Open Letter to the Limasawa Beach Party Organizers

Posted: June 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

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Dear organizers and willing sponsors of the event,

Hi, hello. I hope you are in a good mood and sober reading this after all the partying you’ve made last weekend in Limasawa. I will not hide the fact that we were shocked, frustrated and angry  to hear of a ‘beach party’ that lasted through the morning –  a week after we made a cleanup in the same island. Look, I do party, drink and socialize and its all too familiar what goes on with this kind of events: loud music, wild atmosphere alcohol and worse the spectacular amount of trash it generates… And that is exactly why we don’t approve of your event in our beloved Limasawa.

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Photo from event sponsor Discover Leyte Society  https://www.facebook.com/discoverleytesociety/

I know it comes at a surprise to hear someone lashing at you in social media and bashing your event. So allow me to introduce myself and hoping I can convince you that I’m no keyboard warrior and that I do care a lot for Limasawa, at least more than you. I’m Lester Glenn Tabada, age 30,  my address is in Poblacion, Bontoc, Southern Leyte just in front of the Municipal Building so you can always visit me there now that its officially my ‘summer’ according to the UP calendar. Yes, I’m a fine arts student from UP-Cebu. I’m a self-proclaimed environmentalist and shark rights activist, but a certified scuba diver, freediver and Eco-diver (we do underwater surveys in these waters). But as a professional I’m a CPA with masters in Public Ad. So I dont really call my self a keyboard warrior, I go outdoors and do things.  I’m also a freelance writer and blogs about my travels, so if you google “Limasawa” chances are you’ll encounter my previous articles and the photos that goes with it. Plot twist: I’m the guy behind the Lapiskamay  wordpress blog.

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This is how we roll in Limasawa. Why party when we have the best waters in the world? (c) Jao Cuyos

Here’s some of my previous articles written about Limasawa over the years (in case u want some ‘research’ from people who’s been there):

Limasawa Island: An Outsider’s Guide to Paradise

LIMASAWA ISLAND & the King of Summer

Limasawa: Island Paradise

                I’ve been in Limasawa countless of times the past few years and it would be an honor to call it a home. Nowadays, I often bring diving friends from Cebu to dive and explore Limasawa and parts Sogod Bay on weekends; did you know that there’s a whale shark watching operation too in Southern Leyte? Nah you’re probably drank and wasted on your weekend parties. I can still remember the old Limasawa just a few  years back where electricity only runs from 5pm to midnight and life was simple; where tourists are few, where beaches are litter free, and people greeting and helping me in exploring the next caves, springs, beaches and many other secrets Limasawa offers. Limasawa was, is and always will be my “Me” place, a place where I could escape depression and recharge from stress. Nowadays, it seems like stress follows me in the island when I see tourists behaving badly in the island. Depressing. But at least we can both agree that waters in Limasawa are amazing.

The similarities, however, end there. You guys organized a huge beach party because you love Limasawa, (to hell with the trash and disturbance you’ll cause in the area). Me and my friends from Sawum do things a lot different. We organized a big underwater and coastal cleanup just the weekend before the party: 30+ divers from Cebu, plus local volunteers, covering three barangays and collected almost 1.5 tons of trash in a single day. It was awesome; you should see our pictures in Facebook. And oh, we finished at 5PM, your party lasted until 5AM the next day. I really do hope that you make good in your promise that you make a cleanup post-party (though I doubt if you can pick the trash that ended up under the waters) and contribute some of the proceeds to the island. Hey, I have an idea can I audit your income statement from your event? I promise I wont be a number Nazi.

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(c) Photos from Mazi Keen of Maze.ph

Which brings me back to my argument, WHY ON EARTH DID YOU CHOOSE LIMASAWA FOR A BEACH PARTY? I dont really care if you’re an outsider of Limasawa or the Southern Leyte, but there are reason why Limasawa is a sacred and special place to us. Now listen..

Limasawa Island is a historical place. I am assuming you took your history lessons well, this was in on our pre-tagay years in elementary. Limasawa is one of the places where Ferdinand Magellan and his Spanish fleet the ‘Armada de Molucca’ visited in his quest for the Spice Island and fortune. Plot twist, the Spice Islands, are actually located in Indonesia so you can blame them when Magellan accidentally discovered the Philippine archipelago. LOL.  This is the island where the first Catholic mass in the country and the whole of Asia was held in March 31, 1521. (Wait, do you still go to mass, dear organizers? It was 5am when the party ended, it was Sunday). Magellan was welcomed by the locals, perhaps the same way today, and stayed for a few days in Limasawa. Like you the party goers Magellan probably went beach bumming and it is actually recorded he and the village king, Rajah Kulambo, were stone-dead drunk with tuba in Limasawa. It was one of the earliest contacts between a Filipino and the Western world, sealed with tuba. And Sandugo. Its easy to say our Philippine History, quite literally, started in Limasawa.

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A detail of Carlos V. Francisco’s First Mass in the Philippines painting

On June 19, 1960, Republic Act No. 2733, called the Limasawa Law. The legislative fiat declared The site in Magallanes, Limasawa Island in the Province of Leyte, where the first Mass in the Philippines was held is hereby declared a national shrine to commemorate the birth of Christianity in the Philippines.

Limasawa Island is a sacred place. This is in connection to the events that happened in the above paragraph. Imagine such a gesture of hospitality and friendship of the Limasawasn of the 16th century would later on lead into three hundred years of colonization. That is because the Spanish used the Catholic religion as an excuse to colonize the archipelago. But that Faith is one of the enduring legacy of the Western world from that period, the same Faith where our culture and traditions are intricately woven up to the present day. It is important to know that Limasawa is a pilgrimage site for Catholics in and around the province. People flock the First Mass Shrine in Magallanes to offer their prayers, especially in summer.

