Photo Credit: Greengirl24 via Flickr.

As promised, here is my take on our local International Coastal Cleanup last Saturday. Let the photos tell the story of the challenge of a coast under attack of pollution, the volunteers who made their individual and collective mark on a global challenge, and the coast itself as a part of a natural and manmade landscape.

A Coastline Under Attack

The beautiful Subic Bay coastline, fringed with towering coconut trees and sandy beaches, is also home to commercial establishments as myriad as seashells. Look towards the sunset and you will see a majestic mountain range that seems to beckon adventurers onto its slopes. Alas, against this regal background are evidences of industrial expansion into the bay: shipyards, docks, commercial boats, and visiting navy ships dot the coastline. With all the industrial activity in this place, it is inevitable that they leave behind debris in their wake.

A snapshot of the challenge of coastal pollution. Above, Olongapo’s lush green mountains tower above a landscape of coastal debris. I saw lots of foam pieces, broken branches, and plastic bags whose harsh artificial colors pop out against the calm grey of the beach. Also, some of my unique finds: a single styrofoam cup floating near the shore, a leg of bamboo furniture (popular local furniture), and a truly bizarre sight – a decapitated chicken head.

A Commitment to an Environmental Cause

In line with its commitment to promoting environmental health, the Lighthouse Marina Resort once again spearheaded the Shore It Up! program in SBMA for the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Hundreds of volunteers showed up on a drizzly Saturday morning to take part in the coastal cleanup along the boardwalk area and the Lighthouse Jetty.

Faces of the Coastal Cleanup

I enjoyed taking pictures of the volunteers who came for the cleanup. I went solo incognito but a lot of them smiled at me like good friends.

Some even posed for me when I asked, and sometimes when I didn’t.

Clockwise to right: Two boys race each other by dragging their heavy trash bags. A group of teenage girls doesn’t let the wind wipe away the smile from their faces.

Two girl scouts team up to take a half-filled garbage bag to their group. A bureaucrat proves he is not so high-and-mighty to take part in the cleanup.

Clockwise to right: Two playful boys pose for me brandishing their collected debris – bare branches. These volunteers show the world their commitment in action and words. A group of students in blue take a short repose facing the bay after the cleanup. My applause to this woman who leads her team of volunteers as well as totally rocking an outfit – in that weather!

As the cleanup culminated with the trash weigh-in and categorization for the annual ICC data release, the drizzle steadily strengthened into bursts of heavy rain. The volunteers – most of them local students – began the long walk to the Freeport’s gates and back to the city.

Whether a single person or thousands decide to be part of the cleanup, each one leaves a mark behind.

Less than 48 hours later, Olongapo city and neighboring provinces would be battered by the strongest typhoon on the planet this year, super typhoon Usagi. I guess nobody can ever tell if our efforts that damp Saturday morning made a difference, for the damage and disturbance wreaked by the extreme weather event was unprecedented not only in our city but in other parts of the country as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

What remains clear in the aftermath is the increasing need for higher practical and environmental standards in cities living under the shadow of climate change. As a professor I know put it, it is environmental protection and health issues that warrant our attention and roar into our faces today, after all.

While few of us can do anything grand to reverse major environmental issues, all of us can take small but meaningful steps towards a healthier environment.

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