The Mount Mayon Volcano in Bicol at Sunset

Dynamite Fishing, Mount Mayon, and Diving Bicol



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In July Corey Ridings, a Coastal Resource Management volunteer from my Peace Corps group invited me to her site in Bicol to take photos of the San Miguel Island marine sanctuary. The local barangay captain was under pressure to open the sanctuary up to fishing, and the photos that I would take would be used to give the local decision makers a view of the undersea world just in front of their doorsteps. As it turned out, thanks to Bicol University’s Tobacco campus staff and Corey, a front page story ran in the Sunday edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer that also included five of my photos from the trip. The paper runs nationwide and has the largest circulation of any paper in the country, so it was great publicity for the sanctuary and the rural fishing community trying to live sustainably there. We’re hoping that this small victory helps to preserve the sanctuary that the local people have worked so hard to protect.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    On the flight to Manila to meet Corey all I could think about was the Wendy's hamburger I was going to have when I got there.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Unfortunately the Wendy's betrayed me and I was stricken with stabbing stomach cramps at around 2 a.m., eight hours into what has to be the worst overnight bus ride of my life.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Luckily a few tests from the local hospital and some antibiotics took care of the problem, and the next day I was feeling shipshape and on a pump boat to take the photos of the San Miguel marine sanctuary.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Mt. Mayon, a perfectly cone shaped and active volcano looms on the horizon over San Miguel island. It is one of the few perfect cone volcanoes in the world and is the symbolic land mark for the region.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    The residents of San Miguel are mostly fishermen and go out daily in their small bangka boats to catch their food.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Each pump boat is brightly painted by its owner. This is the gunwale of one of the wooden boats beached at San Miguel Island.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    There are lots of dogs roaming around the island.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Lex and Dave from Bicol University's Tobaco campus came with Corey and I to point out the best spots for photos within the San Miguel sanctuary reef.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Giant clams are thriving inside the sanctuary.This photo ran in the August 22nd Sunday edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    This nudibranch was a slowly moving photo subject.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    I think if I had gotten any closer, this puffer fish would have attacked or maybe deployed his puffing mechanism!

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Almost like the Beatles' Yellow Submarines.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    A closeup of a sea cucumber slurping up stuff with its appendages.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    The variegated spikes of this sea urchin say....stay back!!! This photo ran in the August 22nd Sunday edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Inside the sanctuary the corals were healthy and reef fish were doing well...

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    ...but outside the marine sanctuary a dynamite blast flattened a school of fish and left them dead on the silty sea floor like scattered coins glinting in the sun.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    We've nicknamed this fellow "Gollum".

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    This large fish was still alive and had avoided the prying eyes of the dynamiters, but had become wedged upside down in this coral. I pulled the fish out and used the trout fishing revival technique to force water through its gills. Within a few minutes of this, the fish swam off under a coral to recover. I thought it was a job well done, but I later found out that one of the dynamiters had seen me revive the fish, and he pulled it out from under the coral and killed it.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    There is actually a live fish in this photo, see if you can spot it (hint, it's not the one that's upside down).

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    This stonefish survived the dynamite blast and didn't respond to me taking pictures of it either. See if you can find it pictured in the photo above.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    This white eyed moray eel leered out from under his protective coral head. This photo ran in the August 22nd Sunday edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    The eel will lurk in wait, then dart out from its hiding place to snatch unsuspecting victims with sharp pointy teeth.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    Lionfish might be cool to look at, but their fins can inflict very painful stings. Luckily I haven't experienced this first hand. This photo ran in the August 22nd Sunday edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    The crown of thorns starfish is a menace to corals, and a large population of them is an indicator that the ecosystem is out of whack.

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    San Miguel Islander with Mt. Mayon in the background: Bicol, Philippines

  • Bicol - July 2004

    Bicol - July 2004
    After a hard days work, we went to a local place for a traditional Filipino dinner. From Left: Corey, Dave, Lex, me, Kim.