Last month, Ate Angelica (Belarmino) told me that their organization (YSEALI) would be having a trip to Guimaras Island wherein the people joining the trip would experience planting corals, exploring the different kinds of Marine Conservation Associations and using different methodologies related to marine life conservation plus much more. I was very glad that I was invited on this trip and experienced learning such amazing lessons with other youth leaders.
December 2nd was the first day of our trip. We arrived at Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo City at 5 am on that Saturday morning. I had no idea that it would be such a long day but it was fun-filled. Our first stop after we arrived in Guimaras Island was in Brgy. Sibunag. We went there to pick up the other youth (the Aetas) that were joining us on this trip. This would not be my first time seeing indigenous people; since I’ve seen some indigenous people like them before in Iloilo City. The challenging part for me would be interacting with them as I’ve never interacted with Aetas before. The first thing I did was smile at them. I really thought this would be a great idea to start good interactions with them.
After picking up the Aetas, we stopped by the market to buy the things we would need like charcoal, cartolinas, and water, then we went straight to Brgy. Lapaz, Nueva Valencia. It was there where we talked about the rules and regulation, payments, and the islands that we would be visiting around that barangay. Shortly thereafter, we rode a pump boat and went straight to our next destination.
It would be the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve where the majority of activities would be held. The island was so beautiful and the view was so perfect. You could clearly see the corals and reefs through the clear blue water, it was breathtaking. After Ate Jarrah (Brillantes) registered with the caretakers of the island, we signed attendance sheets and spent the next half hour getting settled and preparing for our discussion. During the discussion, we were taught about marine ecosystems, marine conservation, coral reef protection methods, dangerous sea creatures and the importance of marine conservation associations. We talked about taklong island as it covers a total of 1,143.45 hectares which also included the 53 hectares for the Mangrove plantation.
Next we talked about the specifics of the Marine ecosystem found on this island such as seagrasses, coral reefs, and mangroves as the major types of marine ecosystems. They told us the importance of each of these types ecosystems. These three types serve as barriers and habitats for aquatic animals. First Ate Pre told us the importance of each marine ecosystem. Ate Carm was the second speaker, she was the one who told us about the different kinds of marine conservation associations, the cleanliness of marine life, as well as the different kinds of dangerous sea creatures found underwater.
The associations I remembered the most from her discussions were Sea Camp, People and the Sea, Coral Cay Conservation, Earthing PH and C3. It was nice to know that young people like me can contribute a lot to protect marine life by practicing the 3R’s, Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. I felt encouraged to do these things and to be a part of some youth campaigns. The different kinds of dangerous sea creatures I learned from Ate Carm were box jellyfishes, fire corals, sea snakes, stonefishes, sharks, sea urchins, cone snails, lion fishes, and blue-ringed octupuses.
We started changing to our swimming attire, after Ate Carm told us about the dangerous sea creatures. I saw everyone was very excited to go into the water, but the caretakers of the island first demonstrated to us how to wear the goggles and the snorkel properly. Everyone had to try their snorkel pieces on and go underwater to see if it works properly in them. After several demonstration, we started snorkeling. We started to swim around to see the different beautiful kinds of corals. I really cant tell the color of each one because its pretty blurred underwater. The corals I saw would be branching, encrusting, massive and submassive corals. Shortly, the caretakers of the island taught us how to plant a coral underwater.
This is the challenging part because here, you have to hold your breath for a good 20-30 seconds to tie the bottom part of the coral that you’d be planting on top of another coral. Its quite hard for me to tie the bottom because I wasnt good enough at controlling the coral from falling. I tried tying but I failed so the guy guiding me, continued to tie it better. Few moments later, I was going to tie the upper part of the coral. It was piece of cake for me because the coral was been tied at the bottom and I can have more control. All I have to do was hold my breath and tie the coral properly. I was able to hold my breath for 20 seconds underwater and I was in hurry to tie up the coral.
