A Critical Habitat

I've heard about the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat Ecotourism Area from bird watching friends and it's been on my "to-explore" list for years. I set out on Monday to try and reach it by bicycle, not having any idea what a task this would be! I passed Roxas Boulevard, to Mall of Asia and through Macapagal Ave until I hit Cavitex, the coastal road highway. There were no gates and no guards and as I almost entered the highway a security guard came running out from behind some trees blowing his whistle in a panic. It was then I noticed a large sign with an icon of a guy on a motorcycle, a large "no" circle with a line through it, and the words: no motorcycles below 400 CCs, which likely meant bicycles weren't allowed either.

The guard redirects me to a service road that leads me under a bridge where I can already see the Ecotourism area in sight. From afar I see flocks of birds undulating over what seems to be dense, lush greenery. I'm psyched.

I'm glad to be kicked off Cavitex because the ride takes me into Paranaque to Quirino Avenue where I find quaint churches, small government offices and a typical provincial style main road where everything spills out ride to the last centimeter of the narrow road. I find an abandoned house which I need to find out more about and side streets that require stickers for cars to enter-sweet.

I see on my map that I'm already parallel to the ecotourism area, but again I am separated from it by the coast highway.

I approach another gate to the highway and the security guard is already becoming nervous as I approach. I explain I'm trying to reach the other side and he directs me to a service road and a pedestrian overpass- he has no idea about the ecotourism area.

At this point it is almost noon, I'm burning up. I take off my backpack from the rack and hoist my bike over my shoulder to climb the stairs to the overpass. This is my second...third (?) time having to do this this trip and each time I think...streets are for people! Why am I the one forced to climb over???

On the other side is a guard who is aghast as to why I am there, but he points me in the direction of the entrance to the protected island area. At the next security gate, the guards are having lunch, what seems to be delicious fish and crabs. They ask if I have a permit from the DENR to enter the park. I insist it's a tourism area and I've biked all the way from Paco just to see the birds, will they please let me just take a quick look? It's a hot day, they are eating delicious crabs, and definitely don't want to be bothered with a determined girl speaking English.

The area is extremely under developed. It's high noon so there aren't too many birds to see, sunrise and sunset are the ideal times for bird sighting. Although it is underwhelming I am completely awestruck with the possibilities this ecotourism area embodies. The air is cool off the water, the shorefront is expansive, and native, bay brush covers the entire area. I can only imagine how special it is when the birds are out.

There is a fork in the road (isn't there always?) and I choose the Long Island trail over the Freedom Trail. I find a shaded area to take a rest and have some of my packed snacks- trail mix and organic jerky and I'm feeling very expedition-like. Too bad the trail mix had a ziplock because I would have loved to use my pocket knife to open it.

I am alone, it is quiet, and the shine from the water feels energizing. An electric blue bird flints across my path; I swear it's the same mystery bird I saw in Coloong, Valenzuela at one of the fish ponds. I need to find out what this bird is because it is likely my spirit animal.

With a couple of large funding infusions this place could be a unique bay park- programs for environmental preservation/conservation/rehabilitation; park design like benches, lights, walkways; a beach clean up; information displays, audio guides; recreation programs; better access for people on foot and by bike and this place is a REAL DREAM (still being hard on the City of Dreams)

This place is magical. In other cities, they are building man-made islands or extensions to riverfronts like this for urban citizens to enjoy a bit of waterfront greenery and a natural habitat in the city. We already have one; it exists, we just need to give it some TLC

 Left for Cavitex, right for service road 

Left for Cavitex, right for service road 

 The ecotourism area should also be accessible by boat from the service road (pictured here) connecting from Macapagal. 

The ecotourism area should also be accessible by boat from the service road (pictured here) connecting from Macapagal. 

 An abandoned waterfront property- wonder if it's heritage?    

An abandoned waterfront property- wonder if it's heritage?  

 Cars can only pass this street if they are a resident parking- or if you have a sticker from the Barangay...

Cars can only pass this street if they are a resident parking- or if you have a sticker from the Barangay...

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