The Philippine seas are known to be home to different aquatic species. There are currently 35 legislated Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the country, including Bohol’s Panglao Island, Sarangani Bay, and Tañon Strait in Cebu.
Juag Lagoon Marine Sanctuary in Sorsogon is also one of them. It is a privately-owned aquatic haven that started to welcome tourists in 2017 as part of the Matnog Island hopping.
This 1.7-hectare tourist destination houses more than 40 aquatic species. Travelers may interact with different marine life, such as the endangered Humphead Wrasse or locally called Mameng.
“Currently, there are seven Mameng that tourists can interact with inside the sanctuary,” owner Evangeline Geneblazo shares.
Mameng is coral reef fish that grows up to six feet long. It can be easily identified for its distinct bulge on the forehead, thick lips, and lines behind its eyes. This species has diamond patterning, varying green, blue, and yellow scales.
Other aquatic species are Goldman Sweetlips also called Maynila, Parrot Fish or Loro, Harlequin Sweetlips, Teira Batfish, Orange-spotted Spinefoot, Tiger Lobster, Pineapple Sea Cucumber, and more.
Day in the Life of Marine Sanctuary Caretaker
Fifty-year-old Geneblazo is also a seaweed farmer married to a fisherman. But most of her time is spent taking care of marine life.
Sometimes her children would help her look after the sanctuary.
Her day starts with checking the condition of seagrasses. Afterward, she will feed the fishes. Some fish only eat pellets, while some eat scrap fish. “Some fishes are carnivorous like the Carangidae and Groupers (Lapu-Lapu).”
She will buy additional scrap fish in the afternoon. The other caretakers will also check if the nets within the sanctuary have holes in them.
The Geneblazo family only charges tourists for the fish feed. Fish food costs Php 100 for every three small cups.
Resilience and Typhoon Devastations
“We really had a hard time during the pandemic because we lost visitors,” Geneblazo shares.
Thankfully, the sanctuary gets assistance from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources every quarter. “They would check the cleanliness of the water. Diagnose and monitor possible red tide,” she continues.
In 2019, Geneblazo lost her biggest Mameng due to Typhoon Kammuri (Tisoy). “When there’s a typhoon, we can’t do anything but hope we don’t lose them all.”
Dos and Don’ts
Tourists wearing sunblock or sunscreens are not allowed to swim in the sanctuary to avoid contaminating the waters. Those under the influence of alcohol are also prohibited from entering.
The entrance fee to the property is not required, but they accept donations for its maintenance.
According to Geneblazo, she protects and cares for marine life like family. “We opened this to tourists so they can see how to properly take care of marine life. We make sure to look after them.”
The Geneblazo family makes sure that all fishes stay healthy and full. “They even get their meals before us. They’re like my children,” Geneblazo laughs.
“The Emperor Red Snapper is my favorite because they are very affectionate.”
Outsource the Planning
For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Bicol. Click on this link for a comprehensive list of agencies.
Explore Sorsogon responsibly by making sure that you comply with the province’s health and safety protocols, such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
Ensure that you have acquired travel authority at https://s-pass.ph/ prior trip. Bring a copy or screenshot of this along with your vaccination card and valid ID upon arrival.
For the latest travel information about Sorsogon, you may visit their official website or Facebook page. You may also review updated safety protocols and requirements on Philippine destinations at www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel