1st underwater pilgrimage launched

THE “1st Underwater Pilgrimage,” which was headed by the Municipality of Bohol, was launched last September 7 and 8, to commemorate Mama Mary’s birthday and to see her statue along with that of Sto. Niño which were submerged in the waters off Bohol.

Situated beneath the waters off Bien Unido, Bohol, two years ago, are two 14-feet statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary or “Mother Mary” and the Holy Child or “Señor Sto. Niño”

The two religious statues serve as symbolic reminders for fishermen to rid away with their destructive and abusive fishing activities like dynamite fishing.

On Friday, September 7, the divers, who boarded their gears from the Hilton wharf, in Lapu-Lapu Mactan, arrived in Bohol for the underwater dive to be held the day after at the Bien Unido Double Barrier Reef Marine Park.

An opening mass was held at the Municipal hall around 10 a.m. which was celebrated by Reverend Father Edgardo Deligero, Bien Unido Parish Priest.

The event was graced by Mayor Nio Rey Boniel followed by a fluvial parade which gathered around 15 boats of different sizes as the community joined in on the festivities. Local fishermen with their families also paraded their “bankas” (traditional fishing boat) along with the official pump boats, headed towards the marked spots where the statues were submerged.

Prayers and flowers were offered to the sea for the Holy Child Jesus, as the crowd wave their hands to the song “Batobalani sa Gugma” (Magnet of Love). The people also cheered and clapped “Happy Birthday” to Mama Mary.

A dive briefing was then held around 3 p.m. to re-orient the participants of the dos and don’ts about the following day’s dive exploration to the statues.

After the Holy mass on Saturday, September 8, the divers prepared their diving equipment as the four pump boats revved up towards the statue spots once again.

The first dive spot was the Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary with a size of 14-feet which was submerged in the depth of approximately 80-feet below water surface. The second dive spot was the Statue of the Holy Child Señor Sto. Niño with a size of 14-feet and was submerged to the depth of approximately 30-feet.

The divers kissed and touched the holy statues as they prayed silently. Underwater photographers documented the scene.

The divers then left the place at 3 p.m. heading back to the yacht club for the sharing of experiences and closing remarks.

In his closing remarks, Jun Amalo, Danajon Bank Project Head Coordinator said, “The gathering was an overwhelming success for the municipality and community, the involved organizations and in the bigger picture, the environment. The municipality was able to build stronger ties with the community as a means to pull everyone together towards environmental protection.”

He said the first Underwater Pilgrimage was a creative way to bring people together for the purpose of promoting eco-friendly tour attractions, to share ideas, interests and advocacies, and simple to learn and experience exploring the deep blue in all its beautiful bounty.

The event was collaborated with the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, Inc. (CCEF); Knight-Stewards of the Sea, Inc.; United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Bohol Yacht Club; Marine Sports and Dive Operators Association (MSBOAT); and SeaKnights.

Other events conducted were community mangrove tour, seaweed farm tour, and other fun activities. <b>Anna Helen Zeta-Yap/Sunnex</b>

USJR students help clean up rivers

ROTC cadets of the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJR), together with Army Reservists from Alpha Battery, 1901st RR Brigade led by Lieutenant Colonel Guy Gabison III joined the Environmental Management Bureau in conducting a cleanup of the Butuanon River in Barangay Casuntingan, Mandaue City last September 22.

The activity was part of the water body cleanup, which was simultaneously held in Butuanon River, Tipolo Creek, Jagobiao Creek, Mandaue City; Hipodromo Creek, Cebu City; Luknay Creek, San Fernando; Guindarohan River, City of Naga; and Pilipog-Gabi River, Lapu-Lapu City.

Local government units (LGUs), businesses, schools, National Government agencies, non-government organizations (NGO) also joined. (PR)

Turtle returns ‘home’

HANOI, Vietnam — A critically endangered turtle that somehow made it to Vietnam decades ago has been returned to its original home: Cambodia.

The mangrove terrapin was handed over to Cambodian authorities in a ceremony in southern Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.
The conservation group Education of Nature Vietnam (ENV) said the turtle would be introduced into a conservation breeding program in Cambodia.
The turtle was first spotted by ENV staff in 2010 in a park in Ho Chi Minh City.

The park bought the turtle from local people in the 1980s, but the conservation group says it is unclear how the terrapin ended up in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, a Puerto Rican frog about the size of a peanut received federal protection last Wednesday, ending a long battle to list it as an endangered species.

The habitat of the coqui llanero, which is the island’s smallest tree frog, also received federal protection, covering 249 hectares of freshwater wetland in northern Puerto Rico.

The nonprofit, Florida-based Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 so it would respond to a 2007 petition seeking to have the frog classified as an endangered species.

The new designation means that it is now illegal to kill, harm or capture the frog. (AP)