It was a relief that after travelling at least four hours from Bantayan Island, then a short 200 meter hike from the roadside, we were welcomed with Cebuano folk songs by the staffs of BAETAS (Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association). I may not fully understand the words but I could feel the collective liveliness from the group vocals to the energetic strums of the lone guitar. We were on the third day of our Oceana Philippines photo safari at Tañon Strait. We traveled southwest to the town of Aloguinsan to experience their Bojo River Cruise, the towns foremost attraction with activities revolving around the 1.4km river leading to Tañon Strait.
We were led to the thatched hut overlooking Bojo River which also serves as the reception area for the Bojo River Cruise guests. It was little past lunch so our eyes lit up at the buffet of local flavors laid on a table from the chicken soup, humba, grilled tuna with a few rice cakes for dessert and special blend of tea. While partaking our lunch, we were also oriented about this community endeavour that seeks to preserve the river, the mangrove ecosystem while providing livelihood to the locals.
The Bojo River Cruise
Our journey starts with a palina ritual, a tradition of wafting smoke along the guest coming from a burning coconut husk in a claypot to ensure safe voyage and in our case, the cruise. An interesting pre-hispanic practice still observed till this day especially during all-saints day. Life vest were given to each which is a requirement. From the small wooden jetty, our outrigger boats paddled through the turquoise-hued Bojo River walled by mangroves and a variety of plants. Our guide was quite knowledgeable of the environ, he cited that there are 96 plant species living by the river which includes 22 species of mangroves. Majority of those are the palm-like mangroves which are used as roof materials for traditional huts. Our guide was even able to distinguish birds from their sounds and there are 61 bird species inhabiting Bojo River.
It was a tranquil cruise as our boatmen paddled towards an inlet where we was saw the transition of the waters from turquoise to a deeper blue. Towering cliff walls open to the vast Tañon Strait like a hole. Interestingly the word “Bojo” pronounced as bo-ho, in Visayan dialect refers to a “hole”, a unique characteristic of this mangrove river cruise. Near the mouth of the cave, guest can snorkel and discover the pristine reef lining the cliffs extending 1km wide across the coastline. It was unfortunate I left my snorkeling gear at our van but one of our companions did snorkel. The dense number of jellyfish dissuaded my interest though.
Farmhouse sidetrip and essential info on the next page…
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.