Check Out This Butanding Festival That Has Moved Rachel Peters To Tears
Nature can really be a beautiful, moving phenomenon. And sometimes, we just need to immerse ourselves in to so we can fully understand and appreciate its intricacies.
The Butanding Festival has been held in Donsol, Sorsogon for years now, drawing people in and out of Bicol to join the festivities at the height of summer. It is the one time in a year that the people of Bicol celebrate the economic and cultural contributions of Butanding tourism in the region.
This year, the week-long festival was held from May 17 to 24, where a variety of events and activities were scattered throughout the town. There were sporting events like the kayak race, a culinary competition, and different exhibitions like the street dance and float parade, drum and lyre, and Mutya ng Donsol. And Beached, a show that highlights the beauty of Filipino waters and islands, made sure to drop by the festival to support the festival’s thrust for environmental stewardship and sustainable tourism.
Swimming with the whale sharks
As the whale shark capital of the Philippines, Donsol has become popular for local and foreign tourists who want to encounter the famous butanding. The butanding is notably the largest living fish species, whose size is comparable to that of a bus.
As they explore the islands of Masbate and Sorsogon for season 2 of Beached, Marc and Rachel take the opportunity to swim with the butanding. It can take up to 3 to 4 hours to see one, but if you’re lucky—like them—you’ll have the opportunity to get up close with the friendly fish.
While the butanding is terribly huge and can be intimidating, Marc, who has swam with the whale shark before, says that they are actually very friendly. They are filter feeders so they will never harm a human. As a national ambassador of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Marc has always been exposed to animal encounters like this. He has also been a staunch supporter of sustainable tourism, where people get to experience wildlife and become more mindful of preserving life.
“A lot of the times, when people come out and they’ve never swam with a whale shark before, they think, ‘Oh I’m gonna be so scared of the water, it’s gonna be so big, it’s still a shark.’ But if more people experience what [Rachel and I] have experienced, then you’ve just got more of a reason to try and protect them.”
With only snorkeling gear, Rachel and Marc take turns swimming with the butanding. And after the encounter, Rachel emerges from the water with tears in her eyes, feeling a tad bit overwhelmed by the beauty of the magnanimous creature.
“They are such beautiful creatures. They’re so calm, they move so gracefully, and they let you experience their beauty,” Rachel says about her experience, which has moved her to tears. “I felt grateful, I felt humbled, and I think it’s so wonderful that Donsol provides this experience. And once you experience it, your heart just feels so full and you’ll never want anyone to harm any of these animals.”
According to Joel Palma, CEO of WWF Philippines, they have been partnering up with Donsol for 21 years now to assist in the development of the facilities and the conversation of marine life in the area.
Whale shark and other water activities in the area have enabled the communities of Donsol to flourish. But festivals like the Butanding Festival enable them to showcase what else Donsol has to offer to grow their tourism and help more communities partake in the economic benefits that the town is experiencing.
Witness Rachel and Marc’s life-altering encounter with the butanding and what else they experienced in Masbate and Sorsogon on Beached, airing Thursdays, 8:30 p.m., only on Metro Channel, channel 52 on Sky Cable and channel 174 on HD. Watch replays throughout the week or on demand via iWant.