Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Meandering at the MOAP

MOAP, pronounced ‘mo-wap’, that is the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park on the outskirts of Tudela, nearest Jimenez. And I must say this was, or just became the highlight of my roaming outside Ozamiz City. Not that I even knew about it before I flew into Ozamiz hehe. I just happened to have heard about it while asking around. And yes, the lady over at Royal Garden Hotel’s front desk was ultra-helpful!

From Jimenez, there were various ride choices like habal-habal, tricycle or jeep for the just about 4km distance to MOAP. I was convinced by locals to ride a multicab and was actually already seated in one as it waited for more passengers. But a Rural Bus came on its way to Ozamiz, so I jumped out of the multicab and took the bus. Good that Jimenez has an integrated terminal for buses and jeeps so you can see which one is going out first! Well, this bus ride was a bit more expensive (P15) which should have just been 7 or 8 pesos on the multicab hehe!

MOAP Entrance
Commuters, don’t get discouraged. Its not that far! Getting off the bus, I stood around waiting for a ride from the highway towards the entrance of MOAP. This was “per instructions” of the friendly folks at Jimenez earlier. But, there seemed to be none coming. Some trikes, habal-habals, cars etc passed me by and many would give me curious glances. Then local kids coming from the direction of the entrance came out bantering. I asked where they came from, they said MOAP. I already knew, but I am a Filipino hehe, so I still asked… “malakaw ra?”. They all said yes, so I started for it! Aw sus, its only about a hundred meters or so – definitely shorter a distance than what I have been used to walking from Eastwood City’s entrance to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf hahaha!

As a commuter, the tricky part with this approach to MOAP is that the road going in curves just a few meters from the highway. So you don’t get to see how far (how near) it is. And the walk afforded me to see something else! There is a restaurant named Palayan Seafoods. I went in as the set-up and atmosphere seemed so inviting. This is a restaurant amidst fish-pens where you can fish for your food or just watch others do it. As I roamed around the big expanse of Palayan Seafoods, there were noticeably a lot of customers. One big momma (probably a politician) looked like she was scolding a waiter as to why their food was taking too long. Ah, that was a cue, I did not dare eat in this place lest my time be wasted. Yep, at 1403H, I wanted to eat lunch again! Why? Probably I was not satisfied with my lunch over at Oroquieta hehe! So I moved on towards MOAP. I noticed that this walk was actually already inside the MOAP property. To my left and across the restaurant were already part of the vast fish paddies and ponds.

What is the MOAP and what did I see there?
Well, it is an aquamarine park yes but its actually more of a scientifically controlled marine propagation, environmental development and rehabilitation center. Whatever the descriptions of this place are anyway, I liked seeing this unique place. I hope there’ll be more of this in the whole country

Zoo. Ha?! Yes, Jessica, there is a mini-zoo. Its actually nothing fantastic if you judged it by the birds and animals to be seen. Those are common in the area that can also be seen in many a zoo in this country. But what makes it a fine place to visit is that this zoo is set amidst a well maintained and protected mangrove forest. And you cross a wood-and-bamboo bridge going there! Ahahahay, some children I saw running on that bridge while some adults were freaking out afraid to cross! Of course even the K-group (yup, andun na rin sila) were having a grand time with their pictorials on that bridge. And all over that mini-zoo you walk along the wooden boardwalk. Careful careful hehe!

Hatchery. Oh make that hatcheries. This farm has a lot of pens, ponds, tanks and what have yas that deal with propagating many things like tilapia, turtles, catfish, milkfish and other things fish whose names I cannot anymore fish from my fishy memory! Oh those things are mostly on land-side like an open-air laboratory.

Cultures. Then there are the farms of freshwater everything like Shrimp Culture. Ah don’t ask me what that means as I don’t know their music, dance or rituals hehehe! Just google that. But OMG this shrimp thing covers a lot of ponds and the bamboo bridges and walkways criss-crossing them plus the resting huts are beautiful! Then there is a Prawn Culture. What is the difference between “shrimp” and “prawn”? Wheh, I don’t know but they all look and sound delicious ‘pasayan’ to me! The “freshwater prawn culture” neighbors with “hito culture” and “tilapia culture”. What a cultural experience, I have just seen so many cultures! Have you?! Notice everything said above are still just the “aqua” part in “aquamarine”!

Mangroves. Now we’re getting out to sea. Yep, they’re serious, the MOAP maintains the life if the surrounding mangrove forests. They have even planted new bakawans by the shallows. Bright idea, hope all in this country follows as I learned sometime ago that these mangroves are actually the feeding, breeding and spawning grounds of fish and other sea-life.

The longest bamboo walkway. Yes, this is the longest I have seen in my life, and it juts out to the sea so I cannot call it a bridge. When its windy as most days are, make sure hats or caps wont get blown away as definitely you’ll have to dive into the sea to get them! Any coins, keys or phones too must be locked in your pockets. And make sure your camera is strapped to your hand or neck.

