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Aboitiz Cleanergy Park: A caretakers’ story
July 25, 2023
Rodolfo Manib, Sr., 58, or “Rudy Boy” as most people call him, has always been close to nature.
A long-time resident of Punta Dumalag in Davao City, where the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park – a sprawling eight-hectare outdoor biodiversity park – is located, he saw how things changed for the area.
Even before the Cleanergy Park was formally launched in 2014, Rudy had already been a caretaker of its land area since 2011.
Contrast to its current lush green scenery, back then, people could enter the area and would do various activities, making it difficult to protect the area.
In his youth, he would walk around the coastal area, where he had personally seen many turtles on the shore.
"Naa nako'y encounter sa mga pawikan. Kahibalo na ko nga dili angay hilabtan ang mga pawikan (I have previous encounters with the pawikans. I am aware that we should not touch them)," Rudy said.
However, never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined that he would be working for the park someday.
Being a caretaker entails tough responsibilities. Not only does it require protecting the area from intruders, but also serving the environment as part of the conservation effort.
One of Rudy’s responsibilities is to take care of the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles and their nesting grounds at the Cleanergy Park.
Admittedly, Rudy, a former baker, had no formal education in marine life protection. But thanks to Aboitiz Power Corporation (AboitizPower) subsidiary Davao Light and Power Co., Inc. (Davao Light), he was given a series of comprehensive training on how to handle these marine creatures.
"Dako kog pasalamat nga dako kaayo kog nahibaw-an sa pag-handle sa pawikan hilabi na kung unsaon pag-transfer sa itlog sa pawikan (I am very grateful that I know a lot about handling turtles, especially how to transfer turtle eggs)," he said.
Before the Cleanergy Park was established, residents nearby feared they would be relocated to other areas due to the plan of Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. and Davao Light to establish the conservation site.
"Nagtuo sila atong panahuna nga ipang-demolish [ilang panimalay]. Pero tungod nakita nila kung unsa kamaayo ang gibuhat sa Aboitiz para sa kinaiyahan, sila mismo nahimata ug karon apil na sila sa mga nagatabang sa atoa sa pagprotekta sa kinaiyahan (They thought we were going to demolish [their homes]. But because they saw how well Aboitiz is doing for the environment, they themselves realized it and now they are among those who help us to protect the environment.)," Rudy shared.
He recounted several instances of how the residents became their partner in this endeavor.
"Nag-release mi og gagmayng pawikan. Mga lima ka-hatchlings. Naanod didto sa pikas. Giuli sa mga residente sa atoa (We released small turtles. About five hatchlings. Then they drifted to the other side. Good thing the residents returned them)," he said.
"Nakita nila kung unsa kadako ang impact na atong nahimo. Karon sila na mismo nagatabang sa atoa (They saw how much impact it made. Now they are the ones helping us)," he added.
Davao Light Reputation Enhancement Department Head Fermin Edillon said the Cleanergy Park aims to preserve the pawikan nesting grounds, be a home of many thriving bird species, and help maintain ecological balance for other sea and land creatures.
When the project was envisioned, he said that the intention was to source 50 percent of the working force from the community nearby.
“When we started the project, nakita namo ang importansya nga dapat naay local resident nga mutabang sa amoa, and dako kaayo siya’g tabang sa atoa (we saw the importance of having a local resident assist us, and he really is a big help),” Edillon said, calling Rudy an “asset” to the park.
The Davao Light official saw how demanding Rudy’s responsibility is to the park — not only ensuring its maintenance, but also preventing intruders and informal settlers from entering the area. In times of emergency, even if it is in the middle of the night, Rudy and Edillon, along with other park caretakers, report onsite.
Throughout the years, Cleanergy Park's flora and fauna serve as a sanctuary for these pawikans and also for dozens of rare bird species who thrive in a safe and secure environment. Its mission is also supported by experts from the University of the Philippines Mindanao and the University of Southeastern Philippines, as well as government agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Region XI and the Environmental Management Bureau - Region XI.
“Sa madungog nimo sa mga visitors nga nakita nila ang kalahian na sa environment, nga totally changed na gyud, kining mga feedback na madungog nimo, in 10 years daghan na mga birds ug pawikan na mamalik, lami kini paminawon (According to the feedback we hear from visitors, they saw how the environment totally changed. In 10 years, birds and pawikan returned. It’s really uplifting to hear these positive feedbacks),” Edillon shared.
Just like the Cleanergy Park, Rudy's life also flourished since he started working there. Being employed in the park that is managed by one of the biggest power companies in the country uplifted, not only his community, but his life as well.
"Akong pagtrabaho diria sa Aboitiz[Power] dako kaayo'g impact. Napahuman nako akong mga anak (My work at Aboitiz[Power] had a great impact. I was able to send my children to school and let them finish their studies)," he emotionally shared.
The caretaker admitted he had been very attached to the park as most of the time he had devoted himself to preserving the area.
But as time goes by, he’s also grappling with the fact that he's not getting any younger. From time to time, he would be bringing his grandchildren to the park, for them to appreciate his efforts in preserving the environment.
"Gusto nako maabtan pa kini sa akong mga apo ug sa mga musunuray pa nga henerasyon (I want my grandchildren and future generations to pass it on)," Rudy said.
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