Explore an Amazing Mangrove Forest in Barangay Tomongtong, E.B. Magalona, Negros Occidental! The Tomongtong Mangrove Eco-Trail is an undertaking that aims to create a habitat and shelter for birds and sea creatures as well as educate and entertain visitors. It’s an amazing project that involves elected officials, students and the entire Barangay down to the local fishermen.
The Tomongtong mangrove Eco-Trail is basically a long bamboo bridge that winds its way through a mangrove forest towards the shore line. The mangrove forest was started in the 90’s when a group of Japanese students began reforestation activities. The reforestation activities were continued by local schools and then with government involvement – the forest has expanded to about 20 hectares.
The mangroves serve as a natural habitat for Philippine Ducks, fishes and E.B. Magalona’s Specialty: Blue Swimmer Crabs.
Walking through the forest is an amazing experience. The bamboo bridge winds its way through the forest and at some points even around trees. It’s a surreal and beautiful experience. It was low tide when we visited so the mangroves’ root system was visible, giving the place an otherworldly appearance.
Mangroves are a pretty interesting species. Sea creatures use the roots as shelter and as a natural habitat. The mangroves roots serves as props and support because they grow in very soft mud. They also have special roots that poke out of the mud and water to take in oxygen. The leaves of the mangrove excrete SALT from special salt glands in their leaves.
There’s plenty to do when you reach the shoreline at Tomongtong Mangrove Eco Trail. There’s cottages where you could sit and relax. There’s also a bamboo watch tower which you could climb and see part of the 20 hectare mangrove forest.
The cottages are unique and varied! There are some really large ones and there are some which have cute shapes and designs. Overnight stay is sadly not allowed as Tomongtong Mangrove Eco-Trail closes at 7pm.
We watched the sun set and made our way back out of the Mangrove Forest. In the twilight, the place took on a dream like appearance. The lamps came on and it was a beautiful experience just slowly walking back and listening to the birds calling to each other as they went to sleep.
Near the entrance of Tomongtong Mangrove Eco-Trail is a structure that just pops right out of the forest. In the fading light, it looked so beautiful, its bright lights blazing, enticing the viewer to come take a look. Is it a witch’s cottage? No, It’s Angel’s restaurant – its the place that cooks meals and takes orders for the visitors on the beach.
Angel’s restaurant is a simple but beautiful bamboo restaurant. It is well lit and diners can enjoy the cool breeze while dining on freshly cooked seafood.
There is also a souvenir shop at Tomongtong Mangrove Eco-Trail. They sell beautifully designed T-shirts. The artwork on the shirts are pleasing to the eye and some are elegant. Alas, I could not find any shirt to fit my plump frame so I sadly had to bid goodbye to the shirts. They also sell models of their fishing boat and native style brooms.
The last stop before you head home are these stalls across from the entrance. They sell all sorts of seafood! You can have them cooked and delivered to the cottages inside the park or just take them home. These seafood are part of the benefits of having a lush mangrove forest!
We were chatting with the locals and I saw a sign saying that students are not allowed during class hours.
What? The only place that I have seen this sort of sign are in computer gaming shops. The Philippine government in an attempt to prevent video game addiction has required pc cafes and game centers to ban students from their premises during class hours.
Why would students not be allowed in during class hours?
The ticket lady explained that the local students would play hooky with their friends at Tomongtong Mangrove Eco-trail. Apparently students love the place because it is secluded and a cool place to be with friends.
The ticket lady regaled us with stories how these mischievous teenagers would make up excuses and different “styles” to gain access to the park. The most creative group of students had tshirts made and pretended to be on a field trip!
A student couple got into trouble because they cut class and couldn’t resist sharing their photos on Facebook. They were in flagrante delicto – right underneath the “Welcome to Tomongtong” sign. This resulted in their principal heading to the park to try and catch wayward students.
As a result, the park strictly monitors visitors! I mentioned to the lady that this is the first instance, probably even in the Philippines- that students prefer going to a park than a mall or internet cafe!
Thanks to the efforts of the elected officials, E.B. Magalona has a beautiful tourist destination that not only conserves but educates.
How to Get to Tomongtong Mangrove Eco Trail by commute
Take a Northbound Ceres bus from the North Ceres Terminal and get off at E.B. Magalona.
You can get a trike (contrata) for 100 pesos (tip included) to Tomongtong Mangrove Eco Trail. Get the drivers cellphone number so you can have the driver come back to pick you up.
How to Get to Tomongtong Mangrove Eco Trail by private vehicle
Head to E.B. Magalona city and hall and ask for directions. The roads leading to Tomongtong are narrow and wide vehicles such as vans might have difficulties.