Lessons bigger than waves in SiargaoBy Nico Alconaba
Lessons on caring for the environment undulated like the surfing waves that made Siargao Island a prime tourist destination.
And like the waves that gently reach the shore after carrying surfers to dizzying heights, answers to why it is important to care for Mother Nature slowly but surely touched young minds here.
“We should preserve mangroves,” said Ralph Kim Abarca, 11, one of 100 children who joined the Inquirer Read-Along in Del Carmen town, home to some 8,000 hectares of mangrove forests in Surigao del Norte, on May 19.
Youngsters seemed to have been captivated by stories on the environment told them by Mary Ann Lucille Sering, vice chair of the Commission on Climate Change, that could have had an impact on their minds greater than that which Siargao’s waves have on the island’s tourism industry.
Sering read “EcoDefenders recruit Marine Crusader,” written and produced during the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Sustainable Energy Development Program in 2009. The book has been translated into the local language by the Inquirer’s partner, USAID’s Climate Change and Clean Energy Project (CEnergy).
Sering, a native of Siargao, said “it felt good” to see the children listen to her in the local dialect, Surigaonon. “Maybe they were asking themselves, ‘Who is this white woman speaking Surigaonon?’” said Sering, whose fair skin is uncommon among the people of Siargao.
What’s better, she said, was that the children need not mentally translate what was being read.
The book tells the story of EcoDefenders Switch Ninja, Waste Buster and Water Warrior, who were given super powers by Mother Earth to teach children about energy conservation, solid waste management and water conservation. The EcoDefenders recruited a local girl, Alona, to become a Marine Crusader—protector of the mangroves, fish and ocean.
“It was told in their mother tongue. It was closer to their hearts,” Sering said. “They are now more aware of what they have. They don’t know what they have here.”
Love for Mother Earth
Divina Chingcuangco, chief of party of CEnergy, said the read-along session aimed “to inform, educate and communicate to the younger generation the need to love and protect Mother Earth which provides us rich natural resources.”
Her agency, she said, is providing technical assistance, consultants and experts on agriculture, coastal and marine resources, renewable energy, urban and health and GIS mapping for the natural resource assessment (NRA) of the nine municipalities in Siargao.
The NRA is expected to be completed by September. It will be an input to Siargao’s mitigation and adaptation plans.
Sandra Luz Fernandez, a teacher and reading coordinator of the Department of Education, read another CEnergy book, “R.E. (Renewable Energy) Troopers.”
Aside from the lessons on environmental protection, the children went home with school supplies donated by one of the country’s biggest fast-food companies, Jollibee.
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