Photograph by Patrick Mateo
Culture Spotlight

Chavit Singson: Keeper of the sanctuary

In his Baluarte in Ilocos Sur, the enigmatic Mr SIngson lords over a sprawling property that evokes the African Savannah and a little Jurassic Park
Giancarla Espinosa-Aritao | Nov 16 2018

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Chavit Singson. Aside from having held posts in government, including governor of Ilocos Sur and deputy national security adviser, he has figured prominently in political controversy. He has also accused then President Joseph Estrada of accepting bribes from jueteng lords, that led to the former leader being deposed.

Located 15 minutes away from Vigan City (Singson’s hometown), the Baluarte Zoo is a sanctuary of exotic animals including deers, ostriches, horses, and big cats.

But there are other things Singson is known for. Other than his high-profile support for Manny Pacquiao, the boxer, Singson was also known to be an avid hunter. 

Eventually, however, Singson made the decision to eschew his wildlife trophies in favor of conserving and protecting endangered species. 

The Baluarte is a wildlife sanctuary located in Singson’s home province of Vigan. It’s 80 hectares of landscaped greenery, parts of which resemble an African savannah and others recalling a Jurassic Park setup. Within the grounds are Singson’s collection of animals including Bengal tigers and lions. There are also native species like the Philippine cloud rat and tamer attractions such as a butterfly sanctuary.

 

Although privately owned and operated, Baluarte is open to the public. It has become a major tourist attraction. While many visit to see the animals, others come because they are intrigued by the owner. Fortunately, the former governor is known to show up occasionally and agree to selfies with visitors.

 

This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 23 2016.