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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi

    This project sounds great. Is the project still running? Do they need volunteers?

    I am volunteering at the Ocean-Action Research Centre in Silago at the moment and my placement ends on around the 23rd June. I would love to volunteer on Project 7 if possible. Do you have the contact details for Project 7? I have looked online but can't find any further information. Project 7 was suggested to me through LaMaVe.

    Thanks a lot