Bojo River Cruise in Aloguinsan Cebu
Looking for a unique eco-cultural experience on a river cruise? Want to learn about mangroves and their role in the ecosystem? Want to support a community with a passion for sustainable ecotourism? The King of Sinulog is off to experience the Bojo River Cruise in Aloguinsan. Read on as I share to you what I have learned on this one of a kind nature trip.
Bojo is one of the 15 Barangays in Aloguinsan and since the river is located in the barangay, it was named as such. ‘Bojo’ is actually a Spanish word which means coastal sailing or trading, which would indeed make sense once you learn along the cruise that there was once an area near the river mouth where farmers and fishermen would trade their goods way back before currency was invented.
The project run by the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association was funded by the local government unit which served as alternative sources of income for the community. The ecotourism movement started in 2009 and started training 400 participants for more than 4 months and only 52 survived. Some of these members were not able to finish schooling, but because of their trainings, they are now empowered and more than capable to run the project. What’s more remarkable is that in 2015, they bested other countries in Asia Pacific by winning the Best Community-Based Initiative Award for their efforts.
Bojo River spans about 1.4 kilometers from the starting point up to the river mouth. The river cruise would take more or less an hour. Because the cruise is dependent on the tides, better ask ahead before coming to Bojo River. The river water is also brackish due to the saltwater intrusion, a mixture of fresh water from the natural springs and saltwater from the sea. However, the river cruise is safe since the waters are very calm and there are no crocodiles in the area. The design of the banca or small boat is also stable because of its katig or support arches on both sides. Life vests must be worn at all times.
We were also reminded to lower our voices once the cruise started so that we could listen to what the guides are saying that way we won’t be a disturbance to the mythical beings coexisting in the river like the local folklore of Maria Tang-an, a river fairy that lets townsfolk borrow things during fiestas and weddings. This and other stories made us more eager to start the cruise.
Our guide introduced himself and shared a little history of their association. Part of their training included learning all about the ecosystem in Bojo River and their role in protecting it. Currently, the river is home to 22 species of mangroves with which they know the local and scientific names through partnering with experts from universities in the city.
Being keen listeners, we learned from our guide that mangroves have breathing organs called tensile roots that shot up from the ground like sticks which is why there are bubbles during high tide. Mangrove leaves also have holes in them not because of insects but due to its salt gland. Once these leaves fall out, they become food for the crabs. Some decay which in turn give off nutrients to phytoplankton which serve as food for baby fishes. Aside from being wave barriers, mangroves also are home to fish eggs that are nursing under their roots before heading out to sea upon reaching maturity.
Bojo River is also home to 71 species of birds, ten species of which are migratory birds that show up during dusk and dawn. Bring binoculars with you along the renovated boardwalk for a better view.
Halfway through the cruise, our guide told us that these thick mangrove forests were once hiding places of the locals during the Second World War. However, after the war, the people started cutting the mangroves for daily use. Now, only a portion is left but they are slowly replanting and restoring it to its former glory through the help of companies and non-profit organizations.
Further down the cruise, we come across the asinan, salt-making areas wherein locals boil saltwater for three days until they dry up and become sea salts.
Nearing the river mouth, we also come see the Forest of the Lost Monkey, home of macaques that went on diaspora because of hunting in the ‘90s. Looking at the limestone cliffs, you’ll see holes that once served as their habitats. According to our guide, there were once two relatives who came here to hunt monkeys but ended up with one shooting the other since he thought that his relative was a monkey after retrieving a kill. People believed that the guy was somehow possessed by a spirit that protected the area. Another cause for the disappearance of the monkeys was the hunt for the Yamashita Treasure believed to have been left by three Japanese warships that docked in the river mouth ages ago.
Seeing a cathedral-like door on the left cliff, we were told that it was once the shrine of Maria Tang-an, the diwata mentioned earlier. Before, people used banana leaf as paper and chicken feather tips as pens for their material requests which will be available in three days. Stories say that Maria Tang-an refused further requests because some borrowed things were either broken or never returned.
Going out of the river mouth, you’ll see Negros Island with Mt. Kanlaon as background. You’ll see the transition of the water clarity from brackish, to clear water to deep blue waters of the Tañon Strait. You can choose to swim here to cool off the heat as long as you’re not harming the corals. This is also the turning point of the cruise then heading back to finish the rest of the journey.
Rates and packages
We availed of the walk-in option and paid PHP400 each. However, if you’re travelling with a group of more than 5 members, you can avail of the complete package at PHP650 each for a better experience which include lunch, then organic snacks, tour and handicraft demo at the Farmhouse.
From Cebu South Bus Terminal, you may hop on a yellow Sepo bus plying to Aloguinsan, tell the bus ticketer to drop you off at Aloguinsan Public Market and pay about PHP80 for a 2-hour land travel. From there, you can ride a motorcycle to Bojo River and pay PHP20 per person for a 10-minute ride.
You may call the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association at 032 583-6797 or email them at [email protected]. You may also check their website