Bulusan Park, the “little Switzerland” of Bicol
BY: ERROL ABADA GATUMBATO
BULUSAN VOLCANO NATURAL PARK… Some claims that this protected area is the “Little Switzerland” of
the Bicol Region seems not so far from certainty. Having been to Switzerland sometime in the past, I could relate pretty well to what local folks say about this lovely place, located about 680 kilometers south of Metro Manila. The cool, serene, and refreshing natural features of the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park are somehow comparable to the scenic countryside of Switzerland, although the main divergence is the type of vegetation. The tropical forest of the BVNP is much more diverse in terms of composition than what the Swiss people have.
One of the major attractions of the park, which borders five municipalities in Sorsogon province in Bicol, is the tranquil Bulusan Lake, a name derived from its host municipality. The lake’s fascinating features are truly reflections of masterpieces place into one by the nature’s marvelous handiwork. The lush forest surrounding the lake is so awesome and breathtaking, while the broad daylight provides a mystical shadow effect of the greeneries to the clear water. This spectacular scenery will surely remind anyone of the marvelous creations that need to be protected for everyone to appreciate, enjoy, and cherish for a life time.
Lake Bulusan is a very good place to relax from the hassles of urban life, and where one can enjoy a leisurely walk in a carefully designed trail surrounding the lake and beneath the green canopies. The forest encircling the lake is still in a pristine state with various dipterocarp trees adorned by numerous floral species that look like a hanging garden. For bird enthusiasts, Lake Bulusan is a place worth looking into. Kayaking is another refreshing outdoor activity in the lake. Interestingly, the lake is currently managed by volunteers from Aggrupation of Advocates for Environmental Protection or locally known as the Agap-Bulusan.
The BVNP pride itself with several other gifts of nature, like springs, rivers, hot springs, and waterfalls that are now getting the attention of local and foreign tourists alike. It is an imposing landmark in Sorsogon, towering at an altitude of 1,565 meters above sea level, which makes this protected area as one of the mountaineering destinations in the Philippines.
However, in spite of the tranquility usually displayed by the Bulusan Volcano, it may also unleash its mighty
force since it is one of the most active volcanoes in the country. The volcano has four craters and exhibited a number of eruptions over the last few years. Volcanologists labeled it as a composite volcano inside a caldera that was formed more than 40,000 years before the present.
Together with four other hired specialists of the Resources, Environment and Economics Center for Studies, we conducted a rapid site assessment to this protected area commissioned by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment. The assessment involved the physical, biological, social, cultural, economics, and governance conditions of the BVNP.
Our study showed that the forest in this protected area is an important habitat of numerous endemic species of plants, such as the Forestia philippinensis, Pinanga insignis, Areca camarinensis, Mussaenda phillipica and two newly discovered species, Schefflina bulusanicum and Pronephrium bulusanicum. Rare and threatened species can also be found in BVNP, such as the Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys), the ground orchid (Phojus tankervillea), and Tindalo (Afzelia rhomboidea). The mountain agoho (Casuarina rumphiana), which is known to have a very limited distribution in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, inhabits this protected area.
Similarly, the fauna features of the BVNP are showing high species endemism, estimated at 43% of all the species surveyed during the RSA. Four of these species are known as high conservation priorities because they are already classified as threatened species, like the Golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatos), the Southern Luzon giant cloud rat (Phloeomys cumingii), the Philippine warty pig (Sus philippensis) and the Luzon Tarictic hornbill (Penelopides manillae).
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