The news that came out today about a dead juvenile whale shark, more commonly known in the country as ‘butanding’, floating near the coastline of Tanza, Cavite, south-west of Manila, has struck a cord of mixed feelings in my person – that of pity and indignation at how it happened.
The reason why I say this is because only a couple of weeks ago we rented a van and went to Tan-awan, Oslob in southern Cebu, together with two of our children and their respective families, to watch the famous tourist attraction of the place – the butandings.
We were all excited to see these gentle giants of the sea – especially the grandchildren with their life vests – as we all boarded the outrigger boats (bangka), after a short briefing on what not to do while in the area from a Marine Park personnel.
There were already plenty of boats at the area, which was just a few meters away from the shore, with visitors/tourists either staying on board or swimming/snorkeling to be closer or alongside the kind-natured mammals.
When we got to the area you cannot help but feel awed at seeing them close enough that you can touch them. You can also feel them nudging the boat at times. There were around 20 of them, of different sizes, and as they come near the boat they open their wide mouth knowing and expecting that the fishermen were going to feed them with small brine shrimps (their natural food).
All these years of being pampered, the butandings seem to know that they are the reason for people flocking to the area between the hours of 6:00am to 1:00pm. According to the fishermen, the butandings seem to disappear only to come back the following day, at the same time, to entertain visitors and tourists.
What I am just trying to say here is that, not until you have seen and experience the awesome presence of these huge, gentle whale sharks will you come to understand why I agonize and feel bad at the dead butanding seen washed ashore in Tanza.