The coastal village of Anilao in Mabini, Batangas is the birthplace of scuba diving in the country. Lying within the so-called Coral Triangle, it has the most diverse concentration of the world’s marine biodiversity, with around 48 dive sites all over Balayan Bay. With a plethora of underwater, terrestrial wonders and a wide array of recreational activities, Mabini is a Waterworld wonderland and the archipelago’s “diving haven.”
This virtual paradise was hit with a twin double-whammy–the Taal Volcano eruption, the Covid-19 pandemic, and two typhoons that destroyed hundreds of houses and fishing and dive boats sent the diving industry diving to an uncertain depth, displacing workers dependent on tourism.
With Batangueño’s trademark “barako” character, the local folks withered the storms and started getting back on their feet. Hope flickered when the government allowed in mid-October the local diving industry’s resumption under stringent health protocols.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat recently visited the town to support the local dive industry by lowering anti-gen test requirements for visitors and waiving the accreditation fees for dive establishments.
Moreover, outside help from private institutions and individuals has also been coming in during the quarantine and post-typhoon periods. A private group that has given sustained assistance is the Metro Pacific Investment Foundation, the Manny Pangilinan Group of Companies’ corporate social responsibility arm. To liven up the Christmas season, it recently distributed Noche Buena gift bags with One Meralco Foundation and Alagang Kapatid Foundation under the “Tuloy Pa Rin ang Pasko” drive to affected boatmen and tourism-related workers.
The conglomerate established its foothold in the area more than a decade ago when it founded the Shore It Up program, promoting marine biodiversity conservation. Its components include coral restoration, laying of mooring buoys, underwater and coastal cleanup, community empowerment, environmental education for school children, and other key interventions.
To assist the townsfolk on the road to recovery, Metro Pacific also pledged sizable seed money to the cooperative, soon organized by the community. With nature’s bounty and help from friends, Mabini can celebrate a merry Christmas on dry land and under the sea.