The best thing about my job is that it brings me to places in my country that I never even knew existed.
Before my trip to Boracay late last year, I got to visit a less-traveled part of Palawan for work. Members of the press were invited by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to see how their partnership with Banco de Oro (BDO) was helping promote a sustainable fisheries program in the area.
The program, which invites BDO ATM cardholders to voluntarily donate P5 to WWF after each transaction, attests to the fact that little things do matter in the long run.
“Essentially, we call it micro-giving,” shares Jose Angelito Palma, vice president for Conservation Programmes of WWF Philippines. “There’s strength in even small, but large volume donations…akala ng ordinaryong tao na hindi sila makakatulong sa (the average individual doesn’t think he can do much to help the) environment, sa mga (particularly in) newsworthy activities to alleviate poverty, but we want to show the public that you don’t have to be rich to be philanthropic about things,” he says. Indeed, for as little a donation as P5, one is given the power to effect change in critical areas across the country.
The WWF-BDO partnership has successfully raised P3 to P4 million a year, and this amount is distributed in four to six sites, including the whale shark ecotourism management program for Donsol in Sorsogon, an agroforestry program for the Abuan watershed in Isabela, and a nationwide environmental education drive for elementary students. In Quezon, the program promotes sustainability, management and the rehabilitation of the stocks of groupers in the region.
A multi-million trade estimated to have a total retail value of $810 million in 2002 for the Asia-Pacific area, the live reef fish food trade earns not only for restaurants and traders but also for the government and fishers’ households. Unfortunately, because it’s easy money, a lot of the farmers here still employ illegal fishing means. One initiative of WWF is to promote seaweed farming as a supplemental form of livelihood for the grouper fishermen.
Our trip was tightly packed, one that left little time for rest and relaxation, but it was incredibly eye-opening. WWF took us to meet the grouper fishermen and seaweed farmers. We went to one of the floating houses and discovered that it was the fishermen’s wives tending to the seaweed.
They were among the nicest people I’ve met. They openly welcomed us into their homes and shared stories of how life was like at sea. A fisherman shared that they earned around P300 to P500 in a four- or five-day trip, while the women harvest the seaweed every 45 days, which earns them around P30,000. Not bad, right? According to a program manager for the WWF, there were already seaweed farmers before the organization came to Quezon, but what they’re doing is helping enhance their farming technologies as what they had before were hit-and-miss practices.
Of course, the trip wasn’t all work. We had our fair share of adventure, too.
We went exploring the Tabon Cave complex for an entire morning, but for some reason it actually felt like we were there the entire day. Time seemed to pass by slowly in this neck of the woods.
It was actually kind of eerie, especially since our cave guide told us these caves used to be the burial sites of their ancestors. It was a gruelling hike, but I am happy to say that I survived and even enjoyed it—a sign that I’m not as exercise-deprived as I was two years ago. That adventure ended with us taking a quick dip in the sea before being rained down on our speed boat on the way back to the mainland. Everybody was freezing from the sudden downpour, but I actually enjoyed that bumpy ride.
Quezon, Palawan may not have been what I expected, but it definitely had all the ingredients of a great trip. It’s always nice to get an insight into how life is like in different parts of the Philippines. It is stories like this that I find pleasure in sharing with my readers. I do hope I get more of these trips over the course of my career :)