Clean, fresh water has always been a precious resource. This fact has been highlighted in the last few years. Today, the news is full of droughts around the world. Water used to be easy to take for granted because it was abundant, but the combination of pollution and the changing climate has made it more valuable than ever.
The Wake-up Call
During the pandemic of 2020, heavy monsoon rains in August flushed the waterways that led into the lake, expelling an incredible amount of trash all in one go. The lake looked like a garbage dump with Taal Volcano as the backdrop. Witnessing this led concerned citizens to take concrete action.
Nelson Terrible grew up in Talisay, Batangas. He loves his hometown and its natural beauty, so much so that he put up a 12 hectare, 224 room resort in his hometown called Club Balai Isabel. He always wished he could spend more time and effort on helping to solve the solid waste management issues of the town, because he saw that school visits and cleanups were not effective. Due to the size of his business, he had to manage the solid waste of the resort, knowing that the local government would not be overwhelmed with the amount of waste the business generates.
The time felt right to try a different approach: ask his community for help.
Knowing in very concrete terms how much of impact segregation makes on his waste management in the resort, he felt strongly about the benefits of doing it at the town level. Seeing the amount of trash that got flushed into the lake became the catalyst for Talisenyos to work together for solutions.
The support from the local government was a significant boost, especially since Mayor Nestor D. Natanauan is one of the founding members of SATALA, he actively participated in the meetings and took action even before he got elected. SATALA is also fully supported by Hermilando “DoDo” I. Mandanas, Governor of the Province of Batangas. It was also adopted by Batangas Forum, an association of esteemed businessmen and professionals in the Province of Batangas. The involvement of various communities within the community of Talisay is the driving force behind SaTaLa. These include organizations and groups such as the Kabalikat Civic Responders, Taal Lake Aquaculture Alliance Inc., Christians Along Talisay Shoreline, Iglesia ni Cristo, Talisay DepEd, Parent-Teacher Association, LGBTQA+ group of Talisay, Sampaloc Talisay Producers Cooperative, TAUSA (Talisay- US Association), Knights of Colombus, Tanauan City Lions Club, and more have joined up.
The first project of SaTaLa was Pera Sa Basura, a program that gives the community an incentive to segregate waste. Segregated waste is in turn bought by a few different junk dealers. As a result of this project, the LGU has reported a reduction of dump truck loads of trash per week from 7 to 2. By any standards, this is significant, and an important milestone in the efforts of the organization.
Ampon baybay lawa at ilog, and tree planting, on the other hand, are projects that have arisen from voluntary stewardship of these public areas. Civic groups, private companies, and other organizations have adopted and cared for shores along the lake and other waterways.
After the eruption of Taal Volcano in early 2020, tourism in terms of boat rides and hikes up to the crater have of course been stopped, resulting in a loss of income for a lot of the boatmen. Inspired by the wonderful program in Puerto Princesa where tricycle drivers are also trained and accredited tour guides, Talisenyos hope to implement a similar tourism program around the lake by identifying points of interest, a network of stops, and tour guide training for qualified boatmen.
SaTaLa is also working with the Sampaloc Talisay Producers Cooperative to promote local products sourced from the lake such as bangus in corn oil, marinated bangus, and more in the works.
Another project that SaTaLa is working on is gathering historical and current data about the lake, in order to understand its needs better. The group has been in contact with Batangas State University as well as other research groups about the need for more data. Accurate scientific data is key to understanding the nature of the problem and measuring the impact of efforts from groups like SaTaLa.
More and more people, businesses, groups, and companies are excited about participating. SaTaLa has had a lot of offers of support, but they politely decline any cash donations.
“We need people on the ground, we need them to do the work,” says Nelson. “If they want to donate trash cans, they have to purchase the trash cans, deliver them, and help with the installation. We value participation more than anything.” They know that it’s that personal labor of love that they have put in that is making SaTaLa work so well, and that it has worked without cash being put in.
Everything is purely voluntary. The group brainstorms on how to execute their projects such as Ampon baybay lawa at ilog, and Pera sa Basura, then they sign up their groups to implement them. Corporate sponsors are welcome, but must earn their trust and respect, being aware that this is a community-driven effort that is very personal to the Talisenos.
On October 7 to 9, 2022, SATALA will be holding its first major event: Sagwan para sa Lawa, a dragon boat competition. “SAGWAN: Sagip Taal Lake Dragon Boat Festival” will be hosted by Club Balai Isabel in collaboration with the Philippine Canoe, Kayak & Dragonboat Federation (PCKDF) of the Philippines, R&A Event Specialist, Sagip Taal Lake, and the LGU of Talisay Batangas.
They hope this event will help to create more awareness about the natural beauty of Taal Lake and the human and environmental threats to it, as well as help boost tourism in Talisay, Batangas, and explore an alternative source of income for fishermen whose livelihoods primarily depend on their catch from the lake.