Saving Siargao

The irresistible rise of Siargao as the new Bali seems almost inevitable now. Everyone in the world wants to visit our island these days. While the huge rise of tourist numbers has created new opportunities, mass tourism is a mixed blessing.

An island like ours has an extremely fragile ecosystem. Mass tourism might just destroy everything that’s special about Siargao in the first place. Recent announcements to bring in international flights and construct huge bridges will only exacerbate pre-existing challenges to maintain a pristine island.

As a Siargao local, I’ve witnessed the surge in tourist numbers first-hand: from a tropical backwater to an internationally recognizable destination in just a couple of years. Although residents welcome new clients for surf lessons and increased work opportunities in resorts, we hope future visitors think about ways they can help us and our island develop sustainably.

Personally, I’ve thought a lot about how we can maintain Siargao’s appeal, alongside welcoming higher numbers of tourists. It might be the ultimate cliché, but leaving nothing but footprints is the first mindset which new visitors need to adopt. And how can they do that?

First, they must avoid purchasing single-use plastics and littering beautiful Siargao in any way. Second, they should demand their resorts provide water in a glass not in a plastic bottle. Thirdly, they could consider staying in a non-air con resort. It’s not that hot on the island and using air conditioning is terrible for the environment. Finally, they might consider getting involved in existing schemes to keep Siargao green and clean.

There is another important way tourists can contribute towards Siargao’s development: by positively interacting with the local community.

Visitors can choose to buy local and support local enterprises. There are plenty of homestays run by residents, simple fan-cooled places, which are brilliant places to stay in. They’ll enjoy a local experience and help real Filipino families survive.

Incoming tourists can also find out ways to sponsor local kids' education or help fund a local surfer to compete in tournaments. Finally, while Siargao is all about fun, visitors should be ambassadors for their countries or cities. If they’re just looking for trouble (drugs, insane driving, one night stands resulting in pregnancy) I’d prefer they go elsewhere.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts about beautiful Siargao. I genuinely hope we can preserve everything sacred about the island. It’s up to all of us to do all we can to fulfill the hopes of the trending hashtag #savesiargao. So let’s all do our part.

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Words by Anamae Alipayo | Photos by Ikoy Valles

Learn more about the Siargao Environmental Awareness (SEA) Movement 

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