“Sport has established itself as an effective tool for development and peace-building. Sport for development and peace projects around the world have addressed many of the challenges society has faced.”- Wilfried Lemke
Since time immemorial, sports have been the most popular form of recreation for people. Last April 5, 2015 at Patio Victoria, Brgy. San Jose, Tacloban City, the children, coaches and staff of Football for Life programme, joined the rest of the world in celebrating not only Easter Sunday and the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace (IDSDP).
History of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 6 April as the International Day of Sports and Physical Activity, to celebrate the contribution of sports and physical activity to education, human development, healthy lifestyles and a peaceful world. The 1st International Day of Sport for Development and Peace was celebrated on 6 April 2014.
The choice of the date of 6 April can be explained by the fact that, in 2002, at its 55th session, the Assembly of the World Health Organization, in its resolution WHA 55.23, urged Member States to celebrate a “Move for Health Day” each year to promote physical activity as essential for health and well-being. The date 6 April has been used since the year 2003 by some civil society organizations for celebrating a “World Day for Physical Activity”.
Potential of Sport for Social Impact
Sport, as a tool for education, development and peace, can promote cooperation, solidarity, tolerance, understanding, social inclusion and health at the local, national and international levels. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
For these reasons, states, the United Nations system and, in particular, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, relevant international organizations, and international, regional and national sports organizations, civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and all other relevant stakeholders are invited to cooperate, observe and raise awareness of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
Significance of Football for Life Programme in Tacloban
Football for Life (F4L) programme uses sport, specifically football, as a tool in providing psychosocial support for children who are in the process of emotional recovery. It allows children to have fun at a stressful time, connect with each other, collaborate, play and process their experiences.
Why is it important to allow these children to play? According to researches, early and adequate play therapy can:
Prevent distress and suffering developing into something more severe
Help children cope better and become reconciled to everyday life
Help beneficiaries to resume their normal lives
Meet community-identified needs
Play is what children consider as work and with F4L’s approach of engaging children through sports, they are indirectly being influenced to be active survivors not passive victime and to further develop their resilience in dealing with disasters.
Building Back Dreams and Communities
There are only a number of psychosocial support being provided post Haiyan. Across the Philippines, there is still a rampant misconception among Filipinos on how there is little need for caring about mental health. Disasters, conflicts and health problems have severe psychosocial consequences. These emotional wounds are less visible than destroyed infrastructures thus it is often looked over. Fact is, it takes longer for people recover from emotional impact than to rebuild buildings and houses. It affects the community and weakens productivity.
Early support and adaptation processes – which respect local customs in mental health or psychosocial healing – allow an affected population to cope better with a difficult situation. Seeing the F4L children taking leadership roles and evolving into better citizens, Taclobanons are realising that sports is not merely recreation for childrenwhere they display their physical skills but also as a way for social change.
I wanted to stay at home that day but it did not take that long to convince me to go on spontaneous adventure. Our destination, one of the less traveled islands in the Philippines. A historic island paradise nestled less than a kilometer away from the northern coast of Leyte. Half asleep, my friends and I left Tacloban around 9’o clock in the morning. We passed through several farmlands under the sweltering heat of the sun. We were lucky that most of the roads were already paved after several typhoons. Two hours later, we reached Biliran Bridge, completed around 1975. It is about 150 meters long and its central span, held in place by an arched steel structure, hovers above a short and narrow channel of water measuring about 40 meters wide at low tide.
We finally reached Biliran! We could not help but stop to see Biliran Strait, one of the passages where the Japanese had their checkpoints during World War II.
According to historical accounts, Biliran was site of the first large-scale shipyard, built during the 17th century where the Spaniards built galleons support the trade between Manila and Acapulco in Mexico. Several boatmen passed by as I peered into the clear sea. It was so inviting that I wanted to jump from the bridge.
Biliran’s economy is largely based on fishing. Most of its towns, especially Naval and Biliran, have excellent seaports. As we made our way to Naval, Biliran’s capital, I could not help but feel a certain nostalgia for my hometown Ormoc, Naval reminded me of the quaint aura that Ormoc exuded before malls started sprouting up. Realising that our other friends are still far we decided to stop at the first gasoline station we saw. We loaded up on fuel and washed our face covered with sweat and dust. It was already 12 noon and I could hear my stomach complaining, we stopped at the port to grab some barbecue and puso a.k.a hanging rice ( I could not help but eat with my barehands).
After a hearty lunch, we decided to head to one of the coasts to search for white sand. Little did we know that our friends signed up for a habal-habal challenge.
After safely driving through dirt roads and getting chased by hyperactive dogs, we found ourselves in a secluded cove. Our sore butts begged for some rest time and bored me decided to climb a coconut tree and get some coconuts for me and my friends.
While I was channelling my inner monkey, the rest went for a dip. I looked like the squirrel from Ice Age trying to open the buko, so I took a break and joined them.
