In partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) and the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), officers and members of Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) Metro Manila Chapter organized its first Manila Bayside Clean-Up on January 28, 2018.

Humanists, agnostics and religious alike gathered and labored in a show of force to clean up the Manila Bayside of commercial and residential wastes drawn by the current and the northeast monsoon. In attendance were high school students of Miriam College (Quezon City), educators of Upper Bicutan National High School (Taguig City), employees of HealthCare Support (Florida, USA), volunteers from the iVolunteer Philippines, and some families and private individuals of Metro Manila.

During the opening program, HAPI National Events Officer-in-Charge McJarwin Cayacap introduced the volunteers to the virtue of humanism and its embodiment in the nationwide efforts of HAPI as a non-profit organization. A pep talk by HAPI Green Movement National Representative Arturo Alvarez followed, encouraging participation in the chapter’s upcoming environmental projects. To report the present and endangered status of LPPCHEA, wetland worker Romar Porbido discussed how regular clean-ups and cooperation by neighboring communities could help save the mangroves and forests of the area.

LPPCHEA is the first critical habitat to be declared in the Philippines. Covering around 175 hectares of wetland ecosystem, it consists of two islands — Freedom Island and Long Island — with mangroves, ponds, lagoons, mudflats, salt marshes, and mixed beach forest all over. Also recognized as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention because of the critical role it plays in the survival of threatened, restricted-range and congregatory bird species, LPPCHEA hosts around 41 species of migratory birds in the area, with some coming from as far as China, Japan, and Siberia. During migration season (i.e. between the months of August and April each year), the area is transformed into a feeding and resting area for migratory birds making their way to the warmer regions of the globe.

Green Movement is the advocacy arm of HAPI that promotes human welfare and social reforms through small thoughts and doable acts of kindness for the environment. Pegged as one of the major and recurring projects of HAPI Metro Manila Chapter beginning in 2018, Manila Bayside Clean-Up is a quarterly effort that hopes to attract bigger participation by humanists or atheists of the capital.

In spite of the horrible stench and look of the bayside, the volunteers did their best to collect as many trash and non-biodegradable materials as possible from the green algae-covered and near-lifeless shores of Manila Bay. Disappointment and regret were written on the volunteers’ faces as they take breaks and behold the vast sewer-like body of water before them. In a few meters from the clean-up area are thriving mangroves and flowers in bloom — a stark and unfortunate contrast within line of sight.

To be honest, this is something very new. Ever since I was young, I have never been exposed to this kind of environment. I have always had a thought that everything is okay, but as I grow up, my eyes begin to see the real world and I realize that everything is not okay after all. I like that I can help with the clean-up along with friends though we come from a generation of social media and smartphones. We would like to show that our generation can get involved in activities such as this”, says a high school student from Miriam College.

Enjoyable and uplifting. Activities like this help save the environment and uplift one’s self at the same time. This experience brings back memories from when I was doing my master’s degree in Biology and majoring in Conservation Biology. I love being on the field like this, but sadly, we wouldn’t be looking at this site if it weren’t for our own doing. What we throw around comes around”, says an educator from Upper Bicutan National High School.

Capping off the clean-up was a closing ceremony that saw the awarding of Certificates of Participation to all volunteers by HAPI Metro Manila Lead Convener Janice Buenaventura, and a free nature photo-walk-cum-ecotour around the forests and ponds of Freedom Island by the LPPCHEA wetland workers.

Humanism is a sound basis for genuine environmentalism; it prioritizes the mortal life and the ethical responsibilities that come with it. Not only human-centric, humanism also seeks the preservation of all life and takes on the mission to expand the circle — the range of creatures who deserve respect and humane treatment. “Humane-ism” is absolutely among the top principles and priorities of HAPI. Through its Green Movement, HAPI is ever more active in protecting environmental resources and Earth’s fragile ecologies.

McJarwin Cayacap

Article Author
HAPI Metro Manila Member
Web Content Editor
National Events Officer-in-Charge
Coordinator for Foundation Beyond Belief

He’s currently in between careers, so he busies himself with anything that works for the good of humanity. Other than being a humanist, he is a realist, an art aficionado, a frugal foodie and a weary wanderer.