By Nikky F. Necessario

Ever heard of the term ‘Wala-Usik’? Wala-Usik in Hiligaynon means zero-waste or nothing is wasted. The Bulata National High School (BNHS) in Cauayan, Negros Occidental started practicing it to minimize the plastic wastes that pollute the ocean.

After attending an Adult Summer Camp on Danjugan Island, Bulata, Negros Occidental, BNHS principal, Eiggy Duller Yap, brainstormed with his faculty members to think of a movement that would minimize plastic consumption in their school. Yap saw from the presentation of the Philippine Reef Rainforest Conservation Foundation Incorporated (PRRCFI) how polluted the seas are and how pollution destroys the marine life, and it turned out that plastics are the main culprit for such problem.

Several planning sessions and conference were organized school-wide to look into the environmental problems that can be addressed, especially plastic consumption. The meeting led to implementing a ban on plastics and to use instead biodegradable utensils that are made from bamboo, coconut, and banana leaves. Considering that agriculture is the backbone of Negros Occidental, said materials can be locally sourced. Barangay Bulata in Cauayan, Negros Occidental has good soil fertility where they could grow abundantly.

In a memorandum of agreement signed between BNHS and the farmer-owners, all the materials for the school’s wala-usik movement are provided free.

Moreover, BNHS faculty and staff established a cooperative to help fund the small canteen to support the zero-waste program. Yap mentioned that they also get fund assistance from Department of Education-Division of Negros Occidental.

Through the Wala-Usik canteen, the students feel happy because it enables them to help save Mother Earth. The teachers likewise feel satisfied knowing that the values they’ve been teaching in classrooms, such as taking care of the planet, are being practiced by their students. The parents, however, were also invited to make the utensils themselves, which could give them an alternative source of income.

“This advocacy is the start of taking the challenge of preparing them (the students) for a better future,” said Yap. As the school’s principal, he hopes that this experience in BNHS would eventually become a habit for the students. He looks forward to seeing the moment when the youth would share and practice a zero-waste lifestyle, and that would make them realize that the world is a bountiful place, not only for humans, but for marine life as well.

BNHS has also signed MOAs with their municipal mayor John Rey D. Tabujara, the Barangay Council, PPRCFI, and Brgy. Bulata Cooperative Association. The project is also supported by the Association of Negros Artists, the Teachers’ League Association, and DepEd-Negros Occidental Division. The wala-usik project inspired the Brgy. Council to initiate a plastic clean-up drive held last month.