Deep into the mountains of Negros Oriental lie stunning splendor of scenic landscape. Created as a priceless masterpiece of time, the Twin Lakes of Sibulan were carved from undisturbed flourishing flora and fauna from more than 8,000 hectares of protected landscape.
On the vanguard of this iconic paradise is a woman who finds a living while preserving the environment. Joan Piera, one of the nine boatmen (a woman in her case), find a livelihood by ferrying visitors to Lake Balinsasayaw and Lake Danao.
For a minimal fee, her job is to manually paddle a boat when visitors wanted to immerse in the stunning scenic landscape. But more than a lady boat captain, she also took advantage of educating tourists on how important these lakes to the people of Sibulan and neighboring towns.
“These lakes are the main sources of water of Sibulan and San Jose towns. We do not allow the use of motorboats here because we do not want to pollute the waters,” she said.
Other than the prohibition on the use of motorized boats, the use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicle is also banned in the area.
“It is very important that we do not disturb the animals in their natural habitat to ensure that they continue to proliferate here,” she said. But she admitted that they, the residents of the area, noticed a decrease in numbers of some endangered birds in the area.
The Balinsasayao natural park is home to at least 114 avifauna species including the critically endangered bleeding-heart, wrinkled hornbill, striped babbler, Japanese night heron, white-throated jungle flycatcher, and Philippine cockatoo among others.
Lake Balinsasayao and Lake Danao – surrounded by Mount Guintabon to the west, Mount Balinsasayao to the east, Mount Kalbasaan to the north, and Mount Mahungot to the south – are home to at least 27 mammalian species including the endemic Philippine deer, warty pig, and various species of bats, among others.
Wading through the still waters of the Twin Lakes, Joan shared the challenges of her job especially during the monsoon season when the winds are strong.
“There are times that our paddles are helpless when strong winds sweep the boats. There are times that no matter how hard we row we simply cannot go against the current,” she said.
“What do you usually do when caught with that,” I asked.
“When rowing gets harder, and you are not getting any closer, stop. Then move again when the weather gets fine,” she said.
“Just like life, not all moves will help us get faster. Sometimes, the best option is to stop, wait, and gently row again,” she said with a smile.