Vote for Tubbataha Reefs

Tubbataha is a reef ecosystem made up of two atolls located in the middle of the Sulu Sea. It is a sanctuary for marine life. The reefs lie on the Cagayan Ridge, a line of extinct underwater volcanoes which starts from the north at the Sultana Shoal and ends in the south at the San Miguel Islands. It is located 92 nautical miles southeast of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan and 80 nautical miles southwest of Cagayancillo, the municipality that exercises political jurisdiction over it. It was proclaimed as a National Marine Park on August 11, 1988 and inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1993, in recognition of its outstanding universal value in terms of marine life species diversity and richness.

The name Tubbataha comes from the dialect of the Samal, seafaring people of the Sulu region, and means ‘long reef exposed at low tide’. Tubbataha consists of two atolls made up of roughly 10,000 hectares of corals and many other forms of marine life. There is very little land in Tubbataha. Each atoll has just one islet, the highest of which is only two metres above sea level. The atolls have shallow lagoons and are surrounded by 200 to 500 metres of reef flat which ends in a steep drop off into deep water. The reef crests, which mark the atolls’ edges, are exposed above the water’s surface at low tide. ss_1

Tubbataha is well known among the fisher folk of the southern Philippines. It was called ‘Gusong’ by the islanders of Cagayancillo, literally meaning ‘coral reef.’ Until the late 1970s, Cagayanons were the primary users of Tubbataha’s resources. During the summer months, they would make month-long fishing trips in fleets of locally built wooden sailboats called pangko or balangay.

For most of its existence, Tubbataha’s remoteness has been its greatest protector against over exploitation. It is open to the shifting winds that affect the Philippines – the habagat, amihan and daplak which bring rough seas, fierce storms and brief periods of calm. The safest months for travel to Tubbataha are during the summer months, from March to May.

The first recorded visit to Tubbataha was made by naturalist Dean Worcester in 1911. He described the north islet – called Bird Island because of its role as a nesting ground for thousands of seabirds – as ‘a low, flat, sandy island…some 400 metres long and 75 metres wide.’ Seventy years later, when ornithologist Robert Kennedy visited the island, he noted that it had shrunk in size by almost 70 per cent. Today Bird Island is a mere 23 per cent of the area recorded in 1911, just one indicator of how dynamic the forces of nature are at Tubbataha.

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Pia bats for Tubbataha Reefs in worldwide search for ‘New Seven Wonders of Nature’

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has joined the campaign to boost the chances of the famed Tubbataha Reefs of Palawan in the ongoing worldwide search for the “New Seven Wonders of Nature.”

Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, is urging all Filipinos to support the Tubbataha Reefs, the only Philippine natural wonder nominated to the worldwide on-line poll.

“This global search may not be as popular or glamorous as ‘American Idol’ where a Filipino-American candidate is deservingly making waves, but the lone Philippine entry to the ‘New Seven Wonders’ also deserves the support of all Filipinos here and abroad,” she said.

The lady senator first made the appeal in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan last week at the very first staging of “Bike for Nature” an advocacy bicycle ride for the environment organized by the Offices of Mayor Edward Hagedorn and Provincial Governor Joel Reyes, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)-Palawan Chapter, Palawan Mountain Bikers, Pilipinas Shell and Conservation International.

But Cayetano is pressing the alarm in light of the slipping position of Tubbataha in the search’s live rankings which can be viewed on-line at As of March 1, Tubbataha ranked only 33rd among the Top 77 official candidates for the New Seven Wonders of Nature, slipping five rungs from its Top 28th ranking just last February 14th.

The list of nominees and the mechanics for voting are posted on the poll’s official website The search is organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the non-profit New Seven Wonders Foundation, which also undertook the “New Seven Wonders of the World” search that ended last year.

Filipinos can still vote for Tubbataha until December 31, 2008, after which the top 77 nominees will be submitted to a panel of experts that will put together a shortlist of 21 finalists by January 2009. A second round of popular voting for the 21 finalists will then ensue and last until the end of 2009–with the top 7 nominees being officially declared the “New Seven Wonders of the World” by the year 2010.

Other famous natural wonders nominated to the search are: Mt. Everest of Nepal, Amazon River and Amazon Forest of South America, Niagara Falls of North America, Grand Canyon of the United States, Galapagos Islands of Equador, Great Barrier Reef of Australia, Mt. Kilimanjaro of Tanzania, Mount Blanc (more popularly known as the “Alps”) of France and Italy, among others.

Aside from campaigning for the acclaimed heritage site, Cayetano is also pushing for the immediate approval of a law that will declare the Tubbataha Reefs National Park (TRNP) as a protected area.

Senate Bill (SB) No.1985, which Cayetano authored, seeks to create the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) which shall be the sole-policy making and permit granting body of the TRNP.

Under the bill, the Chairperson of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and the Regional Executive Director of Region IV-B of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will serve as co-chairpersons of the TPAMB.

The measure also pushes for stiffer penalties for poachers caught within the park, which Cayetano said are meant to boost the government’s drive in prosecuting foreign poachers operating in Tubbataha. Under the bill, foreign poachers could be fined $100,000 and a prison term of 6 to 12 years, for the entry of fishing vessel in the TRMP. A hold departure order will also be issued as a condition for granting bail.

