Sagay’s Marine Legacy

Seated on the crown of Negros Island, Sagay City has been championing the cause of spreading environmental awareness throughout the country for decades. As a result, Sagay has come to be known as one of the major contributors to the region’s fishing supply. More recently, it has been making waves in the eco-tourism industry as they have gradually implemented their sustainable tourism master plan, beginning with the establishment of the Sagay Eco-tourism loop. With such diverse attractions covered in the loop including Carbin Reef, the Suyac Island Mangrove Eco-Park, the Lapus Lapus floating cottages, and the Museo Sang Bata sa Negros, Sagay has become a beacon for travelers seeking unique and meaningful experiences that harmonize with nature.

Our visit allowed us to delve into the extraordinary features of the Sagay Eco-Tourism Loop, understanding its key contributions to environmental preservation and the profound impact it has had on the local community.

Suyac Island Mangrove Eco-Park

Embrace nature's labyrinth of centuries-old mangroves on Suyac Island and lose yourself in nature’s beauty.

The Sagay Marine Reserve is an enormous 33,000-hectare protected seascape that rivals the land area of the city itself. Within this marine haven, the Suyac Island Mangrove Eco-Park thrives as a sustainable ecosystem, both for the wildlife and the people that inhabit the island and its surrounding waters. With 15 hectares of mangrove forest, Suyac has been a sanctuary for diverse marine life that maintains the delicate balance of the local ecosystem. There are a number of varying mangrove species with the most distinct being the Sonneratia Alba (Pagatpat), which locals claim to be over a century old. The forest has also been instrumental in protecting Sagay and its neighboring cities from potentially devastating storm surges.

Though supported and monitored closely by the local government, the park is fully managed by the Suyac Island Ecotourism Tourist Attendants Association (SIETAAS), a locally formed organization composed of more than 50 locals who have been trained in hospitality and educated on preservation practices. Sagay City Tourism Officer Helen Arguelles proudly told us that “Suyac Island Mangrove Eco Park is a pro community pro-environment eco-tourism program.” She further explained that though they fully support and work closely with the members of SIETAAS, the organization is self-sustaining and has thrived independently.

Tourism in Suyac Island has become an economic lifeline for the community, with residents taking on various roles. These dedicated individuals guide visitors through the park, showcasing their vibrant culture through dance, song, and of course the delectable bounty of the sea. Kayaking tours provide an opportunity for tourists to explore the mangrove forest while admiring all its natural wonders. The economic advantages of Suyac tours extend beyond livelihoods, empowering the community to protect and conserve their natural resources for future generations, and share their rich Negrense heritage with visitors.

Carbin Reef

Carbin Reef’s white sandbar and turquoise waters serve as home to a diverse marine life.

An integral part of the Sagay Marine Reserve, Carbin Reef is a 200-hectare marine sanctuary highlighted by a pristine sandbar lying between turquoise waters, whose beauty from above is only second to the wonders you can see below. As a prime source of the province’s aquatic food supply, the reef was once a hotspot for illegal practices, like dynamite fishing. Understanding the dangers this could cause, then-Congressman Alfredo Marañon, Jr., proclaimed the area as a protected marine sanctuary and developed programs to reach out to the local fishermen. This initiative definitely paid off in the years to come as Carbin Reef has become one of Negros’ most sought-after destination sites.

Reservations and prior arrangements are considered a must since the sandbar has a strict carrying capacity of 100 people. Buhay Dagat officers are also there, not only to guide guests on different snorkeling activities, but to enforce the rules and regulations in line with preservation efforts as well. Sandbar-hopping tours are also available where tourists can explore the neighboring reefs in the reserve. Visitors are also encouraged to bring their own food and drinks when planning to spend the day.

Lapus-Lapus Floating Cottage

Located in Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City, Lapus-Lapus features 10 floating cottages perfect for rest and relaxation. Guests can savor the bounty of fresh seafood from the surrounding waters all while basking in nature’s splendor.

As the most recent addition to the Eco-tourism Loop, the Lapus-Lapus Bulanon Floating Cottage Association is a testament to Sagay City's commitment to progressive and sustainable tourism. Featuring floating raft cottages surrounding a mangrove forest, guests who come in big groups can comfortably lounge around and enjoy a feast of fresh seafood prepared by the locals. Much like Suyac Island, members of the community have received basic training and strictly adhere to safety standards and preservation practices. Kayak tours on Lapus-lapus have also been gaining popularity on social media, as guests maneuver along an enchanting maze of mangroves while tour guides differentiate the various species that are found in the forest.

Museo sang Bata sa Negros

As part of Sagay City’s established eco-tourism loop, Museo sang Bata sa Negros offers a hands-on and interactive exhibit to its guests.

The Museo sang Bata sa Negros (MSBN) is an interactive museum focused on marine conservation education and engaging the youth to have a more active role in saving our planet. Through programs like the Marine Conservation Education Program, science school teachers from neighboring areas undergo training to raise student awareness and foster appreciation of the marine environment. Over 200 teachers have been trained to date, helping instill a sense of stewardship in the younger generation.

The Museum Junior Guide Program is the crown jewel of the museum. Children aged eight to 12 are trained to become guides during the summer, sharing their knowledge and passion for the environment with visitors. By engaging the children of fisherfolk, this program imparts valuable ecological knowledge that promotes a deeper connection between man and his marine surroundings. With safeguards in place to ensure the program's integrity and the well-being of the participants, it becomes a stepping stone for young minds, keeping them off the streets and helping them develop a sense of responsibility for their natural heritage.

Discover Sagay's finest at the Showroom, your gateway to the city's top-notch products, located in the heart of Sagay Public Plaza.

Sagay’s path to a greener future is paved by the unwavering commitment of its local government officials to sustainable eco-tourism and supporting community-based activities. At the heart of its plaza is the city’s product showroom, lovingly referred to as Produkto Sagaynon, which features unique souvenirs and delicacies made by local producers.

Negrense treasure and proud Sagaynon, Maestro Nunelucio Alvarado at his vibrant home and café, Albarako, along the shores of Margaha Beach. ( – previous NSC Article on Maestro Nune Alvarado

As Sagay’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan continues to unfold, more programs have been developed with the support of local government leaders to further reach out to other communities. Helen Arguelles shared with us, “In Purok Bougainvillea, in partnership with Maestro Nunelucio Alvarado, we have created another community-based loop.”, which is in reference to their Sikad Guide program where Pedicab drivers are trained to be community ambassadors as they show tourists around. The additional income allowed them to create a community savings program as a safety net for emergencies.

Sagay City's eco-tourism efforts shine as a sustainable model for communities around the world. The city made the Top 100 "Green Destinations" list for 2022, awarded by the Green Destinations Foundation in The Netherlands. The Sagay Eco-tourism Loop not only represents a geographic cycle of natural wonders, but also the limitless potential of a harmonious relationship with our environment, where we give back as much as we take.

Text by: Mayumi Espina

Photos by: Bem Cortez

Video by: Grilled Cheese Studios

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