Filipinos are fond of setting world records. Sometimes, these efforts are commercially supported—such as the 2013 event in which 2,000 mothers set the world record for hand-washing a piece of fabric simultaneously, or the 2007 campaign that saw 41,038 grade school students across the country break the world record for the most number of people brushing their teeth simultaneously in different venues.
In the same year as all that tooth brushing, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and its partners helped 15,128 mothers set the record for the most number of women breastfeeding simultaneously at multiple venues.
Except for the odd individual effort—such as the woman who could move the most number of coffee beans with chopsticks in one minute (that was 38 beans), or the woman who took 260 blood tests in 24 hours—most of these record-breaking activities required organizing a large number of people to achieve a specific goal.
Most recently, for example, the province of Isabela was recognized by the Guinness World Records for gathering and choreographing the most number of people—2,495 to be exact—dressed as scarecrows in one place for its yearly Bambanti Festival.
As worthy as such promotional activities are, we certainly should be able to apply the same kind of unity of purpose and zeal toward setting an even more significant and meaningful world record.
One that immediately springs to mind is the government’s ambitious P47-billion program to clean up Manila Bay, which officially kicked off Sunday, Jan. 27.
Over the decades, domestic sewage, toxic industrial effluents and waste from factories and shipping have turned the once-beautiful bay into the most polluted body of water in the country today.
The magnitude of the clean-up is daunting.
The catchment area of the bay is 1.7 million hectares—the size of 26 Singapores or 1,700 Boracays—and the cleanup involves not only Metro Manila but also the provinces of Cavite, Bulacan and Bataan.
In the multi-agency effort, the Department of Interior and Local Government is off to a promising start, with orders to all local government units (LGUs) to organize teams of volunteers to clean up coastal areas of Manila Bay and its inland tributaries every Saturday.
Significantly, the department has set quantitative requirements: all local government units (LGUs) must submit post-activity reports to the DILG and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources after every cleanup session.
The reports must include the volume of collected waste in kilograms, barangays covered, the length of the cleared areas in meters, a list of participants, photo documentation and the means for disposing of the collected garbage.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año correctly observes that the collective effort and commitment of the LGUs and barangays will spell the difference between failure and success.
Perhaps as we pursue the massive undertaking, we can draw inspiration from the dramatic removal of 20 million kilos of waste in Versova beach in Mumbai, India.
There, a lawyer for the Bombay High Court decided to launch a clean-up operation in 2015 with the help of a neighbor. As the months went on, the pair were joined by more than 1,000 volunteers including workers from local companies, school children and Bollywood stars, who joined the beach cleanup every weekend.
More than three years later, the UN Environment Program has recognized it one of the world’s largest beach clean-ups in history.
Now that’s the kind of world record worth setting.