Not all sharks are dangerous and eat humans such as great whites and tiger sharks. Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are docile and the largest fish species, which are filter-feeders. Donsol, Sorsogon celebrates Butanding Festival 2023 because of these gentle giants’ reappearance in Philippine waters.
Butanding Festival 2023
The town started celebrating Butanding Festival on April 26. During that time, 1st District Congresswoman Dette Escudero announced filing a bill to make the town the official whale shark capital of the Philippines. It will serve as a recognition of the municipality’s efforts as it appreciates and help conserve these huge marine creatures.
Regardless of the restrictions due to COVID-19, the butandings (whale sharks) are still seen in the municipal waters. There are multiple sightings and encounters from December to May which are its peak season. Alleviating the restrictions helps the town’s tourism return to normal.
Butanding Festival 2023 started on April 26 as a celebration and thanksgiving for the butandings that impart pride and prosperity to the locals. The endeavours of making Donsol a few of the most known tourist destinations for whale shark interactions are delivered by the local communities.
The municipality signed an allegiance with the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature to conserve and protect the butanding. At the same time, it will help boost sustainable tourism.
“The importance of this to the residents is that, it helps us protect our waters and to make it sustainable to the whale sharks. Our economy will boost through this conservation of marine waters, municipal waters,” said Donsol Mayor De Guzman regarding the quadripartite commitment.
The Great Sea Creature that Shaped a Community
April is the month that Sorsogon usually celebrates the Butanding Festival. Once feared as a man-eating sea creature, the butanding, in fact, transformed the town’s economy.
These massive but unperturbed sea mammals appear off the coast in 1998, attracting local and international tourists. They found that it feeds on plankton, small and microscopic organisms which it filters. The local government announced the area to become a whale shark sanctuary.
WWF immediately started collaborating with local leaders and businessmen to shape a community they called the whale shark ecotourism program. This project helped create guidelines to protect these animals while at the same time, establishing new tourism jobs for locals. Additionally, it enables WWF scientists to start distinguishing and following whale sharks to learn their behaviour and migrations.
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