Bucari the ‘Little Baguio’ of Panay Island

By: Engr. Edgar Mana-ay

THIS writer in his profession has done exploration-drilling work for uranium in Lulea the arctic circle part of Sweden; for copper in the dessert of Phoenix, Arizona; and coal in the forest near Princess Charlotte Bay in Australia.

It is, therefore, an irony and sad to note that I have never visited Bucari right in my own province of Iloilo. A chance came when my son living in Houston came visiting and wanted to see the new developments in Bucari, having visited the place by bike many times 15 years ago where ALL roads were NOT concreted.

Indeed in the past six years there was tremendous development in Bucari (my son was amazed!) since Congressman Cadio Gorriceta, through House Bill 5072, declared Bucari area in the town of Leon, Iloilo as an ecotourism destination of which all previous congressmen failed to do.

The Bucari tourism area is about 10,000 hectares and encompasses 14 barangays in Leon and 7 in Alimodian. It is very near Iloilo City (only 58 kilometers) and is very accessible by public and private transportation because almost all roads leading to the area were concreted in just two terms of Congressman A. Gorriceta.

Why is Bucari called the “Little Baguio” of Panay and why is it becoming a major tourist attraction in Iloilo? Because of its high elevation at 2,100 ft., it has a cool climate and forested by Benguet pines with breathtaking view of surrounding mountain ranges and Iloilo City. The main Camp Site area is reminiscent of Benguet tourists spots itself where cars can park on both sides of the roads since it is not a major thoroughfare. On both sides of the road are Filipino style tianggue or sari-sari store supplying all the needs of visitors such as a carinderia, stores for vegetables, fruits and other supplies that a camper and low budget visitors will need.

The style for low budget tourism such as tent camping, mountain trekking, viewing deck, strawberry farm visit is a brilliant idea truly suited for boy scout jamborees and for the common tao in general. The camp site is actually a small valley sandwiched between the Buli and Bita mountain range. There are tents available for rent and cottages with bathroom, toilets and kitchen, all geared towards the low budget visitors. For those a little bit discriminating there is a mountain resort not far from the Camp site at Sitio Tabionan which offers a view of the 5,000 hectares reforestation area, and has rooms that can accommodate 8 persons each.

As usual, potable water supply is a problem during summer if guests or campers in the main camp site exceeds 500 in numbers. As years goes by, there will be an increase in the influx of visitors because of its low budget camp style, so that the existing water resource and system should be improved to keep up with the growing demand for water. From the hydro-geology view point, the main camp site is very lucky because it is bound by the Buli mountain range with Sapa Buli at its foot.

We go back to the science of trees and rainfall. The leaves of trees serves as cushion to rainfall so that it will fall slowly to the ground and allow more penetration to increase groundwater resource, reduces runoff or overland flow where it goes to the creeks and rivers, then to the sea and not benefit man anymore. Baguio has this perennial water shortage despite it is thickly forested with pine trees because the leaves of the pine trees are needle like and has minimal cushioning effect to rainfall. With so many tourists in Baguio, the ground underneath the pine trees is compacted further reducing rain infiltration hence reduced groundwater resource.

In the case of Buli mountain range, there should be a massive tree planting on bare area using endemic species and for areas already covered by pine trees, coffee trees will be planted as a secondary cover. Coffee trees provides a thick canopy that pine trees doesn’t have and human incursion is only done during harvest time thus avoiding compaction of the ground. Vegetable farming can be allowed provided farming fields are in terraces form, thus rain cannot flow down the mountain.

From the outcrop of volcanic rocks it appears that the mountain range is of volcanic origin and so we do not know how thick is the soil cover that serves as a storage for rainfall. Whatever it is, we can catch the underground water flowing towards the creek below by installing a series of shallow skimming wells at the foot of the mountain, maybe four 12-20 ft.shallow wells in series for one pump to maximize capture of underground water for use by the Bucari residents and especially the camp site.

After a DRONE topographic survey, locations of a series of interconnected water catchment can be pinpointed and constructed to provide the water system for the camp site and residents. Together with the output from the shallow skimming wells, this will constitute the centralize water system to replace the present KKH (kanyakanyang hose) which is a waste of the scarce water resource. We can be assured that Mayor Mike Gorriceta who is a sure winner as congressman in place of his father will continue the efforts of Congressman Cads Gorriceta in making Bucari a premier low budget tourist destination in Panay.

Note:  The author is a Professional Member of the Geological Society of America (GSA) and

the National Ground Water Association of the U.S. (NGWA).

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