Huge colorfully decorated bangus sculptures greeted us at the wharf leading to Dagupan City’s newest tourist attraction. The breeze coming from the Dawel River was refreshing as the Lakbay Norte team boarded the floating platform that would tour us along the green waters of the river.
Similar to the famous Loboc River Tour in Bohol, Dagupan had also launched its own river cruise. It has almost the same rectangular boat capable of seating sizable amounts of tourists and it plies a similar scenic route. Only difference is that there is no buffet table and there’s no band serenading the visitors.
Not to worry though, those are in the works. Improvements are being implemented as they go, the tour being still in its early stages.
Pangasinan’s Dawel River is not always as clean and green as it is now. It used to be full of bangus fishpens that Dagupan is known for, but pollution and fear of massive fish overkill due to the uncontrolled number of pens made the local government act a clean up of the river. The banks are replanted with mangroves and the fishpens regulated.
Indeed, the hour-long cruise passing through Dawel and Watac-Mamalingling Rivers is really aimed at showing off how beautiful the waterway has now become. The water is free of garbage, its rich green hue matched by the thriving mangrove trees along its shores.
Munching on local kakanins, our peaceful reverie was broken as we were told to transfer to a smaller boat to check out the city’s pride; the world famous Dagupan Bangus.
The smaller boat swiftly skimmed over the emerald surface of the river, crossing over the shallower part of the watercourse which the viewing platform cannot navigate. We soon alighted and crossed a narrow clay path that serves as a border for the milkfish farm.
The harvesters were already ready with their nets as we watched them close in on their catch, looping the circle of nets closer and closer until arm-length milkfishes had nowhere to go but to the fishermen’s containers.
The harvest over, we continued with the cruise. Another quick stop had us planting a few mangroves along the way before doing a u-turn back to the wharf.
The tour concluded with a bonus. The multitudes of bangus caught earlier were grilled and served smoking hot with fish bagoong and calamansi.
I cannot describe how good Dagupan’s bangus were! The challenge of deboning the fish was well worth it once you dip its soft meat in the salty sour sauce. It was simply the best grilled fish I had ever tasted.As of the moment, the tours are still free of charge and can be availed by contacting Dagupan City’s Tourism Office. The viewing platforms are also available for events like wedding receptions and other activities. The small catamarans can hold 25 persons while the larger one can seat up to 45 individuals.
And here’s what I think would be the best way for the Dawel River Cruise to gain popularity; serve fantastic milkfish dishes to the tourists on board the cruise, add some classic Filipino songs in the mix and I’m betting the river tour tickets would sell like hot banguses fresh from the grill.
Dawel River Cruise
Dagupan City Tourism Office
Telephone: (075) 515-6196
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | simon@dagupantourism
GPS Coordinates: 16.059776,120.339518 | Click to view location on Google Maps