The oceanic manta ray is an elusive animal. Though these creatures are known to grow up to 23 feet in size, there have only been about 150 documented manta ray sightings in the Philippines. But lucky for us, the 151st sighting is headed straight to our screens with the new documentary, “Antique: Where the Mountains Meet the Sea.”
In 2021, under the Office of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, and with the Department of Tourism and the Antique local government, an expedition team from the underwater video company Studio H2O set out to conduct a survey of the province’s waters—particularly in the coastal areas of Pandan Bay and Libertad. They also held a freediving workshop to teach fisherfolk how to survey, protect, and conduct inventories of their own marine areas.
It was very important for the Studio H2O team to align with the local community to understand how these initiatives would affect their livelihoods. Boogs Rosales, line producer and head of the project, emphasized how sustainable and scalable tourism development starts with the community: “More often than not, it’s the locals who are the most invested and also have the most to lose if a project doesn’t succeed… Antiqueños are very proud of their natural resources and it’s easy to see why.”
The 10-minute documentary gives viewers a glimpse into these projects, and showcases the beauty and uniqueness that lies within Antique’s waters. It also features a surprise oceanic manta ray sighting in the Sebaste Shoal, which spells many good things for the province: Known to only frequent nutrient-rich waters, a manta ray sighting indicates that Antique’s coastline ecosystems are productive and thriving. And as migratory creatures, it’s likely that manta rays will regularly return to the same waters—a major boost for ecotourism opportunities.
In response, the provincial government is committed to treading the delicate balance between tourism and conservation; with efforts to boost ecotourism that are sensitive to the ocean’s conditions. “How can we protect something we don't know exists? So documenting all of this—taking photos and videos without destroying their habitats is very important,” Legarda said in a press conference.
Provincial Tourism Officer JC Perlas also said that Antique is more than ready to welcome fully vaccinated leisure travelers as their airports and seaports have now opened. Its local leaders and the community alike hope that the new documentary will inspire a reinvigorated tourism industry that doesn’t impede on the marine life in their waters.
“Antique: Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” will air on the Discovery Channel on March 23 at 6:15 PM (PST). Replays on be held on March 24, 2022 at 8:15 AM and 11:25 AM (PST).