Posted by: Jill | June 30, 2008

Never drink tuba in the afternoon

Today I visited my very first marine sanctuary, Masaplod Norte in the municipality of Dauin, on the south coast of Negros. From the beach, you can see south to northern Mindanao and Apo Island, and east to Siquijor. We paid our P50 entrance fee (just over US$1) and hopped in the water.

It was TEEMING with life, far more fish and corals than any snorkeling I have done in the Caribbean. A few of my favorites:

coral death match:

tuba drinkers / sanctuary guards / fishermen:

Tuba drinkers

My first thought upon seeing the sanctuary was, “Really? This is it?” It was so tiny, about the size of a football field (maybe smaller), that I thought it couldn’t possibly have any effect on either marine diversity or on fisheries. After a swim through it, though, it’s clearly healthier reef than the unprotected waters I saw in Dalaguete. The question, though, is if numerous small reserves can have a similar effect that a single large reserve would have. One benefit small reserves may hold is social feasibility: it is generally much more agreeable to close off a small area to fishing, and spread the impact across multiple municipalities, than to close the waters of an entire municipality to fishing and let everyone else have open access to reefs.

I saw many new species, including the Moorish idol, which may surpass the Queen triggerfish for the title of My Favorite Fish. The most exciting new species: the banded sea snake! It was about 4′ long, bright blue with dark bands, and swimming in the open water straight for Anna and me. My inner monologue was, in order:

1) So that’s what a sea snake looks like!

2) This is really neat, I should get Anna’s attention

3) Um, why is it still coming towards us?

4) Oh, perhaps I should take a picture.

By the time I repositioned my fins between self and snake (they carry a highly venomous neurotoxin, and better to be bit in the fin than in the face) and calmed down enough to reach for my camera, it was gone. So no picture this time, but I’ll work on it during the next encounter.

After our snorkel, we dried off and hung out with a group of fishermen. They usually fish in the morning, rest during the early afternoon, and then fish again in the evening- so we caught them just in time to sample some tuba, the coconut water delicacy. They harvest it in the mornings when it’s sweet. After it sits in a plastic jug all day it ferments and takes on some fine notes of vinegar. By the time we sampled it, it was almost entirely unpalatable to this adventurous, albeit Western, palate. Lesson: tuba is best enjoyed as a morning beverage.



  1. Hi Jill,

    I just read your entire blog. You have reconfirmed my high esteem and love of you.

    This is the first time I’ve ever responded to (or maybe read) a blog.

    Aunt Linda and I are very much looking forward to being with you in September.


    Uncle Ken

  2. My short online research shows these snakes are highly venomous, producing an average of 10-15 milligrams of venom per snake. An average of 1.5 milligrams is lethal to humans!

    Steer clear of these!

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