Paddle for the Planet is an annual global wave of action of water-craft enthusiasts and marine conservation advocates. Every first week of June, paddlers from all of the world paddle together to send a message of protecting our oceans from threats. This event is a relay as volunteers around the globe paddle sequentially in their respective time zones on the same date. This year, the Paddle for the Planet was done last June 2, 2018 and a small group of advocates joined the paddling activity in Seagrove Mactan, Punta Engano, Mactan Island and organized by our very own master of water-crafts, Island Buzz Philippines.
I was really happy to have received an invite from Island Buzz Philippines to join this year's Paddle for the Planet. It was a small group invite to paddlers and ocean lovers in Cebu City. I am humbled to have been recognized as one of the paddlers here in the island of Mactan after having paddled with Island Buzz a few times and then emerging as the first place for a novice category race in 2016.
Our event started with a brief orientation of the activity and an overview of this site. Before everyone headed into the water, there were photo ops under the drizzling skies but we were simply excited to paddle the waters. One important thing before paddling though is that our muscles have to be conditioned and warmed up for this activity. Our stretching and warm up exercises were led by Teacher Jonathan, a long distance runner, paddler, boxing and yoga instructor, and a personal fitness trainer.
The first batch took off either in stand-up paddle boards or in kayaks to explore the green waters of this mangrove forest. Seagrove is an upcoming seafront attraction in Mactan Island. It is currently being developed to become a coastal boardwalk and network of lagoons right in front of Punta Engano's mangrove forests. The project is currently under the development stage and there is no public access to the site. We have, however, been granted this opportunity to have a peek of the future boardwalk location as Seagrove is one of the organizers and sponsor of the Paddle for the Planet 2018.
Paddle for the Planet is a non-profit organization that initiated a movement uniting paddlers and ocean lovers for conservation. Their signature event is the Annual Global Paddling Relay to which we have become participants of in 2016 and in this recent 2018 relay.
Where do all these rubbish come from? Majority of marine debris are plastic materials that have been disposed by consumers. They do not necessarily get dumped into the water first-hand but because of its light weight, they are easily blown into rivers and oceans. Wind and ocean currents take these plastics into coves and mangrove forests where they get stuck on shores and branches of marine trees.
Sadly, most of these plastic wastes are single-use plastics which we freely discard because they do not seem like they could serve us any more purpose. Even worse is the idea that it takes so much in order to produce this plastic which will only serve you very momentarily, therefore there is more carbon footprint involved. Our dependence on single-use plastic is the kind of twisted mentality that we should breakaway from if we want lasting changes. Reduction of our plastic waste production is not a one time thing. It requires attitude and lifestyle change.
Island Buzz Philippines is a paddle tours and adventure company that is currently based in Newtown Beach Mactan. If you want to try stand-up paddling, kayaking, and outrigger canoe in Cebu and surrounding seas, then they are the ones you need to get in touch with. Island Buzz also makes their own water-crafts including an on-going project of a 6-man ocean canoe that was based on the designs of dug up ocean canoes in Pacific islands. If you prefer the slower, safer side of water adventures, then you can also try their Alcyone Stand-up Paddleboards proudly made in Cebu. These boards come in different sizes, and thus levels, starting from the large but stable Mango Float, to the slimmer and more hydro-dynamic Tikarol, Visayan word for kingfisher.
Mangrove forest is a marine habitat that is easily distinguished because of the presence of coastal or brackish shrubs or trees. They thrive in the coasts of tropical regions and serve many different purposes. Mangroves have elevated roots that allow them to break water currents and also provide habitat for small fishes and other marine organisms. These trees are also strong enough to withstand extreme weather and are able to provide a natural wall against storm surges and tall waves before they cause damage to coastal communities. In the long term, mangroves are actually good sequesters of carbon so they play a significant role in reducing the carbon concentrations in our atmosphere and mitigate the continuously growing impact of climate change.
Shown in this photo is Buzzy of Island Buzz Philippines. I may not be a full-time paddler but every time I meet him, he would always share stories of the outdoors, of our rich culture and history, of our seas, and of his future expedition plans. Far from being a businessman who makes and sells paddle boards, this guy here has always shown how adventure and skills can be used to connect to our grassroots and traditions. You might have noticed him holding this lovely calcareous shell of a Cassidae, or helmet shell. He uses it to make howling sounds that is amplified by the spiral internal walls of the shell, producing loud calling sounds Pacific-islander style!
Paddle for the Planet is an annual paddling relay all over the globe and though we might have spent half a day fishing rubbish out of the water, the real solution lies in making lifestyle changes. Be part of the solution by refusing single-use plastics, bringing your own reusable bags to the groceries, using metal or bamboo straws in place of plastic straws, and using silverware instead of plastic cutlery.
Remember, if we want to make a difference, we need an attitude and lifestyle change!