SBN 1985 is the product of a workshop conducted on Dec.12-13 last year with different stakeholders, including the Offices of the Provincial Governor and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, District Representatives Abraham Kahlil Mitra and Antonio Alvarez, PCSD secretariat, Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Navy and Coast Guard, World Wildlife Foundation and other non-government organizations.

vote for chocolate hills

Bohol’s world-famous natural heritage, the Chocolate Hills, has been nominated to the New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign. This campaign is organised by the non-profit New7Wonders Foundation after the resounding success of its New 7 Wonders of the World campaign. I’ve nominated Chocolate Hills coz it aint listed yet. Probably you too could help put us back in the map. Surely it will boost up our tourism not only in Bohol but other parts as well.

Site Description

The New7Wonders website ( describes Chocolate Hills as:

The Chocolate Hills is an unusual geological formation in Bohol, Philippines. It is composed of around 1,268 perfectly cone-shaped hills, all about the same size, spread over an area of more than 50 sq km The hills are covered in green grass that turns brown during the dry season, giving them the name “Chocolate Hills.”

The Chocolate Hills are probably Bohol’s most famous tourist attraction. They look like giant mole hills, or as some say, women’s breasts, and remind us of the hills in a small child’s drawing. Most people who first see pictures of this landscape can hardly believe that these hills are not a man-made artifact. However, this idea is quickly abandoned, as the effort would surely surpass the construction of the pyramids in Egypts. The chocolate hills consist of are no less than 1268 hills (some claim this to be the exact number). They are very uniform in shape and mostly between 30 and 50 metres high. They are covered with grass, which, at the end of the dry season, turns chocolate brown. From this color, the hills derive their name. At other times, the hills are green, and the association may be a bit difficult to make.

Legend has it that the hills came into existance when two giants threw stones and sand at each other in a fight that lasted for days. When they were finally exhausted, they made friends and left the island, but left behind the mess they made. For the more romantically inclined is the tale of Arogo, a young and very strong giant who fell in love with an ordinary mortal girl called Aloya. After she died, the giant Arogo cried bitterly. His tears then turned into hills, as a lasting proof of his grief.

However, up to this day, even geologists have not reached concensus on how they where formed. The most commonly accept theory is that they are the weathered formations of a kind of marine limestone on top of a impermeable layer of clay. If you climb the 214 steps to the top of the observation hill near the complex, you can read this explanation on a bronze plaque.


There are two famous legends about the formation of Chocolate Hills: (1) Arogo and Aloya love story, and (2) the two fighting giants.

In the love story, Arogo is a yound giant who fell in love with a mortal girl named Aloya. When Aloya died, Arogo was driven by grief to cry bitterly. His tears turned into hills when they touched the ground as a lasting proof of his grief.

As to the fighting giants, it went on for days and they threw stones and sand at each other. When they were finally exhausted, they reconciled and left the mess they made behind.

These two stories were adapted from the Bohol Chronicle news article about this campaign. I have to admit I am not familiar with the love story legend; however, I did knew about the fighting giants when I was a child.
How to get there

Plenty of tourist guides and tour operators will be happy to bring you to the chocolate hills, either as a separate trip or as part of a day tour. However, if you want to go here on your own, from Tagbilaran, you will have to go the integrated bus terminal in Dau and catch a bus going to Carmen. If you look like a stranger, you will have a hard time not finding one. At the entrance of the bus terminal people will point you to the right bus. Make sure it is the first one to leave, and ask the driver to drop you off at the Chocolate Hills complex, about 4 kilometers before the town of Carmen. From there it is a 10 minute walk along a road winding up to the complex.

To get back to Tagbilaran, you will have to walk back to the main road, and wait for a bus to pass by. The last bus from Carmen to Tagbilaran leaves at four P.M. Alternatively, you can use the services of the motorcyclists who often wait here for tourist, and ride ‘habal-habal,’ or motorbike taxi.

If you’re coming from Tubigon (arriving from Cebu by boat), a few buses go to Carmen daily, but sometimes you’ll have to wait for some time for the bus to fill up. When you arrive in Carmen, you can catch the next bus or jeepney in the direction of Bilar, Loay or Tagbilaran, or ask a ‘habal-habal’ driver to bring you to the Chocolate Hills Complex.
Where to stay

If you would like to stay in the Chocolate Hills, you have very little choice. The only facility is the Government run Chocolate Hills resort. Currently, this hotel is undergoing renovation and extention, but, since funds have run out, work on this is suspended, and you’ll have to deal with the mess of a half-completed resort. However, the staff are friendly, and if you stay here overnight, seeing the sun rise over this bizarre landscape is worth the inconvenience. The place also has a still functional and mainted swimmingpool, which is behind the unfinished building, a little bit downhill.

Jeroen Hellingman


There are two famous legends about the formation of Chocolate Hills: (1) Arogo and Aloya love story, and (2) the two fighting giants.

In the love story, Arogo is a yound giant who fell in love with a mortal girl named Aloya. When Aloya died, Arogo was driven by grief to cry bitterly. His tears turned into hills when they touched the ground as a lasting proof of his grief.

As to the fighting giants, it went on for days and they threw stones and sand at each other. When they were finally exhausted, they reconciled and left the mess they made behind.

These two stories were adapted from the Bohol Chronicle news article about this campaign.

Vote now

Please add your vote to our beloved Chocolate Hills in order to ensure it is eligible for shortlisting in the second stage. Voting will continue through 31 December 2008.

You can help gather more votes by spreading the word. If you have a blog, you can bookmark this post and blog it so that your friends and subscribers alike will know.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, and Tubbataha Reef are also nominees for being 1 of the 7 New wonders of the world. You can make it happen. Be a part of a worthy cause.