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Jofer Asilum

Year-Prize: The 10th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Connecting People to Nature by rediscovering the value of nature

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The value of culture in reconnecting humanity to nature

Jofer Asilum (Philippines)
Eco-generation Prize

What I learned from my studies in philosophy is that humanity has always been seeking for the meaning of things. From time to time, we look not only for our purpose in this world as humans, but also for the purpose of all things around us. We've seen many of these purposes that we're able to find their connections and contributed to the advancement of our civilizations, be it in the sciences, in the arts, in technology, among others. Unfortunately, this very activity that we've been doing alongside the course of history has led us to proudly see ourselves as the discoverers of the world. This has conditioned us to be entitled as a species causing us to reach the biggest downside of our journey towards development – we're forgetting that we ourselves are integrated with the things whose purposes we're trying to discover.
We've been thinking for our own survival only ignoring to realize that survival's not a one-species journey, but a race of all members of the environment. We've been treating the other members – the plants, the animals, the minerals, as mere "gifts" or objects for us to utilize for our own sake. This conditioned selfish mentality is explicitly showcased in our creation of modern societies. We've constructed huge infrastructures, we've invented so many gadgets, and however, all these have led us to our isolation and ignorance about nature, disconnecting ourselves from it. We've become so disconnected that we've carelessly thrown garbage anywhere, especially plastic which endangered the lives of marine creatures. We've aggressively mined our mountains destroying the habitats of land animals. We've polluted our rivers, lakes, and seas by ignorantly dumping all of our wastes to them. All of these are products of our questionable approach towards progress, development, and survival.
Fortunately, despite these tragic doings of humanity to the environment, we still have witnessed inspiration from the seeds of hope that have sprouted across the globe. These are stories of peoples and communities that stood up upon enlightenment to reconnect humanity to nature.
One of such case is the journey of the fishermen of the coastal communities of Masbate Island's capital town in central Philippines. Just a decade ago, they were among the destroyers of the place's marine resources. They practiced illegal methods of harvesting fish by throwing dynamites to the sea. This caused the coral reefs to be severely damaged. They cannot be entirely blamed for this though, considering that their old view about such was that they just do so to suffice their daily needs. Fishing is one of the largest sources of livelihood in the Philippines, especially of the poorest provinces like Masbate. These fishermen will do everything to fight the horrors of poverty. This has caught the attention of the local government to pass ordinances protecting the marine biodiversity areas of the locality.
The measures included the designation of the former dynamite-fishing grounds of Buntod and Bugsayon Reefs into marine sanctuaries, and an educational campaign on the repercussions of the illegal fishing methods which primarily targeted the dynamite fishermen. Upon thorough education, they were organized to form the Samahan ng mga Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway . The alliance became the sea patrollers of the capital town. They regularly roam around the sea to ensure that there are no more illegal fishing methods being used. Aside from this, they were tapped by the local government to manage the said marine sanctuaries. From being former destroyers of marine life in Masbate, these fishermen became the committed protectors of it.
To replicate the success story, the campaign for the protection of the environment was integrated with the capital town's largest cultural and religious feast, the Lapay Bantigue Festival. The festival showcases the Filipino folk dance Lapay Bantigue that originated from Masbate. It mimics the movements of the local seagulls known as lapay , and is used as a dance for courting and also for worship for good fish harvest of the Bantigue community's patron saint, Saint Filomena. Many participants of the festival would present dance presentations visualizing the negative effects of abusing nature and how it would not encourage Saint Filomena to do miracles on fish harvest. The festival has been showcased in different national cultural exhibitions that it became every Masbateño's source of pride, inculcating to them the lessons on the importance of caring for the environment.
Now, every Masbateño is reminded of the importance of their marine sanctuaries. They see that these areas of marine life are not just accidentally present in their locality. These actually have a purpose in their culture and daily lives.

[1] Literally translated as Alliance of the Fisherfolk of Puro-Sinalikway.

[2] Bantigue is the name of one of the coastal barangays of Masbate’s capital town.


Aaditya Singh

  • Aaditya Singh says :
    Jofer- Great essay wherein you have highlighted our connection with nature through live examples of 'Samahan ng mga Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway' and the integration of Eco conservation with the traditional 'Lapay Bantigue Festival' in Philippines. Appreciate your well illustrated piece of writing.
    Posted 29-07-2017 00:19

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