Before our outreach to the Aeta community in Sitio Lumibao, Zambales, our team of Project Lingap volunteers spent a night at Greenspace in Liwliwa. This artist’s hub in the town of San Felipe is a safe space for discourse and action, and is the community’s partner in inspiring social responsibility.
Upon our arrival on March 29, we were welcomed by Ms. Karr Cotamora, who owns and manages Greenspace. Before setting up camp, she told us more about their humble home. See, Greenspace not only fosters creativity; it also encourages responsible tourism. During our brief stay, we were to do everything to respect the space we were visiting. We were told to properly segregate our waste, to be responsible for our belongings, and to respect other guests.
Inside the property were cottages and free spaces to set up tents and hang hammocks. A mural interpreting our national anthem welcomed us as well. Our team settled near the beach. The next day, we were to conduct a beach cleanup with the Greenspace team.
We set off at around 8:30 in the morning. During our huddle, Ms. Karr explained the purpose of our activity, which is not just to clean up the beach, but also to observe the behavior of the tourists and see what we can take away from the experience. As one of the few proactive and, in Millennial speak, ‘woke’ spaces in town, Greenspace recognizes its role and responsibility in protecting the environment and educating the town’s many visitors.
We were a team of more or less 20 people, including Ms. Karr, Ms. Nicai Suyon who also documented the activity, her daughter Hailey, Project Lingap participants, and a couple of other guests. We walked from Greenspace to almost the end of the beach. During our cleanup, we stayed closer together to create impact and hopefully encourage others to join us.
Under the scorching heat of the sun and amidst the burning sand, we found all types of trash, from candy wrappers to diapers, cigarette butts to beer bottles. We saw freshly abandoned food containers that would not have been too difficult to pick up and throw in the bin. At the end of our one-hour cleanup activity, we had collected seven large bags of trash.
As we conducted our cleanup, the beach was buzzing with other activities. There were friends snapping for the ‘gram, families bonding over food and drinks, tourists swimming and surfing, and others lounging about. We had a few people hand us their trash. We had a lot throw us curious glances, although no one joined us.
As we dropped off our collection to be weighed and picked up for proper disposal, we had a short processing of the activity led by Ms. Karr. While no other tourists joined our group, we took it as a positive sign that we got the attention of some people. In my case, I shared how I think some tourists only need to be reminded of the right thing to do. They may not be leaders but may be excellent followers if they see a good example to emulate. Quite optimistic, but I certainly hope that was what we were able to provide that morning.
I’d like to think inspiring responsible tourism is not a lost cause and that sustainable development is not a myth for us Filipinos. As more beautiful pieces of paradise are discovered in our country, the more we clamor for their protection by the local and national government. But this call of ours needs to be paired with our very own actions – like the simple pocketing of waste instead of mindless littering or opting for reusable containers instead of single-use plastics. We can’t demand accountability from others and expect none from ourselves.
Lastly, educate, not hate. Encourage, not judge. Invite, not alienate. We are all capable of doing good for our environment. No one is above anyone, stainless steel straw or none.