Secrets of Lawigan
Text and photos by Jojie Alcantara (published article, SunStar Davao and Manila Bulletin in 2012)
Visiting my birthplace in Mati, Davao Oriental, often brings me a lot of unexpected moments and pleasant surprises. For one, every time I come back for a short visit, my sunrise shoots at 5am in the popular Dahican strip always give me a different seascape each time.
In my childhood days, it took four hours on very rough and narrow roads to traverse from Davao to Mati. Today, widened cemented roads offer a scenic view of the gulf from the cliffs, reaching the city in three hours, and literally paving the way for Mati to become a sought after tropical destination because of its beautiful coastline.
My last visit, though, was extraordinary, something that ranked up there with my dolphin tour last year in the waters. This time I made a trip to a hidden coastal village that is yet to be explored fully. Here, at the farthest edge of Mati’s coastal topography, lies Lawigan, one of 26 barangays with a population of 4,000, a household of 485 within 12 puroks, and villagers whose livelihood relies on fishing and goats.
Dotted by rugged rock formations, mangroves and white sands interspersed with coconut trees and patches of civilization with huts built on shorelines, the road to Lawigan is quite narrow and perched on a precipice, before going down at sea level again. We’ve passed by several tiny kids walking towards school, backpacks in tow.
Thankfully, we were warmly welcomed by the villagers who invited us for a hearty lunch which they themselves prepared and cooked in an open stove. Former Kagawad Rey Mamilhic, who still works in the provincial government, proudly told us of Lawigan’s hidden beauty and tourism potential. He has worked on asking for an ambulance van from the city and radio sets for communication, which the Mayor is said to have approved. In the works are homestay arrangements for visitors since they can only provide the school gym for now.
Up a tree, I noticed several cellphone units tied to branches, their owners hoping to catch some signal. If you ever need to get away from the populated urban life, this is one of the remotest places to go where you can’t easily be reached. About the strongest signal available is in nearby Barangay Tamisan where a fish monitoring device was erected by Smart Communications in a project supported by the government.
This successful Marine Protection Area resource management boosts community efforts to preserve and improve the biodiversity of the area, which in turn encouraged neighboring Lawigan to hopefully establish their own MPA as well. Since then, a significant increase in number of marine life was noted, populating the shoreline, and fish catch among locals have improved. Regular sightings of dolphins and dugongs prove the sea grass and colorful coral beds to be healthy and regenerating, confirming Lawigan as a potential dive and surf destination.
Proof of this are the healthy fresh fishes served to us in the form of soup, grilled and kinilaw. Lunch by the beach was invigorating and filled our stomachs immediately.
It was a very lovely day where I couldn’t get enough of its seascape glory. I took photos of its extended sandbar which you can walk for yards and yards out into sea. While the coast was calm and clear, farther ahead where mangroves are growing, the sea changes into a fury of white waves bashing into protective reef fringes, where the gulf meets the raging Pacific sea. Here, the fishing boats ply the outer area where waters are deep and aquatic life is in abundance.
I asked a fisherman to throw his net into the sea, with me bobbing in the waters and capturing the moment, even when the sun was bearing down on me. Kids kept me company as they happily jumped from the boat.
Will I come back here again? Definitely, even if it meant camping in the open sky on the shore, with my cellphone tied to a tree branch. There are beach coasts I have encountered in my life where I would like to stay incommunicado for a long while. This hidden paradise is one of them.
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