TAGUM CITY—The city government pushed its eco-tourism program a notch higher by formally opening the Tancuan-Nabintad river system cruise on Friday last week.
The river system, which traverses the villages of Bincungan, Liboganon, Busaon and Madaum, hosts a large mangrove area.
Mayor Rey Uy said the river cruise was not only aimed at educating locals and tourists alike on the importance of mangroves but also the need to make the river system clean at all times.
“This project was borne out of our desire to clean and rehabilitate our rivers and its ecosystem. An idea then came up to us of organizing this river cruise just like that of Loboc,” Uy said, referring to the river in Bohol where tourists cruise aboard a floating restaurant serenaded by a rondalla.
The mayor said the idea was hatched five years after the city cleaned up the Tancuan, Nabintad and Liboganon rivers, which feed into the Davao Gulf.
Shrubs and trees growing on their banks were uprooted and planted with mangrove trees to attract fish. The city also demolished fish cages and other illegal structures that had obstructed the flow of the river and impeded the passage of water crafts.
“Many fishermen resented (the tearing down of the structures) but there was no other choice. We nevertheless tried to explain to them that what we’re doing was for the environment. They gradually relented,” the mayor added.
The city government spent between P12 million and P15 million for the dredging and rehabilitation of the rivers, Uy said.
A fleet of 15 outrigger-fitted motorboats forms the backbone of the river tours. Each boat can carry up to 10 passengers, who “will be treated with wonderful sights, sounds and tastes while sailing along the 7.5-kilometer long Tancuan River,” he said.
“The city wants visitors to experience and appreciate the rich culture of Muslim communities along the river banks, specifically that of the Kalagan tribe,” Uy said.
The boats set out from a wooden dock near a restaurant in Bincungan village. For two hours, the boats traverse the more than seven-kilometer Tancuan River, its banks spruced with mangroves, some of them decades-old, and its waters clear and green, mirroring the verdant foliage on its banks.
There are stopovers at four points where visitors can disembark to eat, drink, sight-see and shop.
One of the stops is a forest park in Liboganon village, where visitors can trudge on a bamboo walkway (boardwalk) and Kalagan women sell delicacies such as jampok, amik and panyalam and souvenir shirts and tribal trinkets.
Another stop downstream reminds one of the floating markets in Ratchaburi, Thailand, Uy said.
Here, village women sell their produce, and shirts, on bamboo rafts locally known as gakit.
Other stops include the cultural village of the Kalagans also in Liboganon, where visitors can taste the local delicacies, watch Kalagan dancers perform and the women weave indigenous cloth. They can also dine in stops where a buffet lunch of soft-shell crabs and other seafood are served.
“We see to it that the locals’ participation is sustained. After all, this is their project. This is a community endeavor,” Alma Uy, chairperson of the Tagum City tourism council, a non-government organization, said. She is also the mayor’s wife.
Mrs. Uy said for the P320 they charge each visitor, half goes to the boatmen while the rest is divided for the tour operators, the four village councils, tour guides and the city tourism council.
“For now, we can only cater to a small number of visitors at a given time so we encourage them to book two days before their cruise so we can make all the necessary arrangements,” she said. Frinston L. Lim, Inquirer Mindanao