There are many things we human beings do that mean well but often harm the environment. Case in point: beach parties, which are a common occurrence among fun-loving Filipinos, often generate a massive amount of waste materials.
But down at Gumasa Beach in Glan, Sarangani, party-goers troop to this strip of white sand for the Sarangani Bay (SarBay) Festival not just for a tropical merry-making, but also to celebrate and nurture Mother Earth.
Since its inception in 2006, organizers have been stressing the importance of maintaining the cleanliness of the vicinity even as they rock the nights away.
“SarBay is the biggest, cleanest, and brightest beach festival. Year after year we have done so much to work on transforming our environmental advocacy into a culture of responsible tourism,” says Michelle Lopez-Solon, who heads both the tourism councils of Sarangani province and Region 12.
And while environmental protection has been an integral part of the event, she said that organizers introduce innovative means every year to get their message across among SarBay citizens.
This year, Lopez-Solon said, visitors were given cell phone load and freebies in exchange of every trash disposal; popular consumer brands were given the opportunity to promote their environmental advocacy through onsite education. A ban on the use of single-use plastics was also enforced to reduce the volume of non-biodegradable wastes.
“On the shoreline, we had huge installations where visitors took a selfie and placed their trash. Three creative installations were used as disposal bins and became a backdrop of the festival. This is a unique and fun way of how our SarBay citizens keep the environment clean and the beach at its best condition,” she enthused.
To get the youth’s active participation, there were interactive games and a “planet camp,” during which social media was extensively used.
According to the municipal environment resources office of Glan, the garbage collected for the entirety of the event was 48 cubic meters, consisting of 30 percent biodegradable, 30 percent residuals, and 40 percent recyclable—a huge volume which could have gone directly into the sea if not for the round-the-clock cleanup they undertook.
To ensure the cleanliness of the bay, volunteer scuba divers did a “scubasurero” cleanup to pick up rubbish which have settled under water.
The three-day summer event brought together sought-after bands Rocksteddy, 6Cyclemind, Ben & Ben, and This Band, as well as disc jockeys Kouta Kutsuma, Cupcakes, DJ Battle, Tom Taus, and Carlo Atendido. It drew more than 150,000 visitors from all over the country.
Other fringe activities were the 15-km Swim Across the Bay relay, Asia’s most extreme swimming event; and sporting events such as SarBay Strongman, beach volleyball and football, skim boarding, Frisbee, jet ski race, bancathon, mountain bike, skim boarding, and Frisbee tournaments. There were also a series of wellness and recreational activities for the family.
SarBay Fest is a consistent recipient of the annual Pearl Award for the Best Tourism Event from the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines.
“The Provincial Government of Sarangani and the Department of Tourism are committed to inculcate the importance of preserving our seas, and Sarangani Bay will be a benchmark in the implementation of tourism activities which are environment-friendly and family-oriented,” concluded Lopez-Solon.
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