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The First Mass shrine (c) Jundy’s Place

Plot twist, the place of worship and pilgrimage is actually in the very same village of your beach party venue, the Amy Resort in Magallanes – just a few hundred meters away actually. So imagine what would the Limasawans think of a beach party with all the loud music, the unli-alcohol and the good-time-with-careless-abandon that went from evening to sunrise the next morning (a Sunday).  One has to argue if you’ve ever think about the disturbance you’ll cause to the locals or you just simply lack respect and decency. Or probably just too drunk to care.

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Limasawa Island is a marine conservation hotspot. This is the most important argument that I’m going to throw at you, and I would not blame you dear organizers if you’re not aware of this. Limasawa happens to play an important role in the livelihood of the people surrounding Sogod Bay and the nearby islands. Limasawa is covered with world-class reefs that supports growth and security for fishes for them to spawn and regroup. (You guys should see their marine protected area, those reefs are amazing!) And they are not there for beautification. It’s a protected area so that no human activities, especially fishing, would affect the spawning and growth of the fish population. Our MPA in Limasawa, like most in Sogod Bay, is a no-take zone so its really bawal to catch fish in there.  If you look at the Map of Sogod Bay, Limasawa is one of the major components of the complex network of marine protected areas (if you see red buoys floating that’s an MPA) and shallow reefs that ensures survival of the fishes but also the livelihood of our fishermen .

There is currently a global coral bleaching event happening all over the world (Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is severely affected) you know that phenomenon where colourful corals suddenly went ghost-white and soon die. The Philippines is now starting to feel the effects of bleaching and unfortunately two weeks ago my freediving group witnessed bleaching first hand during our underwater cleanup in Mocaboc Island in between Cebu and Bohol. Southern Leyte, amazingly, is spared for now. We cannot afford to lose these reefs.

And here’s a map I made for tourism purposes:

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That is  why people from the universities and conservation are particularly not fond of the trash pollution in our waters. And trash, my dear organizers, are what you inevitably brought to the island.  Again, this is with the assumption that you guys made a cleanup after the party. But goodluck with the ones that gets thrown into the ocean. Plot twist: Limasawa doesn’t have a land fill or garbage treatment facility yet, so thank you for your basura. Plastic plays a vital role in coral bleaching because they increases the carbon footprints that gets trap in our atmosphere and makes our temperatures warmer. Greenhouse effect anybody? With great heat comes devastating bleaching, and you know  lots of dead corals. And I hope I don’t have to remind you what plastic cause to our marine animals.

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Six-pack of beers anyone? party party..

So I hope you understand the anger and frustration for your beach party thing. I know there’s nothing wrong with having a good time with drink and loud music. But there should be a limit to it (til 5Am, wtf), there should be a rightful place to host it and even further research of the venue choosen. The latter part my friends, my dear organizers, is what you clearly lack. You just don’t know Limasawa. The beach beach party is not only misguided and ill-advised, its borderline idiotic. I hope you don’t take offense if we call you out as ‘idiots’ because somehow if you read this letter thoroughly you did make some idiotic things in Limasawa Island.

I hope this is a learning curve for everyone, especially the LGU who approved the event. It does not make sense at all to allow an event that can disturb the locals and increse the trash footprint, then allow people to do some cleanups. We don’t get to see some parties around these places but there are good venues to choose from if you wanted to. The municipal grounds are particularly awesome, we camped there and really enjoyed the sunset view by the baywalk. There are also the covered courts scattered across the island, Triana, Cabulihan, Lusungan and San Agustin to name a few. We just can’t  afford to party  on an actual beach, for Magellan’s sake. But most importantly, legislation wise, we need ordinance to regulate these kind of event. Limasawa is just too beautiful, important and vulnerable to mess up. It is our role, both locals and tourists to preserve the island and maintain its unique island charm. Lets not tolerate the party culture go out of hand, we don’t want any Boracay incident in in here. The real Limasawa lies above and beneath its waters. Lets keep it that way, OK?

And, this is asking too much, but we can we make another cleanup drive next time? Brgy Magallanes need some serious cleanup.

 

Miulbo ang kaspa,

Lester Glenn Tabada

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Comments
  1. judy paz says:

    you are just amazing sir lester. how you able to express your thoughts and actually work what you believe. padayon lang.i hope everything will be resolve in peaceful way. when it comes to nature, everybody should have the same point of view. tinabangay ta ug hinlo and hoping nga di pa kuhaon ang earth nato.

  2. Rosal, Jelian says:

    Hi Lester,
    I really appreciate your concern and love for Limasawa. I must say that it saddens me to know the fact that the Island closed their landfill a few years ago. I’ve been visiting the Island yearly for the past 6 years and I’ve seen how the island progressed, but sadly, it’s inevitable not to leave damage on the place especially some of the tourists and settlers don’t give a damn about the environment. I do really hope that the Mayor can find a solution for the community’s garbage. We trekked along their forests and found foul trash like diapers thrown in the woods. Even the people I know who lived in the Island admittedly said that they just throw their trash anywhere, if not then they burn it- which can also be destructive to the environment. I am from Cebu as well but I treat Limasawa as my second home since I have friends who live there.
    You are not alone with your advocacy in preserving the island, I will do my very best to educate the people there next time I visit the place. Thanks for your clean up drive as well, what a surprise that you collected more than one ton of trash underwater. That was an extreme achievement in protecting the reefs. Kudos and more power to you and to your group.

    All the best,

    Jelian Rosal

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