Ocean Care Movement: Cleaning the Shores of Baler One Step at a Time

“Bayanihan Spirit” prevailed during the recent beach clean by Ocean Care Movement. Photo from OCM Facebook page

Just like a number of popular beach destinations in the country, the coastlines of Baler, Aurora are facing a concern too serious to ignore. While this beach town continues to attract all kinds of visitors from various backgrounds (from seasoned swell seekers to casual vacationers) all over the world, Baler has fallen prey to the unfortunate trappings of burgeoning tourism in a sleepy surfing province. Today, it’s without question that more than the paradise’s pristine charm is under threat due to a considerable measure of negligence. This is the very issue that Ocean Care Movement – Baler (OCM) is tackling head-on with the hopes to spark a strong sense of mindfulness when it comes to putting Mother Nature’s best interests first.

The non-profit organization’s founders Jovanne Faraon and Shan Alejos share what their advocacy is all about: “We wanted to unite the community and plan a collective action to preserve the ocean by starting with raising environmental awareness and developing eco-friendly habits amongst ourselves.” Both women seized the opportunity to effect change in a town that has grown so close to their hearts.

Just like many surfers, Jovanne and Shan found a second-home in the shores of Baler. Originally a Baguio City-native, Shan immediately fell in love with the thrill of catching Baler’s waves and living seaside became a definite eventuality. With a background in Biology, she would also later volunteer with a local non-governmental organization that conducts environment conservation projects in Aurora. Similarly, Baler’s surfing beaches were far too appealing to Jovanne, so much so that she switched addresses soon after she finished her studies. She’s even started a family of her own, stressing that raising a child by the sea is the “best decision” she’s ever made.

As now-residents of Baler, they’ve increasingly observed a depressing sight of floating plastic bags and diapers in the ocean along with cigarette butts and empty glass bottles scattered in the sand. This was a reality they kennly noticed last year that seemed to be heading for the worst if nothing was to be done. This realization spurred them on to make the necessary steps to launch OCM and, early this year, their initial achievements came in the form of a straightforward yet significant call to action.

“After a series of meetings and planning, our first ‘big’ step was to organize a clean-up drive which was overwhelmingly supported by more than 300 residents and tourists: surfers, ocean lovers, students, establishment staff, and owners all came in white shirts and a garbage bag. In a span of an hour, we were able to fill 34 sacks from a two kilometer stretch in Sabang Beach,” share the OCM founders.

For the whole months of March and April, OCM will be leading weekly clean-up drives in anticipation of the uptick in tourism traffic. In fact, on April 5 to 8, the organization will be spearheading Pacific Slide: A Play for a Change Event in celebration of Baler being a surfing haven for 40 years now. “It will be a surf competition for the cause of the movement.

There will also be certain activities such as beach volleyball, Frisbee, and skating. At the same time, we will be incorporating the environmental awareness component of the campaign throughout the event,” stress Jovanne and Shan. OCM closely works with the community which includes town residents, business owners, surfers, and other stakeholders through brainstorming initiatives that ultimately lead towards a cleaner and healthier Baler. With OCM setting a great example, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if more non-profits are built for the care and concern of the country’s beautiful beaches that are at risk as they’ve proved positive change can simply come with sheer drive and commitment.

Like Ocean Care Movement- Baler on Facebook, facebook.com/oceancarebaler/