Why that long bridge/walkway going out to sea? Well, nobody gave me a definitive reply but I guess its either or both because 1) the hatchery or culture area for marine animals has to be out in deeper sea water and/or 2) boats cannot easily negotiate the mangrove areas which are generally very shallow during low tide. Ah the walk in this long path made of bamboo and wood slats adds to the excitement of being at MOAP. Imagine, the wind is swooshing hard like it will blow your head away. And don’t look back for you will realize you’re actually already far from safe land hehe!

A Function Hall at sea! Yeah, many meters away from land as you walk by that creaking contraption of wood and bamboo that is your only path, to the right is a house on stilts. Its big like a restaurant, and yes they serve food there, but mainly used as a function hall or seminar area. When I passed by, I saw that a workshop was in progress and most attendees were not listening to the speakers hehe! I tried going near but backed away since the attendees (who seemed more interested looking at me than their speaker) all looked like men with big bellies and plump women who play mahjong with shining jewelries dangling in their bodies hehe! I moved onwards towards the sea before I could take that picture!

Sea Ranching. I might actually say I am well read, on my own terms that is, but this was the first time I saw that phrase “sea ranching”. That signage was posted on one side of the long bamboo/wood path on stilts. But I guess that is propagation of animals that live out in the seas. Or something near that. Whatever, I now have a new term to look forward to, and that also means there are not a lot of such activities in this country – cuz I only encountered it now.

A restaurant at sea. Hmm, this is probably half a kilometer or more of walking on that 'road on stilts'. And I land into a big gazebo-like hut with concrete base and floor. This is actually composed of two structures – the gazebo/landing whatever and a house on stilts where the kitchen, a store and more tables are located. Middle of both structures is the pathway. I think everyone (include me) who reach this house must breathe a sigh of relief from walking above the sea! And OMG that path does not feel sturdy on every segment. At some areas the bamboo and wood are decayed that I thought would easily break on a wrong step. At other portions though, the bamboo and wood look fresh. Oh now the restaurant! It has a menu of mainly sea-foods. I ordered fish steak, rice and a bottle of water then told the waitress I’ll just go walk the entire length of the path and come back for my food. Hmm, the servings are big (good for two) so, pinanidigan ko na, it deserved an extra cup of rice, an extra bottle of water and a bottle of SMB. Hah, the life!

Wharf. So you thought the path on stilts ends at the restaurant? No, not yet! It goes onwards to yet another gazebo with concrete floor and that serves as the wharf or landing area for the boats. Boats? Yes, boats that go to Dolphin Island. Dolphins? Ah yes, don't get excited! There is a ticket booth here where you pay for the boat ride and entrance to Dolphin Island. At this wharf, the path does not end yet. It turns right, then left into a floating maze of bamboo paths and nets/pens with different sizes of different kinds of marine animals mostly fish. And there are little huts with sleeping quarters in this expanse of a floating farm! Whew! I went there.

‘Mariculture Industry Development Project’ so says the signage on that floating farm. Below the big bold sign says “investment zone”. Ah I just noted those and proceeded to roam around the bamboo pathways. Careful if you must go there, there’s nothing to hold on to and the thing is constantly moving due to the waves and wind. I’d be honest, at times I literally crawled along those paths hehe! Hey the little huts have wirings and electric lights on the ceilings. They even have wall sockets. So I asked if there was electric current in those huts. The answer was both a “none anymore” and “none yet”. So apparently it was not working for the moment but being repaired. Oh, some of the little fish in those nets were hard to see while some of the big fish would sometimes jump from water to air only to splash back down from where they came! I looked at the board again, and it says “Grouper (Pugapo) Production. Ah so most of those were lapu-lapu. Yum!

Investments. Back at the wharf, I asked about that thing inviting people to invest. The counter lady enthusiastically told me that yes and indeed they do have that
program and I should look for a certain person (was that Dan) over at the administration building for more details of the investment plan/package. She tells me that the returns are quick and hefty. Later when I returned to land I did ask about it and got a lecture about investing with them. Its now a consideration and am constantly in touch with them.

A boat named Sen Kiko (Senator Kiko) was approaching and I was so surprised with the number of people on board. I asked where they came from and how many were them on the boat. Woman said those folks about a hundred plus of them on the boat just came from Dolphin Island. When I expressed my surprise at the number of those people, she told me that boatload should only be a third of the total of them who went there as there were 300+ registered guests all belonging to various LGUs in Mindanao having a tour. Wow!

Dolphin Island. Seeing the happy faces of those government officers arriving, I told the lady I too would like to go to Dolphin Island and see it for myself. She issued me a receipt (yep the government type of OR) and I waited for those folks to empty so that on return of the boat I would ride with it to Dolphin Island. Then it drizzled… then it rained… aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! And the coward in me prevailed, I told the lady I wont push through and she refunded me my P250. So, I was not able to see Dolphin Island and could just look at it in the haze. Anyway… I have reason to return to MOAP. And hey, that structure I mentioned I saw while about to land at Ozamiz Airport? That is at Dolphin Island.

Surely I will be back! Two reasons… Dolphin Island and the investment!

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