Antique’s underwater beauty preems on Discovery Channel

Antique Representative Loren Legarda hopes that in highlighting the province’s rich marine biodiversity, the documentary will attract more local and international tourists to come and visit.

Antique Representative Loren Legarda hopes that in highlighting the province’s rich marine biodiversity, the documentary will attract more local and international tourists to come and visit.

Antique may not be the first province that comes to mind when one thinks of Western Visayas. With the world-famous Boracay Island in Aklan, culinary hotspot Iloilo and the Mango Capital of the Philippines, Guimaras, among its nearest and more popular neighbors, Antique is often and mistakenly overlooked as a worthwhile destination for local and international tourists.

In truth, this underrated province has so much more to offer, which a new documentary set to premiere tonight on Discovery Channel hopes to prove. Brace yourselves and be awed by one of Antique's natural charms — it's rich marine biodiversity.

“Antique is a paradise where the mountains meet the sea. It is a province that may have been in the doldrums for three decades but is now experiencing [its] Golden Age,” said Loren Legarda, Deputy Speaker and Representative of the Lone District of Antique.

One of the testaments of the province's rich biodiversity is the inclusion of two legislated protected areas in the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) — a landmark marine protection and conservation law that Legarda authored — namely, Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park and Sibalom Natural Park.

Harnessing this treasure, Legarda put efforts in discovering, documenting and protecting Antique's rich marine biodiversity.

Besides authoring bills for the province's marine protection — such as the establishment of a multi-species marine hatchery in Tibiao and the Northern Antique Protected Seascape and Landscape — Legarda also allocated budget under the Department of Tourism (DOT) that was implemented by the local government of Antique and the DOT regional office.

A rare sighting of an oceanic manta ray in Antique — a creature known to visit nutrient-rich waters that provide zooplankton — is the subject of the new documentary

With this initiative, the documentary “Antique: Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” was born.

In early 2021, Studio H2O organized an expedition team composed of marine researchers, scientists, and underwater cinematographers. Aside from conducting a scientific survey of the reefs in Antique — particularly around the coastal areas of Pandan Bay and Libertad — the project also held a free diving workshop for fisherfolk with the intention of teaching them how to survey, protect and do an inventory of their own marine areas.

“Part of the survey is to have the local people learn the method so they can continue on with the monitoring, or at least be interested in learning more about it,” shared Tara Abrina, one of the team's researchers and free diving instructors. “The objective of the project was really for tourism, to see where people can go to dive, where guests can stay, and what might be interesting underwater.”

And interesting they indeed found. During the survey, the team had a rare sighting of an oceanic manta ray, a creature known to visit nutrient-rich waters that provide zooplankton. The oceanic manta ray is famous for its majestic form that could reach up to twenty-three feet across.

“The discovery and sighting of the existence of the manta ray in our waters is so important because it shows they thrive in a healthy marine ecosystem,” Legarda proudly noted.

“And the manta ray, of course, must be protected at all costs, especially because it is identified as possibly threatened for extinction,” Legarda said, adding that the oceanic manta ray sighting can draw in more visitors and open up more possibilities for the province's ecotourism.

The rare sighting affirmed Legarda's belief that the tedious task of survey and documentation is crucial in educating the public about the all-important work of protecting the environment.

“How can we protect something we don't know exists and so documenting all of this — taking photos and video without destroying their habitats — is very important,” Legarda ended.

The underwater beauty of the province, as well as the true heart of the Antiqueños, are all captured in “Antique: Where the Mountains Meet the Sea,” which is produced by Studio H2O through the Office of Deputy Speaker Legarda, the Department of Tourism in partnership with the Province of Antique.

The 20-minute documentary will air on Discovery Channel tonight, March 23, 6:15 p.m. with replays on March 24 at 8:15 a.m. and 11:25 a.m. Discovery Channel is available in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and India.

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