THERE’S another cemetery worth visiting by everyone on November 1, the observance of Undas, or All Souls’ Day, when Filipinos traditionally go the grave of their departed dear ones.
Dagupan City is home to the only known fish cemetery in the country, located in Barangay Bonuan Binloc within the 24-hectare compound of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Dr. Westly Rosario, chief of the BFAR National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC) who initiated the cemetery project, said there is a story behind each of the buried fish in the cemetery.
At least five workers are now busy sprucing up the fish cemetery, repainting work on the tombs of the buried sea creatures inside the 40-square meter area.
Some 20 endangered mammals, including whales and dolphins, have been buried there since it opened in 1999.
One of these is a six-foot spinner dolphin (Stenella longistoris) weighing 60 kilos, that died in the waters of Buenlag, Binmaley on April 3, 2010.
Rosario conceived the cemetery after the BFAR seized from fishermen in Malabon, Metro Manila in February, 1999 a 1.2-ton and 320-centimeter long whale and there was no facility to dispose of the body.
The whale, named Moby Dick, became the first creature to be entombed in the cemetery which has now become a tourist attraction and the most visited part of the BFAR compound.
Rosario said he also wanted the fish cemetery to serve as a show window for their campaign of educating people on the value of conserving fish species, especially those that are endangered.
The latest one entombed was a Giant Green Sea Turtle found buried and believed to be a victim of blast fishing, with its head almost severed, at the shoreline of Nibaliw, San Fabian.
Before an endangered sea mammal is laid to rest, Rosario explained, it undergoes the process of documentation to record its length, weight and even age. These are also autopsied by fish technicians to determine the proximate cause of death.
The cemetery has a newly-built covered hall at the entrance where visitors can get information on all the sea creatures laid to rest there.