A Na­tional Trea­sure

The pho­tog­ra­pher Tet Lara cap­tures the un­der­wa­ter splen­dour of Tub­bataha

Philippine Tatler Traveller - - Contents -

The Tub­bataha Reefs Nat­u­ral Park sprawls 97,030 hectares of waters and reefs com­pris­ing South­east Asia’s only purely marine UNESCO World Her­itage Site, It is also an ASEAN Her­itage Site and a Fly­way Net­work Site as de­clared by the East Asian-Aus­tralasian Fly­way Part­ner­ship, cit­ing its im­por­tance as a seabird breed­ing colony.

Es­tab­lished in 1988 by then Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Co­ra­zon Aquino, the Tub­bataha Reefs Nat­u­ral Park has a rich bio­di­ver­sity that makes it one of the coun­try’s most spec­tac­u­lar nat­u­ral won­ders. It is home to 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals (half of all the co­ral species in the world), 21 species of sharks, skates, and rays, 13 species of dol­phins and whales, and two of seven species of marine tur­tle—the hawks­bill ( Eret­mochelys im­bri­cata) and green ( Ch­elo­nia my­das). It is also an im­por­tant source of fish lar­vae that feed thou­sand of Filipinos, and a ma­jor rev­enue gen­er­a­tor as a lead­ing dive tourism site in the Philip­pines.

For 20 years, the un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher Teresa "Tet" Lara has vis­ited and pho­tographed this spe­cial place, to­gether with her buddy and friend, Marissa Floirendo. These pho­tos doc­u­ment­ing the many moods and colours of the reefs over the years, in­clud­ing its charis­matic denizens— from ex­quis­ite go­b­ies to ma­jes­tic whale sharks—are show­cased in the photo book, Tub­bataha: A Na­tional Trea­sure. A labour of love by some of Tub­bataha’s staunch­est sup­port­ers and pub­lished by the AOF Foun­da­tion as rep­re­sented by Floirendo, it fea­tures 200 pho­tographs by Lara, with a fore­word by the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic pho­tog­ra­pher David Doubile.

The 268-page hard­bound book is de­signed by Fe­lix Mago Miguel, with ad­di­tional text and edit­ing by Alya B. Honasan. Seven es­say­ists add sub­stance to the vol­ume: Filipino co­ral ex­perts and marine bi­ol­o­gists Dr. Al Licua­nan and Dr. Perry Aliño de­scribe Tub­bataha’s re­silience and unique­ness. Con­ser­va­tion and wildlife author­ity Dr. Teri Aquino dis­cusses bio­di­ver­sity, while fish­eries spe­cial­ist Dr. Hazel Arceo ex­pounds on the reefs’ im­por­tance as a food source. Or­nithol­o­gist Arne Jensen doc­u­ments Tub­bataha’s top­side value as an im­por­tant seabird rook­ery, while jour­nal­ist Yas­min Arquiza re­calls the early days of re­port­ing on the reefs. Tub­bataha Pro­tected Area Su­per­in­ten­dent An­gelique Songco, who also served as the book’s ed­i­to­rial con­sul­tant, con­trib­utes a piece on man­ag­ing a na­tional her­itage.

Tub­bataha: A Na­tional Trea­sure will con­trib­ute to the pro­tec­tion and preser­va­tion of the Tub­bataha Reefs. As pub­lisher Marissa Floirendo writes in her notes, “I want to give back to Tub­bataha and to the peo­ple who have put in ef­fort to bring this place back to how it was be­fore, and have made this pos­si­ble in our life­time.”

BIRDS OF PAR­ADISE FROM TOP: A booby swim­ming on the glass-like waters of Tub­bataha; a top div­ing site, Tub­bataha is also a fa­mous des­ti­na­tion for bird watch­ing; red boo­bies play­ing in the South Islet

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