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This 5-Star Bohol Resort Is Raising Giant Clams for Sustainable Eco-Tourism

From raising giant clams to beach clean ups, Bellevue champions sustainability in Panglao

It’s no secret that our marine life has some of the most unique species in the world, add to that our white sands and crystal beaches, and our country is still the top of mind go-to place for the best island destinations and vacation spots globally. From the world’s tiniest monkeys (Tarsier) to the world’s largest clams (Taklobo), Bohol is a sanctuary of magical creatures we can easily boast about. But climate change, natural calamities, over-tourism, and blatant mishandling of our natural resources threaten the lives of these national animal treasures. Good thing there are hospitality giants like The Bellevue Resort that take initiative when it comes to sustainable eco-tourism.

The world-famous Tarsier

Led by Resort Manager Andrew Fernandes, the 5-star hotel and resort in Panglao partnered with Department of Tourism’s DIVE 7 to launch the Native Giant Clams Rescue Project in Momo Beach, Panglao last April. The aim for this is to safeguard the future of giant clams as part of its sustainable tourism advocacy. “What people don't know is giant clams have a huge cultural significance to the Boholanos. In the ancient animistic times, it was used for sacrifices or celebrations. It was their big bowl, literally, the giant clam, the Taklobo. That's why, that was one of the reasons why we chose to help save it and revive it. Because whenever you do archaeological digs in Bohol, that's one of the first things you'll see,” Fernandes shared. 

Giant clams husbandry

Not only do they have historical and religious meaning, but biologically, these mollusks clean the sea water by filter feeding. Suspended particles in the water are captured by the gills and moved to the mouth for ingestion. The cleared water is then ejected from the excurrent siphon. By this very act of feeding, clams filter microscopic algae or plants, microorganisms, and organic waste.

Today, Bellevue’s clam husbandry protects over 200 endangered native giant clams (just think of it as Bellevue having pet clams they have to feed, take care of, and cultivate, until they are mature enough to survive on their own). With change, there was inevitably pushback from locals since some of them harvest and sell these clams. But with the promise of livelihood as tourist and snorkel guides once the reefs are back in its glory, they found a good middle ground and compromise.

Visiting the taklobo husbandry with my Divemaster

Running for over a decade, the beachfront resort has always been green-minded, despite the numerous natural calamities it has withstood. From the 7.2 magnitude earthquake back in 2013, to the more recent super typhoon Odette last 2021, Bellevue is quick to get back on their feet, and makes sure that others benefit from their resources, too. “We’re lucky during Odette, only a few parts of the roof flew off, but everybody else around us was devastated. We were one of the few resorts to bounce back. I think for the first three months, we were the only ones with a regular energy grid, so we had residents who stayed with us for three months. There was a water shortage, too, but fortunately we were able to distribute water to the locals thanks to our spring water reservoir,” Fernandes said. 

The Bellevue Resort, Bohol

Good thing Bellevue invested in business continuity in terms of power and water supply, but they don’t stop there. “Food, electricity, and water security are top of our priority, without compromising on eco-consciousness. We have our Lourdes Farm, where we grow herbs, vegetables, chickens, and pigs. When there’s African Swine flu, that doesn’t affect us. We still have our bacon and pork because of our farm.” The resort also has their own solar panels for their admin office, and is planning to have the whole resort solar-powered in the next two years. 

Farm-to-table dining is possible at Bellevue

As for waste management, the resort complies with LGU-mandated segregation, and they also feed their pigs some of the leftovers they acquire. They partnered with Manny and Eveline Gamonez, the Filipino-Swiss couple behind STEPS Bohol (Specialized Training and Education for Philippine Students). STEPS is an educational program that aims to “provide quality basic education for Philippine preschoolers from depressed areas and hereby promote an interest in education; to support their character building through learning God's word.” The couple also helped Bellevue set up their recycling, and sustainability and net carbon program. Manny also introduced the resort to utilizing hogs for food waste, but of course these animals have their limitations. “He's developing a grinder and masher to make the other solids compostable because not everything can be consumed by the pigs. They can digest almost everything, but we also don't want to stress them because of the volume we feed them,” Fernandes shared. 

