For locals who live in top destinations like Siargao, tourism can be a double-edged sword in Siargao. “[Tourism] created more jobs and gave more people access to basic needs, but increasingly at a cost that no amount of beach clean-ups will be able to solve in the future — if we all don’t act faster.” said Abe Tolentino, president of the Siargao Tourism Operators Association (STOA), in a 2018 article published in Smile.
But act fast, they did. Not only are the businesses in Siargao committed to sustainability in the midst of a tourist boom, but grassroots organizations have also taken up the call — and are taking in volunteers (like you!) to help keep the island one of the best in the world.
People who spend a great deal of time in nature almost certainly become its greatest stewards, and Marja Abad, founder of the Siargao Environmental Awareness Movement (SEA Movement), thinks that ought to be everyone. SEA Movement relies 100% on volunteers — both people who call the island home and those who love it as a paradisiacal playground.
SEA Movement currently runs three major initiatives, all of which could use your help: Her Planet Earth for the Women of Siargao, which trains women from the communities to make bags and other items from recyclable materials gathered from the sea; Plastic Battle Campaign, a campaign to convince business owners to shun plastic water bottles and adopt more sustainable alternatives; and an awareness campaign to create localized educational materials about solid waste management.
SEA Movement does take in donations — particularly for the upcycling program — but is always looking for volunteers to help with its initiatives. For more information, visit seamovement.ph.
Nature Kids of Siargao
This unique program run by the Siargao Recycling Art Studio takes beach waste and trains kids to turn them into handmade treasures. On your next walk down the beach, take a bag to pick up styrofoam, glass and HDPE plastic bottles, and take the down to the studio (make sure they’ve been cleaned!) — you can either trade these in using the studio’s Pay With Plastic program, or donate these for the classes to turn into everything from art projects to pillows and bean bags. Visit them at either Nature Kids of Siargao or the Siargao Recycling Art Studio Facebook pages.
Juan Effect in Siargao
Cebu Pacific, in cooperation with the Department of Tourism, launched its Juan Effect campaign on the premise that everyone has a role to play in sustainable tourism — the carrier that services the route, the tourists that flood the destination, the local communities and government — and that even the smallest acts, such as traveling with a refillable water bottle or a reusable shopping tote, contribute a world of good. The campaign rolled out in Siargao, its pilot location, in February this year — you’ll see it in the murals enjoining everyone to do their bit, and in the dedicated bins of segregated waste all over General Luna. To find out more about the initiative and how you can make a pledge to sustainable tourism, visit juaneffect.com.