Friday, 20 April 2012

Photo essay … Parang beach ‘rubbish busters’, by Alfredo P Hernandez

Already, a wide strip of the shoreline has been given a much-needed facelift. A refreshing sight indeed.

I AM TAKING the liberty of giving my self a unique present for my 64th birthday on April 17: the first ever cleanup effort on the beach of Parang in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, Philippines.

It is a refreshing sight to see a long ribbon of sand, this time with less specks of rubbish – a scene unheard of for years until a day before the massive cleanup effort carried out on Black Saturday – April 7.

Finally, after much discussions and seemingly endless arguments of whether or not the beach should really get their attention and the trade mark dilly-dallying among those who had the influence to move others, Mambulaoans finally descended on the rubbish-carpeted beach brandishing rakes, shovels and sacks and some strong guts – they were the “original beach rubbish busters”.

The effort took long in coming for various reasons – time constraints, availability of willing-to-do-it volunteers, logistics, right approach, right weather and right mood. 

Some men dip in the water to retrieve rubbish debris stuck in the mud.

Nevertheless, all this finally jelled on April 7, 2012, with the members of the Jose Panganiban (National) High School Alumni Association emerging as the spearhead under the close supervision of Cathy Book (Batch 84), who headed a committee created to carry out the job.

Eeeeekkkkk ... rubbish everywhere ...

They were all on a cleanup mode under the theme “Pagsagip ng Kalikasan, Kaagapay ang Alumni: JP Bay Area Clean-up Drive”.

The involvement of a number of baranggays and residents in Purok 5 whose households made the beach their rubbish dumping ground and occasional toilet helped a lot in terms of awareness on environment sanitation.

It seemed that when the shoreline neighborhood saw a lot of good-looking gals and guys working the rubbish that were strewn all over the entire stretch of the shore, something kicked them in the ass and decided to send their kids to help out.

It’s just normal for these locals to feel guilty. 

 Children at Baranggay Parang, Purok 5 help out.

They – in more ways than one – had been the major generators of rubbish that ended up in their backyard – the beach itself – and that picking up debris and putting them on the designated receptacles was just a basic gesture of cooperation and a pledge not to spoil the beach again with their household refuse.

And suddenly, the Purok 5 has a wide swatch of playground at its backyards, prodding one alumnus to pledge to the local kids beach volleyball gear for them to fun with every afternoon when the sun starts cooling down.

All is well that ends well.

Community members hard at work during the cleanup.

More marine debris to go …

This time, a cleaner beach to behold.
You may be wondering why the cleanup should be a fitting present to my self on my birthday.

I tell you what: In April 2011, I came home for a brief vacation at our ancestral home in Parang, which is just some 700 meters away from the beach -- the beach of my boyhood; I entered its water many times in my youth and the pristine sand was my witness.

On that particular morning of April 2011 while standing on edge of the Larap road, I was shocked to see for the first time in many, many years that the shoreline has become a virtual rubbish dumping ground. 

 Kids get their reward of sweet-tasting ice candy.

... and pose for a picture after doing their share in the cleanup.

Equally frustrating was the chocolatey color of the bay – a distressing result from indiscriminate gold panning in many places on the outskirts of the poblacion. Gold miners have been dumping their tailings and silt into water tributaries that ended up in the bay.

Overtime, the accumulation of mud-silt at the bottom of the bay became a coloring agent that muddled the bay water every time the action of the sea current stirred up the sea bottoms.

Eight-year-old volunteer Princess Fiona Bustillo with Tres Panganiban of Batch 08 during the Black Saturday beach cleanup.
Returning home that day, I immediately opened a Facebook account called Taga-Jose Panganiban Ka Ba? ( and launched a crusade towards environmental awareness that was aimed at saving the beach and the bay and rehabilitating them to make them good looking again.

Sadly, my appeals were practically ignored. Meanwhile, both humans and the natural action of sea tide – ebbing and rising – conspired to continue dumping rubbish on the shore.

When I launched the online newsletter Mambulaoans Worldwide Buzz, or simply MWBuzz, last November, I suddenly realized I have a unique resource in my hand that could help me pursue my agenda of saving the beach of Parang – and with a potential audience of about 8,000 Mambulaoans worldwide.

The Parang beach “rubbish busters” ready to descend on the beach of Parang for a noble mission of rescuing the shore from environmental pollution.

Alumni association members enjoy an breakfast of native rice cakes before buckling down to a whole day of work at the beach.
For more than five months comprising 11 online editions, MWBuzz carried stories that hammered on the need to clean up the beach for the future generations of Mambulaoans.

I have no idea how many Mambulaoan had read MWBuzz’s 11 editions (the newsletter comes out twice a month), but assuming that there were some who did, they were surely in tune with the brainwaves of the newsletter about doing something to deal with the problem head- on.

Whoever orchestrated the whole affair of saving my beloved beach from worsening rubbish pollution -- he/she is a saint.

The next miracle he/she could do is to sustain the cleanup till every square inch of the beach sand is spotless.

The Black Saturday shoreline event was a success, if not a miracle.

Let’s hope that it is not just flash-in-the-pan enthusiasm – the ningas-cogon flavor -- designed to impress instead of giving a sick sbeach a tender loving caress.

Banner announces a beach cleanup to be carried out by the JPNHS Alumni Association on Saturday, April 7, 2012

A wide swatch of the shoreline has been rescued from tons of community rubbish, thanks to the joint efforts among various groups in Mambulao led by the JPNHS. - All above pictures courtesy of Cathy Book, JPNHS Alumni Association

     The beach just a day before the April 7 cleanup. - MWBuzzpic by Arnel P Hernandez

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