It was only a year ago since the last time I had the “Pawikan Experience” and the spectators ranged only from a few hundreds to thousands of people composed of locals and some visiting festival enthusiasts. The festivity was non-extravagant, short yet soul-gratifying.
But there was a shift in the wind's direction as this year’s festivity was encroached by thousands of people hoping to see the ceremonial release of turtle hatchlings back to the sea and to witness the people’s triumphant tale channeled through their beat of dance and interpretations in barefoot in the scorching heat of Nagbalayong beach.
Was it worthy of your time?
Definitely yes! This wasn’t my first experience but to witness again the newly hatched pawikans escaping the sand crawling to the seawater is already a rewarding moment that I will treasure forever. But please be mindful that physical contact with the hatchlings is prohibited. Just let it be. To watch these hatchlings crawl is already a reward as not many of us would be privileged to witness a newly hatched pawikan escaping away from the crowd. Take note, it would take another 25-30 years before a fraction of these hatchlings would return to this place to lay their eggs, so let's try to save every piece of it and hope they all become full grown to maintain the balance in nature.
Was the festivity grand?
It is a festivity with a heart and soul. As what the local would say "may hugot". The Pawikan Festival has that 'probinsya' fiesta atmosphere that you’ll definitely be coming back for more.
But as time goes by, the sea of people in Pawikan Conservation Center was both becoming flattering and alarming to watch.
Flattering because many received the message in the form of awareness campaign for the future protection of the endangered species. Its popularity can now be sensed and has a sure advantage to the local economy of Bataan, particularly Morong.
Now, the event is becoming an altruistic outlet for some members of our society, participants are enticed to join and engage to develop the sense of love and protection not only of the Pawikan but also of the rest of the sea.
Alarming in the sense that not everyone understood the importance of environmental protection, which was reflected on the garbage thrown everywhere which is the complete contradiction to what this festival embodies. Some people would just love to have a peek of what a turtle looks like and treated the conservation center like a ZOO.
But the center is more than just a park and the celebration is more than just a festivity. It is the fruit of hard labor, sacrifices, blood and time committed by a few of unsung living heroes of Bataan. And I hope the participants of Pawikan Festival can dig deeper to the meaning why there is such a festivity in the first place. It is the celebration of growing knowledge, recognition and triumphant efforts towards sustainable development.
It wasn’t like this in the last 13 years. The celebration was too local but there is more love and empathy. There is a growing concern as the celebration is now getting the attention of many beyond Bataan’s boundary as more and more people are coming in even from other countries, participating in the festive annual event and the question of control, discipline and management would challenge the organizer of the supposed green festivity.
|Malaysian delegates who participated in the annual Pawikan Festival in Morong Bataan.|
Now the question is, how strong can you hold Bataan not to end up like the other popular, commercialized Philippine festivals that lost its soul to the business giants and be like just an entrepreneurs' cash cow? But I am crossing my fingers and I just hope that more and more organizations both of government and non-government bodies and private entities would not get tired of providing the assistance the Pawikan Conservation Center needs so it may continue its mission against all odds.
Suportahan ang Pawikan, Mabuhay ang Bataan!