Friday, February 21, 2014

Oslob Whaleshark Watch

Let's just show you my pictures first - for a change. Then probably do my usual yadadadada along the way or at the end of this post. Note that in the first few pics, camera was inside a zip locked plastic bag (given by Neil - one of the briefing area officers). It's like those we get from the supermarket as 'sandwich bags'! But... ah you'll learn what happened to it, yeah the sandwich bag, by looking at my pics hehe...


Okay now, let's hear some of the things I learned...

First off, I think I will never ever return to Donsol (Sorsogon) with or without friends in tow, just to watch Butanding. It is just such a daunting hit or miss process there. And you are far, out in the sea, looking for a Butanding - sometimes it takes the whole day with no luck. There is even what they call a "spotter" there, remember? Yup, the guy who climbs up a mast to scan the waters far and near for any chance of a whaleshark that might be around!

In Oslob, you don't even have to leave the shore and you can already see them. But yes, you ride the boats to a few meters (like above pictures) and there you are, frolicking with many of them. They're smaller though, since boatmen told me those are still babies.

At Donsol though, the detailed briefing process is a learning about whale sharks in itself, unlike here where a cranky old woman just tells you "okay, no touching, no flash photography" - yeah, after you have been ceremoniously taken to their nice new building of a "briefing center" and after you have waited at rows and rows of chairs. Only to hear a 6-word phrase any 5 year old can memorize and tell you!

Did you notice those cute little boats with just a boatman each? Am sure you'll have noticed since I purposely made them my background in most of the photos above! Do you know what they are there for? Ask people on shore and they'll tell you "to ensure safety and security of tourists and the fish"! Truth is, they are "feeders". Yep, on those boats, by their feet, are containers with dead (frozen but thawed) krill. Watch their hands as you do the tour, they keep throwing the krill to feed those sharks, so they will stay for your viewing pleasure! Am sure some "naturists" won't like that hehe!

That's why butandings love them - ikaw ba naman humawak ng kusina, di ba?!

But boatmen tell me, that is why they're only allowed to do this viewing/interaction activity until 12NN (if you persist, they'll consider extending until 1PM, they say), so that the butanding will go away feeding on their own natural way from that time on, until tomorrow morning hehe. Thus, for them whalesharks, Oslob is a daily breakfast to brunch smorgasboard!

Where do these boatmen get the krill from? Ah, from fishermen as far as Moalboal on the other side of this big island, even from the Talisay and Cebu markets! Can't buy that from local fishermen since practically no one is fishing anymore. Their men are now members of TOSWFA (Tan-awan Oslob Sea Warden & Fishermen Association), yes, the Manongs you see in green shirts attending to us the tourists!

I learned butandings do not eat spoiled krill. Also learned they're not even that crazy about dead krill. But, as is obvious, they do settle for what these fishermen of Oslob toss to them. Easier than chasing live krills out at sea!

Also learned that these men in green shirts don't anymore do anything the rest of the day. So, your guess is as good as mine now... hmmm? Let's reflect... more time to tend to their cocks - their birds, I mean - ah their fighting cocks I mean! Yes, the roosters, the manok, the hinuptan! Or how about tong-its? And Red Horse? Livelihood! I'd like here to invite the curiosity of social work and/or economics and/or business and/or public adm. students. This barangay Tan-awan Oslob, could be one great topic for your school papers or theses! Hell, the subject might even be a worthy MA, MBA or PhD dissertation! Try it!

No touching? You don't have to. But if you stand (aw swim) in their way to catch krill thrown by the manongs, they won't mind brushing their big long bodies along your small petite human physique! Aw, time for you my healthy friends (aka tabatsoi) to look really trim hahaha. Just wear a black suit, swim near them, have your photo taken and voila you'd be quite "small"!

Hear this... one of my companions was shrieking as if her dog was being squished between two cabinets. When we looked why, asus, one of them butandings had its head being constantly banged by the outrigger of our boat as we kept bobbing in the waves. But the big little dear did not seem to mind. And our boatman told us, these creatures have very thick and rubbery skin they won't easily get hurt by just the outriggers whacking them! Oh my and oh wow!

Oh, as shown in one of the pictures above, some of them manongs do touch/pet the animals (aw fish pala)! I asked if they already know individual butandings on sight or if they already have labeled them with human names. Manong Eser, our boatman in charge of steering and paddling chuckled saying some of their colleagues already attempted to do so, but the problem is that one boatman can label one "toki" with his preferred name, while others will also label the same "toki" with their preferred nomenclature hehehe. Oh, "toki" by the way is how locals call these creatures.

How do them boatmen call out to these whalesharks in the morning for their "daily breakfast" and for the tourists' to enjoy watching them? It's complicated! If you ask them boatmen, they'll say "they just come this way as they're already used to it". Okay fine, but if you ask the waiters and waitresses at the resorts, they'll tell you those boatmen have a way of calling them butanding which is a secret that they don't want to share.

I asked our waitress at George's for a tangible proof that boatmen really have a way of calling these butandings. And the story is... one time (a local kid butted in saying 'many times na oi') a politician came with guests (also politicians) and it was already 3PM. And we all know that the sharks are gone as early as noon, right? Waitress says, them boatmen just did their "magic" and came all of them butandings! Hmmm...

The friends and I, feasting over a delectable whole piece of lechon manok even got to discussing that, if they really want to, people from nearby towns like Santander or Boljoon, or even the island/resort of Sumilon could actually just probably also spread krill all over their waters and them whalesharks could hypothetically also hang-out in those areas! Pwede! And we'll see a new tourist destination hahaha. Then there will be a mad competition amongst towns to attract butanding with the freshest and most abundant krill! Whaahehehe market wars!

Then that would probably shoot the prices of krill to sky high!

Krill by the way is called "hipon" in the Visayas (I think its called "alamang" in Tagalog). So if you hear them say "hipon" don't think of it as shrimps the way you would in Manila. That bigger cousin is called "pasayan" in Cebu!

Oh, let's cut it here, lest this article become a book again!

Here is a view of the sea at 12NN from our cottage at George's...
Boat still at sea returning to shore. That and ours were the only 2 boats out earlier!

Our boatmen...
They're also fun to banter with whether at sea or on shore!

The back of their uniforms...

And this is the store cum front desk cum carinderia at George's...
We left our things in there as we watched the butandings!

Then we waited for a bus just across the street. Going to Liloan, Santander...
And hopefully to Dumaguete? Why hopefully?

Ah, let's do that story next!

1 comment :

  1. Ohh....Your article is so fascinating and funny.I really love to read it anddddd surely will visit Oslob the end of 2014 to snokel with these lovely Whaleshark.Hopes that I can learn a trick to call these whaleshark too :)