I found little shrimps while swimming around. I remembered when my mother used to buy live shrimps and I would play with them before my mom cooked them (sad I know) but I couldn’t really be totally depressed because she cooks them well (I just pray for the shrimps’ souls and thank them for giving their lives to nourish and make us happy).
IYUSAN RICE TERRACES AND BAGONGBONG WATERFALLS
After we had our buko juice, we decided to go to the waterfall at Brgy. Caucab in the town of Almeria (named after Almeria in Spain). We drove through a long winding paved road. The view over the Iyusan Rice Terraces made it one-of-a-kind. Imagine a smaller version of Sagada terraces but with better roads.
Kalabaw (Water Buffalo) enjoying a dip.
We reached the end of the paved road and made our way down the dirt trail, the locals told us it would take about 30mins. but unable to contain our excitement, we made it down half the time. We dismissed the narrow muddy and rocky trail and walked liked a boss. As the sound of the waters got stronger, we walked faster. We marvelled at the 30-foot high cathedral-like falls covered by forests.
After settling in for a bit, I started feeling my leg muscles complaining. A reminder to get back in shape. While the rest went it for a dip, I felt the asian compulsion and took a selfie (normally takes me more than 10 tries before I get a decent one).
Surreal moment as I looked up.
We enjoyed the moment and we barely noticed the minutes flew swiftly. Realising that it was almost sunset, we rushed back to the motorbikes to try to catch the sun before it says goodbye on that day. We wanted to catch the sunset over Agta beach but we figured we did not have enough time so we went into one of the nearby barangay.
Sunset by the shore with a cold drink on hand, it was almost perfect if not for the crazy kids trying to wrestle each other and kicking sand at our backs. Nonetheless, it was one of the best sunset moments that I experienced this year. I can only imagine how it looked like from the right side.
Night time came and we got separated from the rest of our friends, we went back to Naval to find a place to stay. The town did not have a lot to offer when it comes to accomodations, we found a backpackers place that charged P600 for a fan room. It was not bad until we woke up to a bunch of people talking loudly right outside the door. I dozed off quite quickly after the trekking and the bumpy ride to the beach.
We woke up next morning and went for some bread and head to Agta beach where the rest of our friends ended up. They decided to sleep on the shore with their sleeping bags. I missed the fun part that night. As they grabbed some breakfast, we thought of where to go next. One of the guys wanted to go kayaking to the nearby islands but the woman told us it was low tide and they do not rent out. I do not get the point but we couldn’t really spend time debating so we resolved to find Busai Waterfalls.
We drove for 30 minutes trying to figure out where Ungale 2 (dos) was. I asked more than a dozen of people for directions (luckily Biliran speaks Visayan).
We followed a path right through different barangay and as we ended up on a dead-end of a dirt road. On the left side was a barely noticeable trail where we had to walk over boulders and metal pipes (Busai Waterfalls is a water source for nearby dwellers of Kawayan). My slippers gave up on me so I walked on barefoot for 15 mins. (like a local). We crossed streams (you need to have a lot of leg power) to reach the mouth of Ungale River. Hidden among the thick foliage and slightly obscure from all angles was the tranquil Busai Waterfalls.
I was a bit disappointed seeing that it was not as grand as Bagongbong but I realised Busai had its own uniqueness because it is quite tricky to find there were not a lot of visitors. If you are coming from Naval, you would need to travel the Biliran Circumferential Road via bus bound for Tucdao, Kawayan. From the main road of Tucdao, you can hire or rent motorcycles for Php 25. Visitors may also ask the locals to guide them to the falls ( we had a little girl who volunteered to take us to the falls).
I had a serene dip in the cold waters. I saw a bunch of local guys climbing on top of the cliff and jumping into the middle. They are crazy I thought to myself, I got scared as hell for their safety and they started doing it like their lives did not mean anything. The water slowly glides over the mossy bedrock and you can see a bunch of frogs leaping from rocks to rocks. As we took our time to take in everything, we thought of pushing ourselves further and going for another waterfalls at Brgy. Cabibihan, Caibiran.
From Naval, it would take around 30-45mins. Ironically, Tinago (which means Hidden in Visaya) was the least hidden among all the waterfalls. From the highway, you will find a loop trail that is 10 minutes away from the falls.
Unlike the first two waterfalls, you cannot enter Tinago free. Adults have to pay P10 and P5 for children (expensive! not…) Tinago Waterfalls is a perfect hideaway for bigger groups being the grandest among the Biliran Waterfalls. The battery in my camera gave up at this point (thus the sole photo of Tinago, click here for more photos). Frustrated by the inability to take photos (first world problems), I just took a dip into a seemingly natural jacuzzi and tried real rock climbing. I took my moment as I know it would be another 3 hours motorbike ride back to reality.
