Butandings return to Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon waters

Butanding or whale shark is commonly found in Bulusan, Sorsogon and other specific areas of the Philippines. Image is via http://www.interaksyon.com

LEGAZPI CITY – After three years of irregular presence, the giant whale sharks, or butandings as they are fondly called, are back in the Almasor (Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon) area, though for how long is never quite certain.

The gentle giants, which are among the tourism spectacles of the Almasor alliance, have been drawing visitors from all over the globe for a number of years now, boosting the tourism industry particularly in Donsol, Sorsogon, which is known as the butanding capital of the Philippines.

Sightings of the butandings have also been reported in Tabaco City, Albay and coastal villagers said there is a 50 percent chance of interaction with people.

The news was received favorably by Albayanos who feel the presence of butandings is a blessing, and an early Christmas gift for the province and a reward for its humanitarian undertakings.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, convenor of the Almasor Tourism Alliance, said 50-percent of the economic activity driven by the presence of whale sharks will likely go to Albay, a close neighbor of Sorsogon and a favorite destination among tourists who love to view the world famous Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins.

As chair of the Bicol Regional Development Council, Salceda organized the Almasor Tourism Alliance in an effort to integrate the tourism potentials of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon into one tourist destination package. Almasor had recently made quite a name as a ‘new strategy in tourism marketing’ during the ITB Berlin show early this year.

Donsol Mayor Josephine Alcantara-Cruz reported the recent whale shark sightings in their municipal waters to Tourism Bicol regional director Maria Ong Ravanilla. Donsol town is regarded as the butandings’ home for the past decade.

The Donsol Whale shark Monitoring team reported sightings of four to ten butandings from November 13 to 22.

Reports said there has been a dramatic increase in their numbers and they interact with the local folks.

Some people believe, however, their presence in the Tabaco area is likely temporary, owing to the “Bolinao” or “Dilis” season in that part of the province.

The waters of Pioduran town and Legazpi City have been – from time to time – favorite feeding grounds of the whale sharks.

The article is published at Interaksyon on November 27, 2013.

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