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Davao City, Philippines


October 19, 2019 - Saturday 6:10 PM by MDM

Article Banner Image CATCH THAT WAVE. Benedict Palero has been riding the waves of Bonguyan since his childhood. He also teaches swimming and surfing alongside ocean conservation. DR HEED

Believe it or not, a community of surfers has been riding the waves in Bonguyan Times Beach for some years now. There was even a surfing competition there: dubbed Surf in the City, it was held in 2014 despite the water still being littered with broken beer bottles, junk food wrappers, floating baby diapers, and many more.

Davaoeños have not gone to Bonguyan Beach to swim or surf in a long time. And the reason is clear: it is far from being a clean and relaxing spot for sea-lovers.

VAST PLAYGROUND. Bern Sampaga often practices at Bonguyan Beach to prepare himself for the surfing competitions he joins almost every year. DR. HEED

Over the years Davaoeños have tried to make the most of even a bad situation: with the sound of strong waves crashing on the shore as background, Bonguyan Times Beach became a haven primarily for the night life, with the frolic happening not on the water but inside karaoke bars and drinking spots.

Surfer Benedict Palero recalls what growing up alongside the beach was like. As young children, he and his friends were used to seeing dead animals swimming with them in the water.

“Naa man guy mga uban maanod na kahoy na naay lansang, naay mga bildo. Hugaw gyud kaayo,” he said.

(At times splinters of wood with protruding nails would be washed ashore, along with shards of glass. It’s really dirty.)

BONGUYAN BEACH. Tim Recede glides on the waves of Bonguyan Beach. DR. HEED

It was when the right people found the waves and actually rode them that Bonguyan Beach became a surfing spot in the heart of Davao City. And as surfers and enthusiasts began to frequent the beach, Benedict and a few concerned friends began to think of ways to clean it of man-made pollution.

One friend, Tim Recede, said they realized that it was a pity the beach was literally being put to waste. “Mao to nakahuna-huna mi nga why not atoa ning limpyohan diri kay kung wala may musugod, wala gyud syay sugdanan,” he said.

(That’s why we came up with a plan to clean this place because if no one will start it, then no one will.)

In June 2019, Tim and Cami Recede spearheaded a beach clean-up movement every Sunday at Bonguyan Times Beach, Matina. The Mirror joined the clean-up one Sunday to document their day.

STUDENT VOLUNTEERS. Ateneo de Davao High School basketball varsities not only excel in sports but also have a heart for ocean conservation. DR HEED

Starting at 8:00 a.m., volunteers picked up different kinds of trash from the shore. In between swimming and catching waves, local kids also joined in.

The trash collected were plastic bags and sachets of all kinds, empty sacks of rice, diapers, plastic bottles, and many more.

After collecting them in trash bags, volunteers huddled around the sorting area and segregated the trash by decomposition. They used thick gardening gloves as a safety measure.

Afterwards, the group celebrated their hard work with a boodle fight lunch. The volunteers from Ateneo de Davao High School basketball varsity team especially enjoyed this part after carrying heavy sacks of trash across the beach.

A series of clean-ups followed afterward that day. On September 21, more volunteers came armed and ready to take on the trash of Bonguyan Beach in celebration of World Clean Up Day.

Volunteers included representatives from National Clean Up Day Coalition Philippines, Joe Green, TikiTam, Dr.HEED, Bantay Dagat, HP Ventures Inc., SSS Davao, Awesome OS, City Government of Davao, DENR Davao, and CENRO Davao City.

SEGREGATION. Volunteers sort the gathered trash into their respective groups. DR HEED

Recede, who co-founded Dr. HEED, said he knows that the pollution problem cannot be solved with just a series of clean-ups. However, they persevered with the advocacy as a learning experience and an awareness-drive for Davaoeños, especially in the coastal community of Bonguyan.

“Gibuhat pud namo ni na ma-remind mi nga kita ra gihapon ang naglabay anang [basura],” said Tim.

(It’s important to be reminded that we are the ones who throw the trash in the first place.)

As part of the movement, Benedict also teaches surfing and swimming at the beach in the hopes that cultivating love for the ocean will push its preservation.

“Mao ni among gisugdan ang local initiative na clean-up movement para limpyuhan ning bongguyan ug ibalik siya kung unsa sya kanindot sauna,” he said.

(The reason for starting this local initiative of clean-up movement is to turn Bonguyan back to how beautiful it was before.)

NOT FOR MEN ONLY. Cami Recede surfs in Bonguyan Beach during her free time. Cami and her husband Tim make the beach of Bonguyan tidier through their beach clean-up initiative during Sundays. DR. HEED

However, the City Government of Davao’s efforts of solving the traffic crisis of the city will affect the coastal areas, including Bonguyan.

Even with mixed feelings about the incoming change, they agree that it is a big sacrifice for city surfers and for the coastal community, all in the name of progress and development.

In honor of the surf spot, Surf in the City surfing competition held its One More Ride last August 4.

Surfers came together to celebrate Bonguyan beach and its favorable waves, no matter if it brought a lot of interesting trash along the way. For one, it was a simple spot where people grew to love and preserve the ocean more.

Bonguyan might not be the same, but the people of Davao City have already made a difference by cleaning its waters.

VOLUNTEERS BY THE BEACH. The beach may not be totally trash-free but that doesn’t stop volunteers from taking action. DR HEED