Marsh Life

First time to visit CARAGA and during this solo backpacking trip in Mindanao, I was very fortunate to witness and experience the community life in one of the country’s most unique and biologically-important ecosystems - the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.

Composed of more than 10,000 hectares of rivers, lakes, canals, swamps and agricultural lands, the Agusan Marsh is the biggest natural basin in Mindanao.

For years I’ve been longing to visit this natural wonder and it was a super high when I reached the banks of Agusan River, the marsh’s “backbone”. Met my guide boatman in Barangay Flora of Talacogon and off we go... 

It took us an hour before we reached Barangay Sabang-Gibong, located in the intersection of Agusan and Gibong River.

For three days, I stayed in this Manobo community, live in floating houses, listened to their stories and experienced the wonderful yet hard life in the marsh.

Community life is based on the blessings and dictates of the marsh and the environment.


Homes are climate-resilient and designed to float (water rises as high as 30 feet during the great flood) and survived strong currents and high tides.

The lakes and river provides bountiful harvest yet drinking water is a scarce commodity. During the dry season, communities dig makeshift wells to access clean water. But during the great flood, people only rely on rainwater for drinking.  

End of the flood means mosquito season so always ready the mosquito net. Dry season brings opportunity to plant and harvest crops, preserve and sun-dried the catch. 

And ooh don’t forget the lurking crocodiles. It is estimated that more than 5,000 crocodiles still reside in Agusan Marsh. Witnesses claimed that crocodiles as long as 30 feet, bigger than Lolong (measured at 21 feet) exist and are still in the wild. Too bad, didn’t saw any crocs during the visit huhu.

Love the community food. Exquisite freshwater catch everyday, yumyum, such as: 


giant gurami 

Yet the marsh, it's lakes and rivers are under threat. Pollution 


and siltation brought by rampant logging in the surrounding mountains have high impact on water quality.  


Invasive fishes such as janitor fish also threaten the native wildlife. 


Hopefully local efforts to save the mighty Agusan Marsh be given full support by the different sectors both in the national and international level.

Last day, 4-hours boat ride to Bunawan and completing my traverse of the Agusan Marsh from North to South, woohooo.

My deepest gratitude to the staff of Heed Foundation and to the residence Barangay Sabang-Gibong for their hospitality and stories. Thank you all for a very wonderful experience.

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
Talacogon-Bunawan, Agusan del Sur

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