Negros Occidental

Exploring an avian haven in Victorias’ Gawahon Ecopark

Erwin Delilan

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Exploring an avian haven in Victorias’ Gawahon Ecopark

MAJESTIC. Water flows at one of seven falls at Gawahon Ecopark in Victorias City, Negros Occidental.

courtesy of Victorias Councilor Dino Acuña

The sanctuary lies within the North Negros Natural Park, showcasing seven majestic waterfalls and a plethora of endemic and endangered avian species

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Amid its lush landscapes and cascading waterfalls, a new haven for bird watchers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts is emerging in Victorias City – the Gawahon Ecopark.

Located some 34 kilometers north of Bacolod, Gawahon Ecopark is a gem within Victorias, boasting not only its natural splendors but also the city’s commitment to biodiversity conservation. 

The sanctuary, named after the Hiligaynon word for “overlooking,” lies within the North Negros Natural Park (NNNP), showcasing seven majestic waterfalls and a plethora of endemic and endangered avian species.

Among the popular species that call Gawahon home are the Visayan hornbill (Penelopides panini), Yellow-faced Flameback (Chrysocolopades xanthocephalus), Flame-templed Babbler (Dasycrotapha speciosa), Negros Bleeding-heart pigeon (Gallicolumba keayi), and the Negros Scops Owl (Otus nigrorum). These winged inhabitants add vibrant hues and melodious tunes to the park’s rich tapestry of life.

Victorias Mayor Javier Miguel Benitez said the local government would further develop the park and promote bird watching activities there, with the aim of making it a major tourism destination in the province.

The local government has secured a P13-million fund for the ecopark support from the Department of Tourism (DOT) after Victorias won fourth among the top five local governments in the Visayas during the recently concluded nationwide Tourism Champion Challenge (TCC).

A significant boost came in the form of a P13-million fund from the Department of Tourism (DOT), following Victorias’ performance in the nationwide Tourism Champion Challenge (TCC). The TCC, a pioneering initiative in Philippine tourism, empowers local governments to unlock the tourism potential of their regions. 

Victorias’ proposal, “A Birder’s Paradise: Haven for Sustainable and Inclusive Eco-Tourism,” captured the judges’ attention, earning the city a prestigious spot among the top performers in the Visayas region.

In recognition, Victorias received an P8-million prize from the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), with an additional P5 million pledged by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 

Benitez said the funds would serve as catalysts for the city’s ambitious plans to further develop Gawahon Ecopark into a model of sustainable tourism.

He said the city government is bent on continuing its program to promote the biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability of Gawahon Ecopark.

To this end, Victorias has forged a partnership with the University of the Philippines-Visayas (UPV) to spearhead conservation efforts within the ecopark. Together, they aim to promote environmental education, conduct research, and foster community engagement, ensuring the long-term preservation of Gawahon’s natural treasures.

As Gawahon Ecopark opens its gates to visitors, it not only offers a sanctuary for avian enthusiasts but also shows the harmonious coexistence between man and nature. In the heart of Negros Occidental, a haven of biodiversity beckons, inviting all to explore, discover, and cherish the wonders of Gawahon. –

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