Juag Fish Watering Hole & Sanctuary

I've always been fascinated by watching a fish wag its tail and weave through the water in an almost synchronized movement. I find it similar to how humans move gracefully in a sprint motion exerting the body muscles to generate a fluid action, except it looks so much better when a fish does it in the water.

My mom used to take me to the wet market on Sunday mornings when I was a kid, and I remember seeing her buy live fish straight from the ice-filled drums on one of the stalls. At the time, I assumed she bought it so we could keep it alive at home. When we got home, I asked her where she kept the fish we had purchased that day. My mother pointed to the table, and I eagerly peered inside the pot, where I saw the fish swimming but lifeless and chopped into pieces floating in a sea of sinigang soup.

That day, I realized that these creatures' lives were a part of Earth's natural balance. They feed on smaller species of fish, algae, and other bacteria, while we, the top order of the draw (or so we'd like to believe), catch and enjoy them festively over hot rice or a bottle of beer.

However, this does not give us permission to simply scoop them all up and toss them into the frying pan. Many fish species are prohibited for human consumption, and others must be studied and nurtured to ensure their longevity and tremendous multiplication in the future.

The Juag Lagoon Fish Sanctuary, located just off the coast of Matnog, Sorsogon, collects a variety of marine life for research, breeding, and temporary sanctuary before being released back into the vast open space of the sea.

It is also a location where visitors can get up close and personal with some of the fascinating sea creatures seen on television. It was here that I saw a giant sea cucumber, which resembles an alien life form, with soft skin and a slimy feature that when you gently hold it, you will feel its slow breathing and its surrounding tentacles, making you wonder if it is a cousin of the alien creature from the movie "Predator."

Kuya Lupito (thanks for the correction, Christine), the sanctuary's owner, has clearly grown accustomed to his role. He knows where everyone hangs out in Juag's every nook and cranny. He'd say "you want to see the turtle?" one moment, then reappear from the water holding the very cute and adorable sea turtle the next. Then he'll dive again, and after a while, he'll appear with the giant sea cucumber, followed by a slew of clams and lobsters.

Being this close to some of nature's sea creatures day in and day out was a very interesting job for an individual. I imagined an unseen link between him and the marine species had already formed. That, to me, was the pinnacle of any connection between man and nature.

We kept throwing small fish and fish pellets into the water to attract the other fishes that had scrambled over one another like music fans at a Red Horse Musiklaban festival for the day's feeding prize. I saw a variety of fish, including one with a seemingly bulging body, as if it had consumed one case of beer. The others were ordinary in appearance, despite representing variants of species that only an Ichthyologist would know their scientific names.

The enclosure was large and deep enough for these sea creatures to congregate and talk about the largest whale they'd ever seen. Visitors can walk around the sanctuary and view and feed the fish from silt-styled shelters. Although admission is free, we would like to encourage each visitor to make a donation of any amount or type, such as snorkels, goggles, and fins. Travel time from Matnog port is approximately 20 minutes, and it is approximately 30 minutes from the white sands of Subic Beach on Calintaan Island.

Related Sorsogon posts:

Calintaan's Subic Beach
Weaving Through Scenic Sorsogon