“At about 7:45 in the morning of October 15, 2013, Sally Bentulan, a resident of the coastal barangay of Napo, the original settlement of Loon, went on an early morning dip in the sea near the fish port. After a few minutes of swimming on chest-deep water, she heard a loud rumbling sound from nowhere and, frightened, climbed up the steps of the port. When she looked back the water was retreating fast seaward and in a few seconds, the once chest-deep water was gone.
Meanwhile, Sally’s neighbors who were aboard small boats and fishing at that time attested to seeing a long bubbling line on the sea between the deep part and the shallow reef flat before the latter became fully exposed.”
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake uplifted the southern shores of Loon, from Canhangdon Occidental to Song-on. Four years after the phenomenon occurred, the uplifted area, especially in Tangnan, was encroached on by several terrestrial plants, among them the invasive purslane and amaranth species that create a red-orange carpet thereon particularly during the summer months. The area came to be known as the Loon Coral Gardens and became an internet sensation. It has since been frequently visited, mostly by local tourists.
This relatively new tourist destination is part of the 417 hectares of the uplifted seashore and covers the barangays of Pig-ot, Tangnan, Cuasi, Tontonan, and Song-on. This aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark has the following main features:
Carpets of Sesuvium portulacastrum, a species of sea purslane or bilangbilang, that give the coral tidal flat in Tangnan its characteristic reddish color.
Blutaparon portulacoides, an amaranth species with pink internodes and white flowers, is also present but not as invasive as the sea purslane.
Dead corals or bako’od in Tangnan and Song-on appear during low tide.
Beds of exposed corals in Song-on that are no longer submerged in seawater even during high tide.
Amazing underwater coral gardens in Song-on.
Kampinggan Lagoon and Mangrove forest in Pig-ot.
White sandy beaches in all five barangays.
Mounds of sand created by burrowing marine creatures.
Hordes of fiddler crabs or agukoy, including a red species inhabiting the purslane-covered areas.
Sand bars in Tangnan and Cuasi.
And gorgeous sunsets of summer!
The 13th Sangguniang Bayan of Loon passed Municipal Ordinance No. 14-003 establishing the uplifted seashore as the Loon Coastal Geomorphic Conservation Park and mandating its protection and conservation. Furthermore, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued Administrative Order No. 2015-08 dated May 14, 2015, declaring the site as a geological monument.
Text: by Reigh P. Monreal
Photos: by Crispy Miranda