Sibalom Natural Park: a lush sanctuary

A panoramic view of Mt. Poras at Imparayan, Sibalom, Antique.

The Philippines is one of the 17 megadiverse countries with greatest concentrations of endemic plants and animals.

Here in Western Visayas, the Sibalom Natural Park (SNP) is a green, lustrous forest with blue rogue rivers that is home to different endemic and endangered species. It is previously called Tipulu-an Mau-it Watershed Forest Reserve.

The SNP was proclaimed as a Protected Area (PA) by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 282 dated April 23, 2000 signed by President Joseph Estrada and Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

It covers 6,778.44 hectares in the municipality of Sibalom, Antique, specifically in the barangays of Cabladan, Cabanbanan, Imparayan, Igpanulong, Indag-an, Bugnay, Villafont, Luna, Bontol, Tordesillas, Tula-tula, Calooy, Bulalacao, Lambayagan, Luyang, Igparas and Grasparil.

The natural park is managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) wherein the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Director in Region 6 sits as the PAMB chairperson.

The hanging bridge going to the lush forest of Sibalom Natural Park

It is a low elevation dipterocarp forest and a habitat to different endemic birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

A haven of rich flora and fauna endemic to Panay Islands and the Philippines such as one of the largest and rarest flower in the world, Rafflesia speciosa locally known as Uroy, could be found at SNP.

Uroy is an endemic species that grows within its host which is the tetrastigma vine, releasing a putrid scent and attracting flies and other insects that pollinates it.

The SNP is also home to the tallest flower in the world known as Amorphophallus (Curculigo sp. campanulatus), which has phallic-like shape, grows up to 2.5 meters high and has varied colors depending on their species.

There are endangered species in the SNP such as the Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons), Visayan spotted deer (Rusa alfredi), Panay-bushy tailed cloud rat (Crateromys haeneyi), Tarictic hornbill (Penelopides panini), and Walden’s hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni) that needs further protection and conservation from wildlife poachers.

Its forest and mountainous areas are also rich in exotic trees such as Mahogany, Gmelina and Teak.

The waterfalls, streams and springs that flow to the Mau-it and Tipulu-an Rivers supports the irrigation, domestic and industrial water needs of the municipalities and nearby towns. The rivers are also sources of semi-precious gemstones found on its riverbeds.

It is also ideal for recreational activities such as swimming especially in the springs, trekking, camping, nature hopping, and sightseeing are some to ways to revel the abundance of the natural park.

“Before the Environment Month celebration ends, I encourage everyone to appreciate the breathtaking views the Sibalom Natural Park offers. The species that habituates there are being taken cared of by our forest rangers roving in the area. Let’s protect our natural resources by stopping illegal wildlife poaching, trading and illegal logging as these illicit activities have its respective penalties and punishments,” DENR-6 regional executive director Francisco E. Milla Jr. said. (DENR-6)