It was already almost three o’clock in the afternoon when I finally hauled myself off from my room at GV Hotel which is just beside the San Antonio de Padua Cathedral and headed to the jeepney terminal. My second visit to Masbate City, the plan was to visit Pawa Mangrove Nature Park especially for its bamboo footbridge that connects the banks of Barangay Pawa in the west and Barangay Mabunga in the east over the southern end of Masbate City Bay.
But a wrongly labeled school in Google Maps messed up my plans as the Asid National High School is actually in Milagros municipality and should have been N. de los Santos Elementary School instead. With an hour and a half wasted, I finally reached Barangay Pawa by hiring a tricycle (P200 was asked by the driver).
Passing through houses amidst mangroves and fishponds, and then walking on a raised earthen footpath dotted with crab holes, I finally came to the vicinity of the Pawa Mangrove Nature Park. This beautiful place is the biggest mangrove sanctuary in Masbate City and covers an area of 300 hectares.
The sea was calm and the cloudy sky was reflected on the surface of the fishpond’s waters. At the left side are grown mangroves, several meters tall while at the right are newly planted ones. As I walked a farther hundred meters, the edge of Pawa came into view and where the bamboo footbridge starts.
I was engulf with a little glee. There’s always that sense of discovery whenever one visits a new place for the first time. As I was walking from the town of Pawa, along that elevated earthen pathway, I can just see how the surroundings are slowly changing. From fishponds, to seeing mature as well as newly planted mangroves along the way. Little by little, these changes also heightened the curiosity of what lays ahead.
And when I did reach the start of the bamboo foot bridge, I was just in awe, a similar feeling when I visited Kalibo’s Bakhawan Eco Park. A green mangrove forest with its riot of roots, branches and a muddy bottom. At the center, was a bamboo footbridge with its form, bamboo strips meticulously laid in order, side by side and stretching to the horizon. It was a beautiful contrast of brown and form against a backdrop of green chaos.
As I walked a few meters to the edge of the mangrove forest, it started to drizzle, at first a little but as I was walking further, with each step making the bridge wiggle and sway, the drizzle became rain and I had to seek shelter inside the nipa hut, one out of four structures along the entire length.
As the rain poured, I can’t help but marvel at the wooden footbridge. A local who also sheltered at the hut told me that it was built in 2011 at the behest of the mayor and connects the two barangays over water. With the 1.3 bamboo footbridge, they need not go round for 3 kilometers of which half is unpaved roads laden with potholes.
I’ve waited for thirty minutes more and sensing that soon enough, it will be dusk, I had to start walking. The rains fell into a drizzle and some locals were already crossing without umbrellas and I followed suit. With my Lagu beach towel, I covered my head and camera, started to walk the remainder of the 1.3 kilometer foot bridge. Sometimes I stop and look around to admire the scenery, take shots and walk again.
The sea below was brackish but not too wavy. The bamboo footbridge is still rickety with each step, swaying. As the bamboo strips are a mixture of old and new, and without a railing, I just walked at the center and skipped weak or missing planks, sharply keeping an eye at the sides, below and infront.
It was almost 6 PM when I finally reached the end of the bamboo footbridge and into Barangay Mabunga. The unpaved earthen path was slippery and muddy as I passed from mangrove to residential area and then to the national highway where I found my tricycle ride back to Masbate City proper.
Pawa Mangrove Nature Park is accessible by tricycle or jeep. From Masbate City, one can ride the few jeepney’s that ply the route to Milagros and northern Masbate or hire a tricycle. For the tricycle and jeepney, you can either alight from the N. de los Santos Elementary School and start from there or go all the way to Barangay Pawa which is at the other side of the bay and takes longer to reach and might entail two rides.