After each one of us tried planting a coral, the elder leaders let us explore more corals and other sea creatures. While I was snorkeling around, I saw different kinds of dangerous sea creatures such as crown of thorns, fire corals, and sea snake. I was very glad that I had the chance to see these kinds of things. I was very happy to see different sea creatures and seeing the physical structure of each corals.
Few hours after snorkeling, we prepared our dinner and cleaned ourselves. We helped Ate Angelica (Belarmino) to prepare our dinner. Our dinner was fried bangus, salted egg with tomatoes and fish soup. Everyone ate peacefully. After we ate our dinner, we helped them fix and clean the dishes and prepare the food we would need for the camp fire. We had marshmallows and hotdogs. We made a camp fire out of charcoal and twigs. We gave each of one a stick so they can roast their marshmallows while having a conversation. After a few moment, we have started the conversation. We asked about their beliefs, lifestyle, and how they handle the people who discriminates them.
We sat back and listened to the Aetas stories. I didn’t know indigenous people like the Aetas experienced a lot of discrimination. When I heard their stories, it was very painful to hear that everyone was just making fun of them, taking advantage of them, kicking them out of the place, laughing at them, and being belittled by our fellow filipinos. The story that I couldn’t forget about them was when they were waiting for a jeepney and no one else seemed to stop by in front of them and let them ride in. One jeepney stopped in front of them but the driver only did that to laugh right into their faces. I don’t how to feel about this but I hoped that driver had a little conscience of what he did but thank God one jeepney stopped by in front of them and let the Aetas The Aetas were trying to pay the driver but then he refuses to get it and told them it was fine and they can have a free ride.
December 3rd was the second day of our trip. We woke up at around 5 am. We prepared ourselves and greeted each other a good morning. We took pictures after we fixed ourselves and the tents we slept on last night. Everyone was taking so much pictures. Everyone was enjoying the perfect view of the sunrise. Ate Angelica (Belarmino) took a “silhouette” picture of us and while she was taking the picture, we watched the sun as it rises. Few moments after, we started helping Ate Jarrah (Brillantes) and Ate Angelica (Belarmino) to prepare our food. Our food was hotdog with egg and fish. It was delicious and fulfilling. After we eat our food, we fixed our stuffs and got ready to go to our next destination which is, JBLFMU Mangrove Sanctuary.
We arrived at JBLFMU Mangrove Sanctuary at 11:45 am. The place was very nice and the surroundings is clean. We checked the place out, roam around, and got amazed because of its nice view. Shortly, someone told us that there were bike riding at that sanctuary and then Ate Jarrah (Brillantes) asked us if we want to go bike riding and we excitedly said yes. One of the staff of the JBLFMU Mangrove sanctuary explained to us what are the resorts we can find inside the sanctuary. We could find Villa Corazon and Villa Igang there. You can cliff dive, do swimming, and snorkel.
After that introduction, one of the staff of the sanctuary brought out the bikes and let each one of us have one bike. Sadly, Ate Sher, Tita Beth, Micaella and I didn’t have any bike. The rest that had their bikes moved along and biked around. While the four of us (Ate Sher, Tita Beth, Micaella and I) rode in the tricycle and followed them ahead. The road was rocky so it turned out that we were bouncing up and down and there was this one time I bumped my head and like laugh like a crazy person and I was at the back of the tricycle driver. We first checked out Villa Corazon. That place was absolutely perfect. The sand was very fine and white, the view of the sea was perfect, and the water was so clear that you could see the coral reefs underwater.
Everyone had a great time especially when we were biking. Since Ate Carm wasn’t using her bike, I borrowed it and went around the place. Exploring the sanctuary was one of my favorite part on this trip. I was biking when I saw Jeany biking around alone so I decided to go with her and and explore the place even more. Then I saw Micaella so I joined them and we just really bonded together. It was really fun hanging out with them because you get to know them much more and you really get so close to them and it gave me this feeling that I don’t want this day to end.
Riz Angele Mirabel Villanueva Heru