Quitessential Bohol’s Newest Attraction

THE KILOMETER or soof dirt road ends in a circular clearing surrounded by a thick forest

which in turn is enveloped by mountains. There are exactly seven of them, someone volunters. An auspicious number of “protectors” for the very special creatures that inhabit this site on Bohol island.

The town of Corella which is at the northeastern part of Bohol is located just 14 kilometers from the capital city of Tagbilaran, yet this particular barangay appears to be very remote. At any other time of the year, it would be suprising to stumble upon a crowd gathering there. But then, it was no ordinary day on no ordinary place.

Last January 15, 1998, tourism officials gathered for the groundbreaking ceremonies the Visitor Center of the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. Spearheaded by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation (PTFI), the sanctuary, a 130 hectare protected rainforest, was created with the aim of providing a safe haven for the Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius Syrichta) a 45 million y e a r – o l d prosimianspecies endemic to the Philippines, popularly known as the “world’s smallest monkey” whose existence in continually being threatened by illegal logging and human encroachment on its natural habitat. An initial budget of P9 million has been alloted for the development of the sanctuary which will include, among others, a research and breeding facility and information center. A Tarsier Trail will also be developed wherein ecotourists will be taken on a guided tour through the sanctuary from Corella and Sikatuna to the Loboc river trail, not only to observe the tarsier’s habits but also to view the other exotic flora and fauna such as civet cat, red-breasted pigeon and other rare birds. It is estimated that it would take at least three years to finish this initial phase.

Heading the Philippine Tarsier Foundation are: Divine Word College head Reverend Florante Camacho, SVD President resort developer Anos Fonacier, Chairman; former Parks and Wildlife Bureau director Jesus Alvarez, Executive Vice-President; Businessman Marlito Uy, Secretary; and Banker Richard Uy, Member.

Tourism Secretary Mina T. Gabor, who led the ceremonies, has agreed to be the foundation’s honorary chairman. Just the night before, she was at the closing ceremony of the week-long 17th ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Cebu.

She appeared to be in high spirits and was seen cooing to a tarsier she fondly called datu Charles or “Charlie”. The cute, palm-sized tarsier has become the foundation’s mascot ever since he was symbolically presented to Britain’s Prince Charles at the Malacañang Palace in July of last year.

Charlie, now a little over seven months old, is a product of the Foundation’s captive breeding program, an vital component of the PTF’s conservation efforts. Charlie, one of 20 tarsiers successfully bred in captivity will soon be released into the sanctuary.

Interestingly, the man responsible for breeding tarsiers in captivity Carlito Pizarras, was once a game hunter who sold and stuffed animals for a living. Now an avid conservationist, Pizarras also known as Bohol’s “Tarsier Man”,