Protector of Aloguinsan waters
Angelito Eks, a fisherman, would trade his nets on some days to ferry and tour visitors across the Bojo River in Aloguinsan, Cebu. He takes both jobs as opportunities to share his passion for environment protection.
Eks, a high school graduate, has been fishing since he was seven years old, tagging along with his father who is also a fisherman. Unaware of the importance of environment protection, the 43 year-old father of three engaged in illegal fishing in the past.
For several years now, after orientations made by government agencies on the significance of marine life, Eks had stopped engaging in illegal fishing and supported the Aloguinsan government’s move of turning the Bojo River into an ecotourism destination in their municipality.
“Sa una, amoang bungkagon ang mga corals aron makakuha mi og daghang isda. Diay to, kami ra ang nagda-ot sa among panginabuhi isip mga mangingisda. Karon, kabalo nami nga dili angay hilabtan ang mga corals og mangroves nga maoy kwa-an og pagkaon sa mga isda ug mga alimango (Before, we used to tear down corals in the hope of catching more fish. By doing so, we ruined our livelihood as fishermen. Now, we are aware that we should not destroy corals and mangroves that are sources of food for fish and crabs),” Eks said.
His drive along with other fishermen to protect the seas contributed to his election as committee chairman for environment protection of the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS), an organization of 52 fishermen who pledged to protect the Bojo River—home to diverse marine life, 96 species of trees, including 14 mangrove species, and 71 bird species.
BAETAS, inspired by the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo program of the Cebu provincial government, manages the ecotourism industry of Bojo River. It was registered in 2009.
As chairman for environment protection, Elks, together with seven members, educates the community on the effects of illegal hunting, illegal logging, and illegal fishing.
“Pag-una, lisud kaayo ang pagpasabot sa mga tawo. Apan sa kadugayan, nakabalo na sila sa ka-importante sa pag-atiman sa atong palibot (At first, it was difficult to make people understand, but eventually they realized the importance of taking care of our environment),” Eks said.
To ensure no illegal fishing activities and thrash-throwing in the seawaters of the town, Elks and his men make rounds around the Bojo River.
“Angay namong ampingan ang Bojo River dili lang alang kanato pero alang usab sa sunod nga generasyon. Usa pud, maka-ginansya mi sa ecotourism sa Bojo River. Daku kaayo ni og tabang sa among pamilya (We need to take care of the Bojo River not just for us, but also for the sake of the future generation. Also, we earn from the ecotourism of the Bojo River. This is a big help to our families),” he explained.
Eks is among the 18 tour guides sharing shifts rowing a bangka and showing tourists the beauty of the river, pointing out mangroves and birds as well as the native tree species planted by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. Part of the tour is a mangrove ecology and bird wildlife lecture wherein tour guides name wildlife species and their scientific names to tourists.
Also, Eks has his hands full as he chairs the Bojo Fishermen Association (BFA) since 2008. During his term, BFA was registered as a legal organization and strengthened the group of 40 member fishermen. Working as a group, they seek financial assistance from the government and nongovernemnt organizations to improve their fishing implements.
“Ang panagat sama ra sa mang-uma. Seasonal ang panagat. Mao daku akong pasalamat sa atong gobyerno sa pag-develop sa Bojo River isip usa ka ecotourism destination. Ang pag-tour guide nakahatag nako og alternative income (Fishing is like farming. It is seasonal. This is why I have deep gratitude to our government for developing the Bojo River as an ecotourism destination. I earn alternative income as a tour guide),” Eks said.
When not boating and touring visitors or monitoring the Bojo River or meeting his group or committee members, Eks could be seen fishing to supplement his income and spending time with his family. /contributed by Nancy R. Cudis/Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.
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