But sustainability has its costs, initially. “Let's be honest, going green can be costly. Like solar is a huge investment. It's usually at least a five-year investment. But again, we're also lucky that yes, Bellevue was severely impacted by the natural calamities and pandemic like everybody else, but we banked enough to pay forward and start doing these things,” Fernandes shared truthfully. Another would be the transition to sustainable products. “There will always be a compromise with what we’ve been used to. Take the paper straws, for example. It seems like a good idea until it melts in your drink! That’s why we had to outsource sugarcane straws. Of course we can compromise a little, without sacrificing the experience of the guests,” said Fernandes. The challenge of going green is palpable, but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

Green luxury at the Bellevue

Patience is also a virtue, as sustainability doesn’t easily happen instantly. It just simply takes time. Good thing Fernandes has the right mindset. “We don't have to do everything overnight and spend for everything. We can inch ourselves towards that goal. So whatever we can do to be marginally better, faster, more efficient, that's kind of what we do.” 

The Junior Suite

From day-to-day resort operations, Bellevue also walks the talk when it comes to eco-consciousness. From guest engagement cards, reusable glass water bottles, biodegradable straws, refillable shampoo and body wash pump bottles, to banig and newspaper trash bin linings in the rooms, the resort is committed to lessening plastic waste and raising awareness when it comes to stewarding our earth better. 

The Bellevue team, ready for tree planting

They are also consistent advocates of Earth Hour, having initiated projects for the campaign for 10 years and counting. Last March, they organized a 1000 Trees Planting for Our Earth campaign in Bilar, Bohol in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). This proves that they earned the two-year consecutive ASEAN Green Hotel Awards. The ASEAN Green Hotel Awards is a prestigious recognition program that celebrates and acknowledges environmentally sustainable practices in the hospitality industry within the ASEAN region. This esteemed award aims to promote and encourage hotels and resorts that prioritize environmental conservation, energy efficiency, waste management, water conservation, and community engagement—standards by which Bellevue holds themselves accountable to.

Infinity pool

Fernandes is truly the man with the plan, and it seems that he is the leader fit for the job. Other than the decade of hospitality experience under his belt, he also considers himself an environmentalist. Being Filipino-Indian, he spent his summers as a young boy in India, where he got to extensively interact with his uncle who was a Park Ranger. This unlocked his interest in nature and animals. “I had a magical childhood. I experienced feeding baby tigers, riding elephants, and swimming in the ocean. Being Indian, we're always about academic learning. We're not allowed to watch TV. So I grew up reading almanacs and encyclopedias for recreation.” Fast-forward to his professional life, Fernandes also started the Plastic-Free Boracay movement, back when he was still with a different company. How impactful those summers were for Fernandes, for those years were foundational in the formation of his bright future to come.

The man with a plan: Andrew Fernandes, Resident Manager of The Bellevue Resort, Bohol

In the next six months, the exceptional Resort Manager also shared his vision. From giving their amenities a makeover to making half of the property solar-powered, Fernandes has big foresights for their resort. First, they want to have a seasonal menu that supports the local market. “It's a win-win. We can buy top-grade products from farmers and pay them better because usually they sell it by box, in season. So they can do it consistently year-round. We can have better produce. At the same time, all of our amenities will change by the time we're in the process of remapping that.” 

Bellevue’s exceptional Farm-to-Table menu is fresh, delicious, and palatable

Next, they plan to further decrease plastic waste by using more paper packaging. “We want to use actual recycled paper, not greenwashed paper that’s still 15% plastic.” When it comes to water usage, they want to recycle more of it, and when it comes to results, they wanna measure all of it. “We’re working with a biologist from Bohol Island State University, so when we rehabilitate or do eco-conservation projects, we can actually put a number to the results. Like fish numbers have doubled since our coral propagation, stuff like that. It's really a comprehensive thing. It's a scientific approach. There's a method to the madness, so to speak.” Being a firm believer in investing in the younger generation and shaping their minds, Fernandes also wants to do fun activities for children which will raise awareness when it comes to eco-consciousness. “I want to create The Reef Ranger Program, where kids identify creatures and natural elements while walking around. When they complete the list, they become a Certified Reef Ranger, and get a badge. My kids inspire me, I think about them and how I want them to experience a better Bohol.” 

Fernandes and his team are dedicated to a greener, cleaner, and better Bellevue, despite its already prestigious reputation and 5-star reviews online and off. They even have big projects in the near future which will invite and encourage guests to participate in the steps they are taking to further their progress in eco-tourism. Bellevue sets a remarkable example in sustainable luxury hospitality, showcasing a deep commitment to environmental preservation, community engagement, and guest education, without compromising the whole vacation experience. As an inspiring model for sustainable tourism, Bellevue Resort invites guests to experience the beauty of Bohol while making a positive impact on the environment and local communities. 

For bookings, visit The Bellevue Resort website here. Follow them on Instagram @bellevueresort

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