|Avicennia rumphiana, a mangrove species endemic to Southeast Asia
In between Masbate Island and the Bicol Peninsula is Ticao Island, which still belongs to Masbate province. It is best known for the Manta Bowl, the top diving destination to see giant manta rays. A little known fact though is that it’s home to another behemoth of the natural world – the century-old miyapi mangrove tree of the Bongsalay Mangrove Forest Reserve in the southern town of Batuan.
After arriving at Brgy Lagundi in Batuan from Masbate City aboard the ferry boat, we immediately hired a motorbike to take us to the jump-off point of Brgy. Panisihan, where we rode a small bangka to take us to the massive tree. Our boat meandered through warped roots and low-hanging branches of age-old mangrove trees, as fiddler crabs skittered on the mud flats.
|This ‘miyapi’ mangrove in Ticao Island, Masbate is perhaps the oldest and biggest in Bicol, if not the entire Philippines!
Upon finally beholding the towering mangrove, it was indeed the largest of its kind I’ve ever seen! The giant miyapi tree was about 30 feet in height (that’s like a three-storey building); and at least three people were needed to fully hug its girth. Some believe that this tree is the oldest and biggest mangrove in Bicol, if not the entire Philippines!
Miyapi, piapi and bungalon are the local names of Avicennia rumphiana, a vulnerable species of mangrove that also one of the tallest, growing to almost 100 ft in height. It is endemic to Southeast Asia, and can only be found in the Philippines, Malaysia (local name: api-api bulu), Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
|Cruising through the backwaters of Bongsalay Mangrove Forest
HOW TO GET THERE: From Masbate City, one can take a ferryboat (1 hour) to Brgy. Lagundi in Batuan town on Ticao Island. Upon arriving at Lagundi, we hired a motorbike to take us to Brgy. Panisihan, the jump-off point where we rode a small bangka (PHP 300, 2 hours) to take us finally to Bongsalay Mangrove Forest in Brgy. Royroy. At Brgy. Panisihan, look for municipal councilor Geny Masdo, who will gladly assist you in hiring a boat to explore the mangrove forest. The motorbike rental to Brgy. Panisihan, including waiting time, plus a trip to Monreal town after, costs PHP 500 (2 persons).
WHERE TO STAY: We only passed by Batuan to visit the Bongsalay Mangrove Forest from Masbate City en route to Monreal, the northernmost town of Ticao Island. At Monreal, we stayed at homestay-like Grona Inn (A/C double room for PHP 1,000; Mobile number: +63 9073867405).