Monday, February 25, 2013

A Year of Coral Restoration: An Ode to the Sogod Bay Hardineros

Ten months ago, I was sent to Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte to be part of a pilot technology coral restoration project. This was the most challenging job I've ever taken, so far. I was fresh from graduate school, had no experience on coral restoration whatsoever, had less than 30 dives in my log and could not dive without Nong Ben (this big, burly guy who always looked after me in dive trips during my graduate and undergraduate days). I had no idea where Padre Burgos was. The job required me to establish a coral nursery from scratch and plant 10,000 coral fragments inside a marine sanctuary. And to top it all, I will be working with people that I've never met before. So yes, I was shit scared.

My first few shots of P. Burgos
But somehow, Someone made it all work. We found a beautiful cottage right by the beach, just a few meters away from our workplace. The hut was simple: it had a bed, a tiny sink and a bathroom. It wasn't really much, but it became home for almost a year.

Manpower was a huge issue at the beginning of the project. It troubled me. But volunteers started coming in and we began working at an impressive pace.

Four months after the official start of the project, we finished deploying our 40th CNU - which housed the 20,000 coral fragments that will be used for restoration.

Our babies are growing well, thankyouverymuch........
Growing too heavy in the nursery
By the end of February, we will be planting our 10,000th fragment. The last bullet point in our deliverables.

The road wasn't always smooth. Three months into the project, my volunteers were detained and I was called in for questioning at the Police Station. Apparently, some people thought we were collecting corals for illegal trade. Questioned and interrogated for over an hour, I began to understand how things work in local communities and how you can never take politics out of the equation.

Smile while in detention. =)
A month after finishing our nursery, we were hit big time by a typhoon. 38 out of our 40 coral nursery units were damaged. Some were almost irreparable. I was sick to my stomach when I knew. But a few Supermen came and made everything better. They swam, dived, almost drowned their way into moving  every single unit to deeper water.

Over time, I have learned things that I never would have learned if I said "no" to this and chose a comfortable job in the city instead. I understood how precious family time is. I was away from the Energy Ball 4-5 days a week and I learned how to make the most out of my little time with her.

I found the courage to travel alone. Cross seas, go on long bus rides with no one but me. I learned how to ask for help when I needed it. I learned how to smile at people I did not know. I experienced the kindness of many strangers.

And finally, I met people that I will never forget and made friends that I will cherish for a lifetime.

To the Project Staffs and Volunteers of Project 7, my prayer is that you will not stop here. You've been trained, honed for a year on this skill. Make use of it. Share what you've learned and I'll see you on the road again, one of these days.

And before I forget, thank you for making this year one of the best of my life.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Travel Snapshots: Ukay-ukay in Ormoc CIty

Ormoc City is dotted with these stalls. Second-hand clothing. If you look hard enough, you'll find a lot of good quality / branded pieces. Columbia jackets at great condition for 200 pesos, Billabong board shorts at 150, Prada bags at 300, Roxy tees at 35. I could go on and on and on.

If you visit Ormoc, skip the malls for once. Go ukay-ukaying and get a real bang for your buck. =)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cheap Books, Priceless Finds: La Belle Aurore

I have always loved second-hand books. I love the musty smell (yes, what other people find icky, I find charming), the color (coffee stains, molds and all), the dog ears and even the handwritings and dedications made by strangers. This made La Belle Aurore another addition to my happy place. La Belle is a beautiful second-hand book store that's not like any other.

This shop sells used books, but unlike other second-hand bookshops (who pile their books like ukay-ukay), La Belle treats theirs with tender, loving care. The books here take center stage. They are arranged beeeeautifully in wooden floor-to-ceiling shelves with figurines, wine glasses and vintage chandeliers.

Books are insanely cheap. I got a few great finds at 30 PhP and 25 PhP and a large children's book for the Energy Ball at 100 PhP. A steal, right? I can probably spend hours and hours getting lost in this little corner if it weren't for an errand I was running.

La Belle Aurore currently has 2 branches. One in Hernan Cortes Street and one in Junquera Extension near USC-Main.   The place is extra cozy and they're not strict about people staying and reading at all. Just handle them with the same love and care, please.

So for all ye book worms out there, attack!  Happy reading everyone! =)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Weekenders: Boardwalk, Compostela Cebu

After a century, this lazy lady finally had the time to write a second entry to her so-called Weekender series. It's been ages so let me refresh you a little bit on what I wanted (and hopefully, continue) to do. The Weekender Series was created to feature local go-to spots around Cebu - resorts, food spots, etc.

So for my second entry, I give to you this: a very small resort found in the town of Compostela called Boardwalk. It's an hour (or so) drive up north from the city, making it an ideal spot for quick get-aways. The place is relatively laid-back compared to the neighboring towns of Lilo-an and Danao.

The small resort has 4 rooms, 2 cottages for rent and an area just small enough to accomodate a few guests. There's a pool, a small jacuzzi and the grounds are fairly well-maintained - which I really liked. There is no shoreline here so make sure you bring along your aqua shoes or wear some sturdy, non-slip flops (Ispartan!) if you want to explore the rocky beach.

The resort does not have a restaurant, which means bringing your own food is a must. They do however, sell drinks. Boardwalk is located just a few meters away from the market so you can easily walk or take a trike to get the supplies you need. No corkage fees, of course.

This is a good option for families who want to spend a good weekend out without going too far up north to where the real good beaches are - say, like Bantayan or Malapascua. I think this would be an excellent choice for parties and small events. I come here simply because the facilities are good, the shower rooms are clean, the grounds are nice, it's near the house and it's very private.

Entrance fee is 100 Php for adults and 50 PhP for kids (0-6 years old). For overnight stays, there are nice rooms available at 1800 PhP good for 5 people. For an extra head, you need to add 300 PhP. Quite a good deal if you ask me. =)