges and roads to get you where you want to be.

“Nobody can build the bridge for you to walk across the river of life, no one but you yourself alone. There are, to be sure, countless paths and bridges and demi-gods which would carry you across this river; but only at the cost of yourself; you would pawn yourself and lose. There is in the world only one way, on which nobody can go, except you: where does it lead? Do not ask, go along with it.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

Beyond Play : Changing the World through Sports

“Sport has established itself as an effective tool for development and peace-building. Sport for development and peace projects around the world have addressed many of the challenges society has faced.”- Wilfried Lemke 

Football for Life children
Football for Life children

Since time immemorial, sports have been the most popular form of recreation for people. Last April 5, 2015 at Patio Victoria, Brgy. San Jose, Tacloban City, the children, coaches and staff of Football for Life programme, joined the rest of the world in celebrating not only Easter Sunday and the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace (IDSDP).

Best egg hunter!

History of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 6 April as the International Day of Sports and Physical Activity, to celebrate the contribution of sports and physical activity to education, human development, healthy lifestyles and a peaceful world. The 1st International Day of Sport for Development and Peace was celebrated on 6 April 2014.

The choice of the date of 6 April can be explained by the fact that, in 2002, at its 55th session, the Assembly of the World Health Organization, in its resolution WHA 55.23, urged Member States to celebrate a “Move for Health Day” each year to promote physical activity as essential for health and well-being. The date 6 April has been used since the year 2003 by some civil society organizations for celebrating a “World Day for Physical Activity”.

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Potential of Sport for Social Impact

Sport, as a tool for education, development and peace, can promote cooperation, solidarity, tolerance, understanding, social inclusion and health at the local, national and international levels. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.

For these reasons, states, the United Nations system and, in particular, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, relevant international organizations, and international, regional and national sports organizations, civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and all other relevant stakeholders are invited to cooperate, observe and raise awareness of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

She shoots, she scores.
She shoots, she scores.

Significance of Football for Life Programme in Tacloban

Football for Life (F4L) programme uses sport, specifically football, as a tool in providing psychosocial support for children who are in the process of emotional recovery. It allows children to have fun at a stressful time, connect with each other, collaborate, play and process their experiences.

Why is it important to allow these children to play? According to researches, early and adequate play therapy can:

  • Prevent distress and suffering developing into something more severe
  • Help children cope better and become reconciled to everyday life
  • Help beneficiaries to resume their normal lives
  • Meet community-identified needs

Play is what children consider as work and with F4L’s approach of engaging children through sports, they are indirectly being influenced to be active survivors not passive victime and to further develop their resilience in dealing with disasters.

Having fun in sand.
Having fun in sand.

Building Back Dreams and Communities

There are only a number of psychosocial support being provided post Haiyan. Across the Philippines, there is still a rampant misconception among Filipinos on how there is little need for caring about mental health. Disasters, conflicts and health problems have severe psychosocial consequences. These emotional wounds are less visible than destroyed infrastructures thus it is often looked over. Fact is, it takes longer for people recover from emotional impact than to rebuild buildings and houses. It affects the community and weakens productivity.

Early support and adaptation processes – which respect local customs in mental health or psychosocial healing – allow an affected population to cope better with a difficult situation. Seeing the F4L children taking leadership roles and evolving into better citizens, Taclobanons are realising that sports is not merely recreation for childrenwhere they display their physical skills but also as a way for social change.