Beneath the Wings: Exploring the Enchanting World of the Monfort Bat Sanctuary in Davao

September 19, 2012 Travel

We all seek a place of refuge, and our homes should be just that, even for bats.

So, it is no wonder, despite over-crowding, bats choose to settle here because the Monfort Bat Conservation Park provides just what they need - a place of safety.

The Monfort Bat Sanctuary, located at Barangay Tambo in the Island Garden City of Samal, carries an unusual number of Geoffroy's Rousette fruit bats, which according to the count last January already numbers 2.5 million. It holds recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest colony of fruit bats, estimated at 1.8 million in February 2010.

My guide, Emery Enolva, explained that it is because the caves are protected. Mrs. Norma Monfort's family has owned the property for decades. Emery expounds that there are around 70 caves on the island, but bats there are hunted for food or are disturbed when harvesting guano for fertilizers. Monfort Bat Caves provide them protection.

It was a Saturday morning when I visited the bat sanctuary. I was traveling alone and was just trying to follow the directions given to me by Kuya Bong, the driver of the multicab I rented.

Emery had already started her briefing when I arrived, and I spent a few seconds observing her demeanor and admiring her. She must have spent more than 30 minutes in front of the mirror to achieve that look.

I caught the word quiet, and Emery explained that nursing mothers, when startled, sometimes drop their pups to their death. So, after those words of caution, Emery led us to the cave openings. I followed another group of tourists from Manila.

Emery was wearing tight clothes revealing her slim and enviable figure. She wore flat shoes, and I noticed that one of the tourists was wearing a wedge. "Ate, perfect na perfect ang shoes mo ha." She smiled then left to look for a spot that was against the wind, where the air is easier to breathe, without the stench of guano or bat poops.

There are five openings of the cave, and each one reveals just how overpopulated the caves are, with some bats deciding to settle on the openings and on the floor.

That prompted the Philippine Bat Conservation, a non-profit organization co-founded by Mrs. Monfort, to plan a man-made cave for the bats.

Just like any other non-profit organizations, the Philippine Bat Conservation badly needs support from the government, non-government organizations, and private companies to fund this and the maintenance of its existing facilities. This cave and its residents thrive because of the efforts of Mrs. Monfort and her group.

To help a bit in their expenses, the group has decided to raise the entrance fee to 100 pesos.

Though Emery said that the increase is temporary, I think it is a little contribution for all the efforts being exerted by the Philippine Bat Conservation, a non-profit organization, which is co-founded by Mrs. Monfort.

The viewing of all the five cave openings can be done in less than 30 minutes. The cave is located on a 23-hectare property. The cave itself is less than 100 meters long.

Bats may be creatures of the night and scary figures for some, but think about what Davao will be without its fruits and flowers, on which bats are the major pollinators. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Mrs. Monfort, Emery, and the other volunteers of the Philippine Bat Conservation, we not only have another Guinness World Record, but we also have bountiful fruits to look forward to every Davao visit.

Don't be blind as a bat.

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