Looc Looc Fish Sanctuary

There's a Lighthouse in the Middle of the Sea And a Sanctuary with Friendly But Lazy Fish

Wednesday, May 02, 2012Ryan Mach

As kids, I and my cousins used to watch the flickering lights in the sea from the window sill of our grandmother's house while waiting for supper to be served. Lights coming from small fishing boats glimmered like small constellation in the sea, but it was the light emitted by old lighthouse that was predominantly visible from afar. It danced in the night in a slow, constant rhythm. Before going to sleep, our grandmother would tell us stories about the mystery of the lighthouse. She said 'bulalakaws' (falling stars) liked to land on a spot near the sentinel. Local fishermen would spot weird creatures in the area, like a giant squid and possibly a 'sirena'. That was more than 20 years ago, the lighthouse might have been less older than it is today.

Today, it's an image of neglect and dilapidation yet it still harbors a certain mysticism and charm. Standing like a proud old maiden in the middle of Looc Bay, the lighthouse has battled storms for years and has guided sea vessels that pass by outside the bay at night. The construction is thought to date back years after World War 2 but no historical data could prove such assumption. Or at least, I haven't read about it in history books. I asked someone from the tourism office a few years ago when I was doing my baby thesis on the history and culture of Looc but he himself couldn't give me a date. My grandmother, who was still alive at that time, told me she thought the lighthouse was already erected before she was born although she couldn't really tell for sure.

"Can we go near the lighthouse?" I asked one of the tour guides during our visit at the Looc Fish Sanctuary.
"You can, but you're not allowed to touch it," the tour guide told us in a friendly way. It's too old and might collapse, he added. That explains why the sanctuary, initiated by a peace corps volunteer in the late 90s, was nestled a few yards away from the structure. There's a rope that keeps the floating raft anchored to the lighthouse. The floating shelter made of bamboo is home to various species of fish and corals. At its center is a floor-less opening which allows you to see and feed the fish without having to swim.
The preservation of the sanctuary is a testament to the fact that the local government understands the importance of marine life. After all, fishing is the primary source of livelihood in town. It is for this reason that guards are posted in the area, to prevent illegal fishing.

"What happens to the fish when they get old? Do you catch them?" I asked the same guide again, while taking photos of different fishes that excitedly bounced off the water.
"Nope. Some of them decide to go out (of the sanctuary) and once they're outside, fishermen can catch them." He pointed out the marker around the sanctuary. The sanctuary actually suffered neglect for a few years under a different mayor, he told us. "Anyone could catch fish in this area."

"Tourism has turned them fish into lazy sea creatures," a friend commented. I laughed hard because it's true. Fish that live in the sanctuary no longer have to look for food. They just need to wait for visitors who will feed them with bread and junk food. It goes without saying that the fate of these friendly (but lazy) fish lies on the hand of the town's people who need not forget the importance of reef and fish preservation.
How to Get There
From the airport in Tugdan, Alcantara, take a jeep bound for Looc. There are also motorcycles you can rent.
Go to the tourism office at the town's plaza. You will get an instruction where to find the Bantay Dagat office at the pier.
Better yet, ask any local you find in town on how to get to the pier.
There's an office at the pier where you pay for the boat ride to the sanctuary (100php per person).
There are also masks and snorkels you can rent (50php).
It's only a 5-10 minute boat ride to the sanctuary from the pier.
Bring crackers and junk food so you can feed the fish.
You can borrow a life vest at the floating raft.
Be responsible, don't throw your trash in the water.
Registration is done at Koica Hall. 

This post is part of my Rediscovering My Hometown, Romblon 2012 Series

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