Water Forms

Journey to the Heart of the Agusan Marshland

Agusan del Sur

Ida Damo
Ida Damo | Jul 07, 2014

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Picture a place where water hyacinths, water lilies, and lotuses float on an ever-changing waterscape that’s filled with an abundant life of halwan (mudfish), tilapia, gurami, and crocodiles, the last being feared but seldom making an appearance.

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Herons, wild ducks, and egrets have also made the marsh their home. During the cold climes in some parts of the world, the migratory birds take refuge in the marsh’s arms.

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At the heart of this waterscape is a floating community of the Manobo tribe. This habitation is anchored on the gnarled bangkal trees that stick out into the sky. The houses rise and fall with the tides of the marsh. And so does the life of the people.

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Right at the opening of the Manobo community of Panlabuhan is a small chapel where they commune with the Christian God. But even then, rituals to the Amigo (Friend) are still carried out.

Their culture and traditions might be seen as anachronism in these modern times, but it is a heritage, an identity that must be conserved and something that we should take pride in.

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The marshland and its environs, its people and their customs have been considered by others as surreal. But it is as real as real can be.

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Lives evolve and revolve around the marsh. The town of Loreto where we jumped off provides the food, accommodations, and transportation to the Agusan River and the marsh.

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The tour guides make their living from it, and food and water are generously provided for by the land. One just needs to sustainably harness the marsh’s resources and protect it from being exploited.

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The land's beauty and its people take you in, make you appreciate an unhurried pace of life, and make you want to be a part of a collective that preserves and conserves Mother Earth.

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Agusan Marsh is a living testament to how nature and man work together to protect the earth that gives us life.

Come and visit; the Heart of the marshland steadily beats and waits for your arrival.

Daghang salamat, Mayor Dario Otaza and Madame Ligaya, Ian Louie Bajade, Sir Matt Poria of Loreto, Agusan del Sur for being such gracious hosts. Thank you to Governor Eddie Bong Plaza, Nath Lamzon, Almar Lambaco, Bo Cañete, Nestor Dizon, Bebot Gresola, Melchecedic Vito Cereno of the Provincial Government of Agusan del Sur for the warm welcome and hospitality. To the Manobo community in Panlabuhan, daghan kaayong salamat! Padayon sa pagpakita sa inyohang kagikan. My BiyaheTaMindanaw family- Mindanao Tourism Council, Jon, Olan, Louie, Sarah, Nicole, Leah, Edwin, Carole, Jayvie, Jea, Fra, Kit and Dan for being the hippest travel companions and most proud Mindanaoans ever! Sir Jovic and Jeniel of the Wild Birds Photographers of the Philippines, thanks for the photos!

How to Get There

Philippine Airlines and other major airlines fly daily to Davao City from Manila and Cebu. PAL also has flights to Butuan City from Manila.

Buses depart daily from Butuan City and Davao City to Trento or San Franciso, Agusan del Sur.

From Davao City, the air-conditioned Bachelor Bus would set you back Php 370 for a ride to San Franciso and Php 270 to Trento. Vans can also be hired.

Loreto can be reached by single motorcycles or habal-habal at Php 250 per person.

Lodging houses are available in the area.

The Provincial Government of Agusan del Sur offers an Agusan Marsh Aquatic Adventure Package. You can email them at [email protected] or contact Shirley at 0910-6712797.

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