One of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines, Batanes is known for its pristine natural environment. Travelers come to this archipelagic province at the country’s northernmost part to enjoy the mild weather, the rolling hills dotted with quaint stone huts, and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
But as with any attraction, Batanes’ popularity could also be its downfall. As witnessed first-hand by a Batanes native and Sitel kabarkada, tourism is already posing threats to Batanes’ beauty.
On the morning of February 6, Jose Astudillo, a work-from-home customer service coach at Sitel Baguio and a diving enthusiast, recently organized a cleanup drive at the Port of Basco in Batanes. The idea came to him when he saw a video posted on social media by a friend that showed trash on the sea floor. “As a problem solver myself, I encouraged my fellow free divers to create a movement here in Batanes and clean up our province’s ocean,” Jose said.
When Jose reached six meters underwater, his ears started to hurt. “The pressure was too much and we had to equalize. I reminded myself to stay calm,” Jose shared. Jose and his diver friends swam as deep as 10 meters from the surface.
The group saw a sea floor littered with plastic bottles, face masks, face shields, and other objects. “I was sad seeing [the garbage] because I knew that it was damaging the corals and affecting the fish,” said Jose, who is also an Ivatan, or a native of Batanes.
At the end of the activity, the group filled four sacks of rice with trash from beneath the waters of Basco (A typical rice sack holds 25 kilograms).
Jose is especially proud that this activity was an initiative of his and his friends. “It was purely our initiative and all materials and equipment we used were personal,” he said.
Let’s go on a virtual dive with these photos taken by Jose:
Photos courtesy of Jose Astudillo