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Feature: Cabgan bats tour opens with media product test
By: Rey Anthony H. Chiu
Friday 16th of May 2014

TUBIGON, Bohol, May 16 (PIA) –If there’s another thing mass media has done to bats, it is making them the epitomes of the evils lurking in the dark. 

And if there is one thing media could do to correct the situation, that is to let them look at bats the way these often misunderstood creatures of the dark are to be seen.

The people of Macaas, Tubigon, forms the Malambuong Turismo sa Macaas Tubigon (MATUMATU) are doing just that-- getting the media to understand why there is a need to protect and conserve the 3000 island flying foxes and fruit bats of its nearby Cabgan Island.

At the soft opening of the new eco-tourism site, MATUMATU invited travel writers and media practitioners from Cebu and Bohol to critic on the new tourism product that vows to be community based at its core and essence. 

Present were writers from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Freeman, SunStar Cebu, Philippine Information Agency-Bohol, travel bloggers and lifestyle writers.

Cabgan, or short for “cabogan” is an 85 hectare island characterized by dense mangrove forests off barangay Macaas in Tubigon. Among the inner barrier reefs in the Danajon Double Barrier Reef, Cabgan is an uninhabited maze of land and shallow waterways, tideflats and wetlands hosting the roosting bats.

Most people fear bats. One many ascribe to the massive media 'demonization' of the bats as the sinister bloodshot eyed mammals that suck blood that epitomizes the powers of darkness and causes the enmity between man and these mammals.

True to the hyped description bats especially the flying foxes “have dog or fox-like faces with large eyes because unlike the smaller bats, flying foxes do not echolocate but relies on vision and smell,” according to Boboi Costas, Tubigon eco-tourism consultant.  

Widely and wrongly portrayed in association with the vampire bats, fruit bats in Cabgan travel a radius of 50 kilometers, Costas said.

With neighboring islands so close, bats fly there to seek fruits, pollen, nectar and leaves. 

They also carry seeds to be dropped somewhere else cross pollinate and unwittingly contribute to restoring lost forest cover. 

MATUMATU President Jonathan Sabate identified two distinct species of the fruit bats as the large flying foxes; the country’s largest bats weighing a kilo on the average, and the island flying foxes.

And even if these flying mammals go long distances, roosting is always at the sanctuary of Cabgan, short for Cabogan, or literally, area filled with bats.

Often portrayed as dark, lurking, evil night creatures, bats have been relentlessly hunted for fear, for food or for pest control, some intentionally, other times unintentionally, by unabated use of chemicals.

With the assistance from other field workers from its benchmarked destination in Aloguinsan, Cebu and its community-based eco-tourism consultant, MATUMATU members culturally mapped the areas including the tide-flats and wetlands of Cabgan and the mangroves in the shores of Macaas.

They also listed at least three roosting sites for the large flying foxes, the country’s largest fruit-bats and the smaller but equally agile island flying foxes. 
Also here and in nearby Macaas mudflats are about 24 species of mangroves in impenetrable centuries old dense forests or the sparse clumps creating a maze of waterways giving barely enough access to those trees populated by roosting bats. 

Natural grounds for gleaning and marginal and sustainable fishing, Macaas and Cabgan are now the hub for the Cabgan Island Community-based Eco-Tourism Project, a part of the efforts to protect and conserve Clarin Group of Islands Protected Seascape, an integrated protected area within the Danajon Double Barrier Reef. 

Cabgan Island EcoTour includes orientations by community guide interpreters, safety rules, boat rides, paddling, mangrove identification, bird watching and bats observations, lunch of native cuisines, project orientation and local cultural entertainment. 

Tubigon’s first seriously developed eco-tourism activity, the Cabgan Island project has local officials and Mayor Marlon Amila feeling excited to finally offer a tour package to tourists making the town their gateway.   

We are hitting many birds with one stone, both Vice Mayor Isabelo Fortich and Amila stressed. 

As to the media covering the product testing, the experience appeared to get to them, notes a MATUMATU member who observed the short interaction which happened after the tour. 

While Cabgan Island tour helps present the town’s unique marine resources, it is also a platform for community empowerment in sustaining and conserving their resources as well as allowing the community another income alternative, sums up Jonathan Sabate, MATUMATU President.  (mbcn/rach/PIA7-Bohol)

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