The water was so irresistible, four of my companions jumped into it. I did not but listened to my instinct. The color of the water was a tell-tale sign. One could tell, turquoise blue was rather deep.
We wanted to linger a while but the sun was scorching our skin. Lunch was served at Entalula Island where my table was right beside a magnificent limestone wall. We headed next to Snake Island, nature’s wonderful work of art - a white sand beach that connects the island to the mainland. Depending on the tide, you can see the longest sandbar in the Philippines.
They came in droves, by boats, buses and jeepneys to do their share in making El Nido’s beaches and seas free of plastic trash, ready to “get dirtied”.
Every year, El Nido and the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), an environmental movement, work together with volunteers to clean up the sea and its beaches of plastic trash.
Here’s a one-on-one interview with Larilit, an award-winning environmentalist and former UP Biology Professor who has stayed in the island for almost two decades:
Responsibility to the next level. Creating shared value compels members of the organization to find ways to build partnerships with as many members of the community as possible. Partners look after each other and each other's interests, and seek growth together. The relationship always strives to be mutualistic.
A specific example would be committing to assist the LGU in Tourism Planning. This is an activity that will result in greater benefit for the entire municipality. This requires a long-term outlook and commitment, to ensure that we become part of seeing the plans through, as opposed to a one-time charity event.
Your brand of stewardship raises the bar when it comes to environmental protection, what else are you doing to TKDC a leader on this aspect?
Good environmental practices make good business sense. We have proven this time and time again. We would like to share this with as many entities as possible to assure them that these best practices are scale-able and not a luxury that only large business entities can afford.
We are also happy to draw from years of experience to demonstrate how to this scale-ability works for different types of resorts and hotels.
We embrace our leadership role, and we do appreciate a lot of followers, but we look forward to the day when more leaders in sustainable tourism in the Philippines will rise and help us push for this across the country, 7107 islands, plus - plenty of potential for leadership.
What were the tough challenges you encountered and how you dealt with them?
Working with communities can be a challenge because some of them operate within a different development framework and timeline.
Agreeing on standards could also be a challenge sometimes. But we benefit from an employment ratio that is 90% locals - every one of them is an ambassador to the barangays where they come from. So they can attest to the sincerity and seriousness with which we carry out our programs.
No one has tested this recently but I can bet that El Nido has a high environmental awareness quotient. No matter how remote the barangay, children know about turtles and why their eggs should not be harvested. They also know why blast fishing is wrong. There are several other indicators that tell us our efforts have hit their target.
What do you think are the best things that happened to El Nido as a community over the lst 10 years?
I see the benefits of tourism spread more equitably. People are able to prepare their and their children's future with greater confidence because of improved economy. People have greater access to information, and the influx of people of different cultures enrich the locals in various ways.
I, however, am very much aware that tourism carries the seeds of its own destruction, that it is a double-edged sword. The natural environment has taken a hit with increase in population density and demand for building materials.
Would you like to be in the same job if you were to start all over again?
Without a doubt.
Bird’s nest haven
Adding fear to the bystander are its greyish monotone hues with dark crevices in between. If you ask what lurks inside, the answer is they’re home to thousands and thousands of Swift birds that build their nests from their own saliva, a prized-catch for those who believe in its medicinal value.
To enjoy El Nido’s real beauty, one must also look at them with a drone-like perspective. One must not just sit there and wait for its world-renowned beauty to reveal itself.
When one explores, the experience is just as incredible as finding a rare stone.
Recently, the management board of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ETMRPA) issued a statement that it will start imposing a limit of visitors to its environmentally sensitive islands.
To avoid further deterioration, a “carrying capacity” policy will be implemented to regulate the number of visitors at any given day.
Tourist arrivals in El Nido increased by 30.70% in the last three years, according to the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO). The town registered 126,000 visitors last year.
Would we still see El Nido’s Swiftlets and Hornbills that were there many years ago? Would the town’s famed islands, seas and coastal areas be always free of garbage and plastic trash? Would its corals and beautiful lagoons continue to grow and be as astonishing as they were, and not suffer degradation? Will its forest not felled illegally?
“You don’t just create a destination, you see the bigger picture,” Larilit said.
She also mentioned that we are literally swimming against the tide of trash.
“We consume so much and at some point in time, we will discard them. It is easy to trash and the potential to do it is at its all-time high, reaching a feverish pitch. Before we buy, we need to examine ourselves,” she said.
In two years, he was promoted as the Resort Manager of Apulit Island Resort. On his 4th year, he was given the opportunity to become the Senior Resort Manager of all Lio Estate Resorts (Casa Kalaw, El Nido Cove, Balai Adlao and Hotel Covo).
Lagen is often referred to as El Nido’s eco-sanctuary island. It nestles between a lush four-hectare forest and a calm, shallow lagoon, ideal destination for those seeking a relaxing holiday in a private paradise.