I’ve heard of Pampanga coastal towns before but apart from the photos I see online, I haven’t been in any of these areas. A chance to finally see one came when I was invited to a bird watching activity in Lubao so, I said yes in a heartbeat.
The first day of the tour included a visit to one of the towns in Pampanga called Sasmuan. This place is known locally for their tasty pastillas, tsokolate batirol, and local rice cakes. We were not there to cover the food though, but to witness an annual religious event in the area called Kuraldal. On the following day, we drove from Pradera Farm to Lubao’s Bamboo Hub for the bird watching activity in Sasmuan Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat & Ecotourism Area.
Sasmuan Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat & Ecotourism Area (SBMCHEA) is a small island that was formed from volcanic sediments of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991. It is situated at Barangay Batak II, one of the 5 coastal barangays of Sasmuan, Pampanga. On its north is the town of Guagua, by the east you’ll find the towns of Masantol and Macabebe. On its west is Lubao and on its south is Manila Bay. Overlooking from the islet will be a majestic view of the coastal area of Orani, Bataan.
Abundant in biodiversity and blessed with good climate, SBMCHEA thrives in different mangrove and other wildlife species. It currently nestles 16 different types of mangroves. It also serves as a layover and temporary home to more than 80 species (estimated around 31,000) of migratory birds from wintering countries.
Since the area is slowly becoming a tourist spot, these type of activities provides a livelihood for the townsfolk of Lubao, Pampanga. Some locals have been employed as boatmen while other locals offer services to cook food for the guests. Because of these reasons, SBMCHEA deserves the support it needs not only from tourists coming outside Pampanga, but support coming from the locals themselves.
What to Do in SBMCHEA
Aside from the glorious sunrise view you’ll witness when you pass by Pasak River, visiting SBMCHEA is a good opportunity to learn about the importance of protecting the mangrove trees that inhabit the islet. In a nutshell, mangroves serve as a habitat and a breeding ground for a variety of fish, crabs, shrimps, and mollusk species. Mangroves also play an important part in protecting shorelines from devastating storms.
Bird watching, on the other hand, gives you a glimpse of the different migratory bird species that frequents the area. Some of them are visible any time of the day but flocks are best seen in the area a few minutes after sunrise. The best month for bird watching according to the tourism office of Sasmuan is between the months of December to February.
The island is limited but plans for continuous development to prepare the area for tourism are ongoing. SBMCHEA has enough areas for a photo opportunity and enough space to sit, chill and just be one with nature.
How to go to SBMCHEA
Based on the route we took to reach the mangrove area, SBMCHEA is accessible through the Bamboo Hub in Santa Catalina, Lubao. From there, motor boats are available to take anyone to the islet.
How to reach Bamboo Hub, Lubao
Private vehicles via NLEX
Take the San Fernando exit and turn left on Jose Abad Santos Avenue. Head straight towards Lubao. Before you reach the public market, you’ll pass Barangay Remedios where you’ll see the signage for the bamboo park. Turn left and head straight to the Bamboo Hub.
Private vehicles via SCTEX
Take the Dinalupihan exit. Head straight on the road going to San Fernando. You’ll pass by the town’s center of Lubao. From Barangay Remedios, turn right and head straight to the Bamboo Hub.
Victory Liner, Genesis, and Bataan Transit going to Balanga or Olongapo will be passing by the area. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at Remedios. From there, ride a tricycle going to the bamboo park.
From San Fernando intersection or SM City Pampanga terminal, ride a jeepney going to Sta Cruz/Lubao. Ask the driver to drop you off at Remedios or locally known as “control”. From there, ride a tricycle going to the bamboo park.
Discovering Sasmuan Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat & Ecotourism Area was worth the vacation leave :). My eyes did not only feast on the number of migratory birds I encountered on the tour. As a photo enthusiast, my heart was also overwhelmed with the amount of beauty that Sasmuan had been keeping. It would be a shame to pass on experiencing this place especially if you are a local. Aside from the experience, I also met new friends, discovered more local food, and finally witness another beautiful side of Pampanga.
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