Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dance of the Fireflies

Firefly watching is just like cherry blossom season: it's precious because it is fleeting. The Japanese eagerly await the blossoming of the sakura, which lasts only for a few weeks. A tree at dusk coming alive with the sparks of hundreds of fireflies is a sight to behold--I wish I have a picture to show, but even the most advanced cameras cannot capture this.
I first heard of the Iwahig Firefly Watching Tour two years ago from an environmentalist based in Palawan, a biodiversity hotspot. Back then we took the Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour. This year, we made time for the fireflies.
After a 30-minute ride by van from our base in Puerto Princesa, we made it to Iwahig at around 7:30 p.m., which also hosts a prison and penal farm. We could only go so far in the tour because beyond is the restricted area. After registering, we were made to don life-vests and waited for our banca, which can accommodate three persons minus the guide.
A few meters from the shore, enveloped in darkness, a mangrove tree came alive with fireflies. That was only a prelude, the guide assured us, because just after the bend, on our way back, are trees with the most number of fireflies.

The tour lasted a good hour. We were lucky with our guide, who knows just when to regale us with information and trivia, and when to pull back to allow us to marvel at the unfolding of the show of lights. He said that the fireflies are vegetarian, feeding on the nectar of the flowers of select mangrove trees. They are diminutive compared to other species, and are quite a social lot. I was amazed to know that they don't stop emitting light even during the day, and when they do, that means the end of their very short 30-day life.

Before we knew it, we were returning to shore. Notice the light illuminating the makeshift port? It hangs from a century-old acacia tree, rendered small as the brackish water slowly encroached in its area. Through the years it has learned to adapt and survive in its surroundings. This is one thing I wish we as a people could likewise do.


  1. This experience is truly amazing. I wish my children will be able to experience and enjoy this wonderful creations of The Almighty!

  2. True, Rush! I wish I can bring my pamangkins as well.