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Pawikan Festival is Just "Contagious"

The Rise of Green Celebration

The sun was bursting hot but the scorching heat did not stop the cheerful dancers from stumping up their feet to the amplified upbeat rhythm of the drum, shouting on top of  their lungs the protection of their precious resource, the Pawikan. 

For the past 14 years, Bataan have never get tired  innovating ways to make the Pawikan Festival breach the mainstream of the Philippine Festivals. With the cumulative efforts from various sectors, Bataan champions the environmental movement on the conservation of the Philippine Marine Turtles locally known as Pawikan. Most of the species of Pawikan are now under the protection of the law and are now part of the increasing numbers of species listed on the IUCN Threatened and Endangered Species. 

Pawikan Festival may be relatively young compared to the well established festivities like Dinagyang, Sinulog and Kadayawan, but this local celebration in Morong have its claim to be the most environment friendly festivity. True to what they preach, even the little children of Morong know the value of environmental protection reflecting naturally from their actions.

Shaping a Brighter Tomorrow

Even before the sun breaks the zenith sky, hundreds of Bataaneño were already on queue for a 2-kilometer walk towards the Pawikan Conservation Center to kick off this festival. And as a sign of deep  commitment, various organizations both private and public participated to show support to this advocacy. 

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."
--Mahatma Ghandi--
Local government and private sectors join hand and hand to kick off the festivity with Nielson Donato as guest of honor

Pioneered by the Provincial Tourism Office and the Local Government Unit of Bataan, the yearly merriment was attended by thousands of local and foreign visitors witnessing the ceremonial release of hatchlings into the shore of  Nagbalayong  headed by Dr. Neilsen Donato of Born to Be Wild as this year’s guest of honor.

"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment."
--Ansel Adams--

Pawikan hatchlings litter on the beach during the ceremonial release as a symbol of hope for the Pawikan and for the environment as a whole.
Watching the little hatchlings finding their way to the sea gave me a sense of hope for the next generation. It’s not bad after all as Bataan's future is being shaped by today's generation and could be a sure success if this simple "message"  be spread across the nation and to the whole world. I was just impressed by the way Bataaneño manage to strictly implement this conservation effort without compromising their progressing economy.  I just hope Bataan's success becomes contagious that the neighboring provinces also follow this environmental initiative.

It's Showtime Bataan!

As we look forward to what Bataaneño had prepared for their guests, we picked the best spot in front of the performance ground where contingents showcased their routine for the street dance competition. I must confess I was not prepared witnessing the high energy level dance performances of the 12 contingents representing each municipalities of Bataan. 

Cheerful Bataan dancers with their bright and colorful costumes dancing on the beach of Nagbalayong, Morong Bataan
My expectation was some kind of mediocre dance execution but to my surprised, the flare of routine's artistry and vibrant moves lifted my chin up with eyes glaring out of amusement. They may not have all the expensive and out of this world props, but their lively presence shoot  and connect to the heart of their audience. That's what matter most after all.

"They have the fortified heart and courage to fight for the gentle creatures"
Anonymous, foreign guest

Contingents strut their best moves and got emotional conveying their message to the world "Spare our Pawikan"
Fierce as they may look, they still embrace such grace through their sways resembling the gentle moves of the Pawikans.  Dedicated to their goal, their dancing depicts natural emotions, conveying to the world how some people of Bataan changed from being the reaper of nature to earth’s protector. 

Their persuasive smiles would uplift you not because it was fun watching them maneuvering on their routines but because of their fortified courage to fight for these gentle creatures. This showdown was not a competition to win but an eye opener to instill in the heart of the people of what they have already become. With this, Bataan have fully captivated me, earning my nod of approval and complete appreciation. Hurray!

The festivity was not limited to the street dance competition as other environment related activities were laid on the sand literally. There was the sand sculpture competition, quiz bee, paddle painting, body painting, beach volleyball competition, kite flying and many many more!

"We are just mere steward of God's creation."

Some Pawikan Activities: On the left is local model Ms. Sara Salenga, becoming a canvas for a body paint entry by artist Dennis Castor, boat painting and enjoyable morning zumba participated by locals of Bataan.
And of course how can I forget the beach party that was attended by hundreds of party goers dancing to the beat of the band? After getting quenched by a few bottle of beer, the night have revealed that Bataan also got talents by splashing the sands away with their synchronized dance steps. Persuaded by some irresistible people, I also shook the night away on every beat coming out from the live band and the rest was history.

"In the end we will conserve what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand what we are tought."
--Baba Dioum --    

This local boy knows how clean the  laying ground of Pawikan
What I truly admire about the Pawikan Festival was the mind set of the people of Bataan that we are just mere steward of the God’s work. I hope that in the coming years, more and more people will come and participate in this annual gathering to echo the importance of natural resource conservation.

This celebration had become so fruitful and meaningful because of its people, with the strength of their will, freedom, faith, love for nature and their acceptance to change their old destructive ways.

As an environmental specialist by degree and nature, I have found the Pawikan Festival to be the closest festivity to my heart.

This year's celebration ended with a commendable feat for Bataan! Hurray for the Pawikan, hurray for Bataan!

Mark your calendar now and don’t miss next year's festivity!

How to reach the Pawikan Conservation Center?

Bus from Pasay (Genesis) can take you to Balanga City, fare is P210. From Balanga terminal take the  bus bound for Morong. At the municipal proper take a tricycle going to the Pawikan Conservation Center.

For more information check on with the following offices:

Pawikan Conservation Center
Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan, Philippines
Contact Nos.:

Bataan Tourism Center
Roman Superhighway
City of Balanga, Bataan
2100 Philippines

Contact Nos.  

Photo Contributor/s:

Michael is a professional food and hotel photographer with a range of clients from various hotel chains in the Philippines. Recently, his works were printed in Cook Magazine. Pawikan Festival was his first Philippine Festival photo collaboration with The Chronicles of Mindanao and with Bataan Tourism Center. For this article Michael lent his three photos. All works are protected by copyright law.


  1. Behold Bataan! Wonderful photos and article!

  2. It's great that their local government is really making an effort to attract more local and foreign visitors to promote tourism in their area. The conservation effort is also amazing. We actually have visited one of the centers of pawikan in Bataan before.

  3. Great Photographs! I like the colors and can even here the joy from the crowd!

  4. Its my first time to learn about this Pawikan Festival here, another very informative post.

  5. The Pawikan Festival is something I would like to experience. Seeing them hatch and walk their first step really shows us hope for the Pawikans.

  6. Go Go baby turtles! Happy to see that the festival is giving something back to mother nature. :) Loved your photos! They look so alive and colorful!