The HQ of Marine Conservation Philippines is located in Zamboanguita in the province of Negros Oriental. It is a municipality of some 30.000 inhabitants. On the outskirts of the municipality you’ll find our base inside Siit Arboretum, a beautiful botanical garden with samples of both endemic and international flora, some three hundred meters from the water, as the bird flies.
Zamboanguita is situated below Mount Talinis, amidsts rice paddies, egrets and buffaloes. Although there are some dive resorts in Zamboanguita, it is still relatively unexplored by tourists, and offers an authentic Filipino experience for tourists who venture further south than Dauin, the much better known neighbouring municipality, reknowned for its incredible diving. The better known dive destinations like Apo Island, Siquijor, Bohol and Cebu are still within easy travel distance by bus and/or boat.
The name Zamboanguita is a derivative of Zamboanga, (meaning small Zamboanga) and stems from Zamboanga on Mindanao to the south. This sometimes causes some anxiety with tourists, as the names are easily confused and Zamboanga is definitely on the no-go list of most international tourists, as there have been a number of violent incidents and kidnapping by the group Moro Islamic Liberation Front who have frequently clashed with the Filipino security forces. It’s important to understand that the two places are no more related than say New York and York, or other such geographical name-borrowing. Zamboanguita is calm, tranquil and perfectly safe.
A somewhat more colourful legend goes that Zamboanguita instead got its name from an episode involving an octopus (locally called coguita). Long before the Spaniards set foot on Negros, fishermen from afar would enjoy the bounty of the rich fishing grounds of the area. One day, a group of Moro fishermen fishing in the area found a coguita caught in their fishing net, which they then separated from their fish catch. The leader of the Moro group then asked one of his men to go to the beach, find a tree and “isab-ong ang coguita” (hang the octopus).” Since then, every time an octopus was caught, it was hung on that particular tree to dry. The locals eventually begun calling the place “Sab-ongan ug coguita.” When the Spaniards eventually arrived, they called the town “Zamboangaguita” and later on it was shortened to “Zamboanguita”