Biliran is not getting the reputation it should have. For one of the smallest province in the country, it has a lot to offer. I found out later that we missed 4 other waterfalls, not to mention we did not even make it to one of the 4 islands, the rich history Biliran has from Moro invasions to aiding the Americans during World War II and the dormant volcanoes and hidden springs. For all this reasons, I will definitely go back!
Bring drinking water (saves the planet as it lessens water bottles floating in the ocean) and food ( lots of them specially bananas) as some parts of Biliran do not have sari-sari stores for more than 5 kilometers.
Rent a motorbike for a day if you do not want to wait for buses as commuting around the island is not that easy and would take a lot of your time.
Bring your powerbanks, there are a lot of things to take photos of. ( This is more of a note for myself.)
Do not forget your sunscreen or cover up with long sleeve shirts and pants as driving around the island can take a toll on your skin.
Bring cash as there are only a few cash machines and that time when we were there none working.
Most of the stores in Naval close by 8p.m. so it is best that you stock up earlier.
Wear comfortable trekking shoes as trails can get slippery (Do not imitate me, I’m a local).
Do not bring a friend who likes to complain a lot (general travel tip, you would not want to ruin awesome moments just because of a negatron, maybe you need to start thinking about your friendship…).
Make sure you or your friend have habal-habal driving skills as the roads of Biliran will test you from time to time.
There are many reasons why it is easy to fall in love with a diver. It could be their unwavering love for the ocean or their unbelievable ability to keep calm under pressure.
Here are a few reasons why you should never fall in love with a diver.
“Something, most certainly, happens to a diver’s emotions underwater. It is not merely a side effect of the pleasing, vaguely erotic sensation of water pressure on the body. Nor is it alone the peculiar sense of weightlessness, which permits a diver to hang motionless in open water, observing sea life large as whales around him; not the ability of a diver, descending in that condition, to slowly tumble and rotate in all three spatial planes. It is not the exhilaration from disorientation that comes when one’s point of view starts to lose its “lefts” and “down” and gains instead something else, a unique perception that grows out of the ease of movement in three dimensions. It is not from the diminishment of gravity to a force little more emphatic than a suggestion. It is not solely exposure to an unfamiliar intensity of life. It is not a state of rapture with the bottomless blue world beneath one’s feet…it is some complicated mix of these emotions, together with the constant proximity of real terror.”
― Barry López, About This Life
Little lines of rabbits tied up on top of a huge conveyor belt, all heading to a machine where they would go out lifeless, I was panicking, trying to find where the switch was to stop the killing machine. As a hit the stop button, I realized my footprints were blood imprints. I looked around to see all the lifeless animals surrounding me, crying heavily with the horrendous sight, then I woke up. It was my one of the first nightmares that I’ve had as a 4-year-old kid.
I grew up with animals always near me, I had 3 dogs, couple of fishes, cats and white mice. Every afternoon, I would spend time to feed them and would even talk to them. Meanwhile my parents raised chickens, quails and pigs in our backyard. My dad loved joining cock fights. There were times I would try to skip meals after my father killed one of the chicken for our dinner. I would beg them not to kill animals but they always explained that it is natural for humans to eat them. I played with my dogs most of my time after school. I was always fascinated by animals that there was one time I asked my mother to buy me a horse for my grandparents’ farm, which she of course immediately declined. I even dreamed of becoming a veterinarian and would play pretend as doctor to our sick pets. All throughout childhood, I would endlessly browse over my grandfather’s old hardbound coffee table which had a lot of photos about different creatures. It was there when I first read about the Nautilus and the Portuguese Man-of-War.
It was when I got over my fear of the deep (someone pushed me into a 6 feet deep pool when I was about 6 years old) that I started appreciating marine life and by the end of high school, I wanted to take up marine biology but for a country where practicality wins, it was not an option. The course needed expensive dive equipment and my parents were not well off. I took up nursing instead and moved to another city, leaving my pets behind. Up until graduation, my dream of becoming a marine biologist never left my mind. Just when I though all hopes were lost that I saw one competition posted in Facebook that would include free diving lessons for the grand winner. Without anyone to help me, I went alone to screen and qualified. It was during the discovery dive when I met my scuba diving instructor. Finals day came and I finished second place. I was sad knowing that the opportunity to have sponsored dive lessons slipped through my fingers.
The year after, the founder appointed me to compete internationally where I eventually had my sponsored dive lessons plus new dive equipment. Just when you think things will never go right, it did for me. To top it off I almost won the competition, I finished right after UK. I got to dive in amazing sites and talk to different people about marine conservation. Not everyone is lucky enough and each day I do my best to prove that I earned it. They teased me as Pawikan (Filipino term for green sea turtle) when I was young. In a way, I am a turtle. I had to fight through a lot of things to make it into the waters. It took time for me to reach my nesting grounds and now I am back to lay new dreams. Whatever it is you dream of, have tremendous passion and perseverance, and everything will fall in the right place.
Here are some of the sites where I already done some dives: