In the emerald green water in Barangay Bojo, one of the fifteen barangays in the fishing village of Aloguinsan, an eco-tourism attraction called Bojo River Cruise has piqued the curiosity of tourists.
The 1.4-kilometer river plays host to a 3-hour river cruise package aboard on small bancas and visitors are treated to a picturesque setting of different species of lush mangroves, school of fish and flock of birds that joyfully thrive the place.
Since it opened to the public in 2009, tourist visit has started to increase on the midwest part of Cebu and has generated jobs to the community especially to fishermen, farmers and housewives.
At the onset of the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the first quarter of 2020, the entire country was placed under a state of public health emergency as more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed.
“Nag-end mi sa among tour pag March 15 ug kini naka-apekto gayud sa panginabuhian sa among mga miyembro (We ended our tour operation on March 15 and it really affected the livelihood of our members),” said Rudney Carcuevas, the president of the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS).
Currently, there are more than forty (40) active members of BAETAS and twenty four (24) of them are eligible beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the national government that provides emergency cash subsidy to low-income poor families who have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the members of BAETAS is Lito Alvarado, a fisherman and his boat paddling skills was put into good use when he was recruited as a river cruise guide.
“Kung wala mi sa among panagat, didto mi mo-duty sa BAETAS aron pag-entertain sa mga guests (If we are not in the sea to catch fish, we render duty in BAETAS to entertain our guests),” said Lito.
As a river cruise guide, he also has the opportunity to explain to the guests the different species of mangroves and trees with their scientific names that are present in the river.
The Alvarado family is also part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Two out of their five children are monitored under the program in which the family are entitled to receive education grant, health grant and rice subsidy.
Lito also said that their family maintains a backyard garden that has been their additional source of food.
Another DSWD program beneficiary is the family of Merelyn Dales, a barangay day care worker and also a member of BAETAS.
She shared that their family belongs to the Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) program and was also able to receive the emergency cash subsidy under SAP.
“Ang among nadawat nga kwarta kay gigamit alang sa among adlaw-adlaw nga konsumo labi sa pagkaon ug maintenance nga tambal para sa akoa kay asthmatic man ko ug ang akong bana kay adunay highblood (The financial aid that we received was used for our daily consumption especially in purchasing food and maintenance medicine because I am asthmatic and my husband has a high blood pressure),” said Merelyn.
Merelyn was grateful for being part of BAETAS because it provided alternative livelihood to the community.
“Gawas sa akong pagka day care worker nga gamay ra pud nga honorarium akong madawat, nakatabang kini og dako sa among pamilya ug pinaagi niini nakahatag ko allowance sa akong anak nga gaeskwela sa college (Aside from being a day care worker who receives minimal amount of honorarium, the subsidy greatly helped our family and through this, I was able to provide allowance to my child who is currently studying in college),” added Merelyn.
Merelyn is part of the housekeeping team of the association that also welcomes the guests and prepares their food and beverages.
Merelyn also underscored that as the caretaker of the Bojo River it is the association’s duty to maintain the cleanliness and the sustainability of the place.
Primitivo Cañete, a fisherman and one of the river cruise guides, agrees with Merelyn that it is their responsibility to take care of the environment.
“Isip mananagat, sa dagat man nato kuhaon atong panginabuhian mao nga angay natong ampingan ug protektahan ang kinaiyahan (As fishermen, we get our livelihood from the sea so it is important that we preserve and protect nature),” said Primitivo.
Primitivo’s family is one of the left-out or waitlisted families of SAP in barangay Bojo who was not able to receive the government’s aid during the first tranche.
On August 21, 2020, he was able to receive the emergency cash subsidy through an onsite payout of a Special Disbursing Officer (SDO) from DSWD Field Office VII for their first and second tranches with a total amount of Php 12,000.00.
He shared that he would spend the financial subsidy wisely by buying their basic necessities like rice, viands and save some of those amount for future use.
“Tipigan nako ang kwarta nga nadawat kay dili ta kabalo, simba ko, kung mubagyo ba o unsa man nga kalamidad nga muabot, naa mi dali nga makuhaan (I will save the money that I received because we do not know what will happen in the future, if there will be a calamity, we already have some savings),” underscored Primitivo.
Lito, Merelyn, Primitivo and the rest of the members of BAETAS hope that better days are coming.
They are excited to welcome their guests and share how their solidarity made a big difference in their community and for the environment. ###