by Joshua Ryan Salaveria.
IT HAS BEEN over a year since I first started joining those regular coastal clean-ups in Silliman Beach. The weekend excursions were headed by local advocates led by Sir Gary Rosales of BPI Bayan and the crew of 350.org, an environmental awareness group. Just this Saturday, they celebrated their second anniversary since starting the rehabilitation of the small coast. Their initiatives, other than the normal garbage picking on the coastline, included
planting of mangrove trees, deploying artificial reef domes, and, just recently, conducting a monthly water quality
inspection of the beach and a nearby creek.
One peculiar thing I observed is that considering that the university was blessed to have a beach named after it, here is a lack of movement coming from the university community. During these clean-ups, the number of attendees from Silliman University is always overpowered by other contingents. People then started to ask around, “Where are the Sillimanians?” It’s true that we are considered as an environmentally-conscious university.
We’ve been visited and lauded by several known personalities in the environmental conservation circle, and our researches have contributed a lot to information pools about the flora and fauna—not to mention our conservation projects both for land and marine ecosystems. But let’s go back to the basics. Silliman Beach is right beside one of the most notable marine research centers in Asia, and yet we see bits of dead corals lying on the coastline (often strewn with nylon fishnets). There’s a stench that pervades in some parts of the area. Styrofoam, plastic, and all kinds of non-biodegradable garbage continue to fill sacks every clean-up.
Apparently, the nearby community wasn’t even informed and guided as to how to properly dispose of trash. And those nightly drinking binges by students don’t help either. Recently, I chanced upon a chat with someone from FENOr (Friends of the Environment in Negros Oriental) and she suggested many things for the university to take notice. For example: Are the garbage collected by the BG really segregated? How can we reduce the use of plastic bottles in kiosks around the university? How informed are the students about waste reduction? But for now, it would be nice if we took a second glance at the beach we fondly call our own. I’m pretty sure alumni often feel nostalgic hearing and seeing that place. They’d surely reminisce the good ole’ times when Silliman Beach was the place to hang out, swim, and have fun. Those were the times when the beach didn’t have diapers and slippers floating around.
Silliman Beach is now worse than ever, but we can still get it back to how it once was. We need to take
responsibility of the beach that bears our name and not rely on other sectors to do the job for us. It would require a great initiative from the university community to help rehabilitate Silliman Beach. Just a handful of advocates may not be enough to effectively improve the plight of the beach. But it’s going to be worth it—just so that we could truly mean what we say when we sing, “Where the white sands and the corals kiss the dark, blue southern sea.”