This month is all about my home province. Almost every weekend I was able to experience corners of my province with my officemates and fellow Peace Corps volunteers. Beautiful beaches, and stunning wildlife, southern Bicol has got it all!
Just a few kuyas hanging out in the shade in front of a beautiful waterfront vista, enjoying the shade on a hot day. The summer months may be the hottest months, but they’re also the months most popular for sightseeing and traveling.
I’m never too far from a gorgeous beach.
My mayor took my entire LGU on a tour of the province this past month. Barcelona was one of our last stops.
4. Street Meats
Down skinny city streets there are food stands squished together, one right after the next. These stands are surrounded by crowds of people picking up a quick merienda before continuing on their way. Common street foods include adidas (chicken feet), chicken isaw (chicken intestines), kwek-kwek (hard boiled and fried quail eggs), banana-cue (fried and sugared banana), and lumpia (similar to spring rolls)
This month I helped out showing visitors around our bay. As we cruised along I talked about our mangrove forests and species of mangrove we were passing. 9 months here and I’ve earned the badge of ‘local guide’.
One of our most prominent exports is tahong, or Asian green mussels. These mussels are grown on to bamboo sticks under the water. Tahong operators dove down and brought up the growing mussels for our visitors to look at.
The whale shark is locally known as the ‘butanding’. Butanding watching is one of the most well known tourist destinations in my province. Being here for 9 months I have often been asked if I have seen the butanding yet. Now I can finally say YES! What an amazing experience! Swimming with the largest fish in the ocean through water thick with plankton. His giant mouth could easily fit a full grown human being, but lucky for us he would rather feed on the tiny plankton. His little eyeball followed me as my stubby human legs kicked hard to keep up with his lazy giant tail sways. This particular shark was only around 5m long. He was accompany by 5 or 6 remoras suctioned to his skin, picking up a free ride on this gentle giant.
If SCUBA tanks didn’t have limitations I’m not sure you could ever convince me to come to the surface, especially in a place like Donsol. Donsol is in my top two as far as dive sites go. So much interesting life; seahorses, nudibranchs, sea snakes, manta rays, feather stars, and colorful walls of soft corals. If anyone knows someone working on a pair of human gills, let me know.
Feather stars are one of the most interesting looking critters. They are in the same phylum as the starfish, Echinodermata. Normally these animals are attached to some sort of substrate, either a rock, or large coral. However, if they aren’t getting enough food, or if that place becomes unfavorable for another reason, they can move to a different spot. We were lucky enough to see a few of them swimming. Their arms, usually used for filter feeding, quickly pulse downward through the water propelling the animal off the ground and upward. Here’s a clip by Nat Geo of the mystifying swimming feather star. One of my new favorite animals.
Nudibranchs are sea slugs, but they are much more interesting than that name implies. There are 3,000 species of these colorful Gastropods and new species are identified almost daily. The term Nudibranch means ‘naked gills’. It’s given this name because the feathery appendages seen on its back are its gills. These critters are incredibly diverse coming in all shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns.
That’s all for this month! I hope you learned something new about marine life and are more motivated than ever to come visit me here in the Philippines.