Siargao surfers win Coca-Cola Barkada Award for instilling value of education, environmental protection
At the 16th Ten Accomplished Youth Organization (TAYO) Awards, the Sun Crew was recognized as one of the main winners and was honored with the Coke Barkada Award for its innovative programs that have empowered local children and communities to build a brighter future and play a key role in protecting the environment. Wemar Bonono, Sun Crew manager and co-founder, shared that his inspiration behind establishing the organization was to help the local children, especially because of his own experiences growing up in the island. At 14, Wemar dropped out of school and decided to work as a surfing instructor to provide for his family. “Actually, noong bata pa ‘ko hindi ako nag-e-eskwela kasi sobrang hirap ng buhay noon kasi wala pang tourists. Tapos ‘yung mga bata, ayaw ko rin na matulad sa akin. Marami silang nagtatanong kung pwede ba silang sumali at sabi ko ‘You’re welcome to join!’ Hindi kami namimili, basta nag-e-eskwela lang, ‘wag nila kalimutan yung pag-aaral, ‘yun ang importante,” shared Bonono. To improve the children’s school attendance and to provide them with skills that will alleviate them from poverty, the Sun Crew started the Smart Sustainable Surfers (SSS) program where children earn Surfer Points for attending school and participating in other programs in exchange for surfboard use and surfing lessons. The SSS program resulted in a 100% increase in school attendance, with students attending 4 to 5 times a week. Aside from motivating students to attend school; one of the main thrusts of Sun Crew is to make the children and the local community the custodians of the island’s environment. To address the increasing waste that is produced with rising tourist arrivals, Sun Crew conducts weekly beach clean-ups with the help of the Smart Surfers, locals, and volunteers; collects and segregates the waste of the barangay; and holds eco-bricking and up-cycling sessions.
The other 16th TAYO Awardees were AQILAH (Marawi City), Association of Young Environmental Journalists (Dumaguete City), Center for Sustainability Philippines, Inc. (Puerto Princesa City), Cuartero National High School Taliamba Ensemble, FLMIS YES – O (Iligan City), MIMAROPA Young Leaders (Oriental Mindoro), Philippine Accessible Disability Services, Inc. (Lapu-Lapu City), Team BakUNAWA (Iloilo City), and Tuklas Katutubo – Upper Lumabat Chapter.