The province of Sorsogon easily brings to mind tourist spots like Gubat for surfing, Donsol for whale shark spotting, Mt. Bulusan and Bulusan Lake for sightseeing, and the centuries-old Barcelona Church in the municipality of Barcelona for more #culture. Spanning over 2100 square kilometers with 14 municipalities, Sorsogon offers a plethora of destinations and diversions to take advantage of while in the most southern part of Luzon. One of which might also pique your interest with its mystique–Prieto Diaz, which is named after the last names of Bicolano martyrs Fr. Gabriel Prieto and Fr. Severino Diaz, two of 13 martyrs who were instrumental during the Philippine revolution in the Bicol region.
Prieto Diaz was one of Sorsogon's first towns when the latter became a province on October 17, 1894. The town–that used to cut down mangrove trees for firewood that could also be for trade–submerged into poverty in the 70s up to the 80s. It only rose back recently, growing into the gem that it is now.
Tthese colorful outdoor parks brighten up the Sabang beachfront in Prieto Diaz.
After exploiting its natural resources (Read: digging up sandpits at the shore to create a furnace for charcoal production), residents started to feel its negative effects. In the 90s, then-Mayor Joseph Yap would seek help from the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to alleviate their situation. The government agency came up with an easy proposal: Stop denuding the mangrove forests and start replanting instead.
DENR took advantage of the abundance of the mangroves and transformed it into an ecological sanctuary. It founded SeaManCor (Seagrass, Mangrove, Coral) in 1994, a local, still-active cooperative in charge of developing the 500-hectare mangrove forest through a 25-year reforestation and stewardship plan. The product of the local government's efforts? A shoreline forest, spanning around 500 hectares, home to not just different varieties of mangrove trees and sea grass, but also to birds, mollusks, crustaceans, and fishes. Thre fruits of the program came to be in 1999, just five years into it.
Prieto Diaz' vast mangrove forests provide not just income for the residents, but also a source of pride.
Yet aside the mangroves, Prieto Diaz also offers beautiful beaches for water lovers. A staple is the nearby Sabang Beach. The breakwater near the Pacific Ocean is a sight to behold, too, turning into a sandbar during low tide.
Not as prominent as other beaches in Sorsogon, Prieto Diaz's Sabang Beach is an unexploited beach appreciated by residents. Although, tourists themselves are discovering and favoring it more lately.
Having lunch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? It's possible when in Prieto Diaz.
Next to the heightened tourism efforts, Prieto Diaz's transformation into an ecological sanctuary also benefited the residents, improving their livelihood in the process. The townsmen thus thrive to this day.
With more natural resources thriving in Prieto Diaz, residents have more sources of income, whether it be through fishing, agriculture, or tourism.
It's no Pinoy tourist spot if there are no smiles from children you come across on the streets.
The quaint town is also seeing developmental projects unfold more and more. Majority of the roads have been cemented, and a fish port and seawall are in the works to benefit the resident fishermen.
Among the many infrastructure developments in Prieto Diaz is this seawall, made as artificial protection (as opposed to the natural mangroves) of the coastal town against storm surge and other natural phenomena.
Picturesque spots for your #travelgram goals!
Prieto Diaz has indeed gone a long way from its poverty-stricken days. For its conservation and environmental sustainability efforts, the small town has won awards like the United Nations Agency for International Development Best Community-Based Coastal Resources Management Program Award (1999), and now is viewed as a model site by schools and NGOs from as far as Ilocos and Davao.
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