“Kasama po kami sa Enhanced Community Quarantine. Wala po kaming turista. As in wala ngayon. Marami sanang tao ngayong Holy Week.” said Noli Mercader, President of Gubatnons for Adventurism Inc. (GFAI), the organization that manages Lola Sayong Eco Surf Camp located in Gubat, Sorsogon.
Tourism is one of the industries greatly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the income of businesses like the Eco Surf Camp to plunge rapidly.
Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp is not only popular as the prime surfers' destination but also because of the love and hope the surfers share within the community.
GFAI collaborated with Rosario Escandor, popularly called “Lola Sayong” in the community, to allow the youth to borrow her seaside property so they can practice surfing and become instructors. The projected income would support their schooling.
In 2014, GFAI eventually partnered with ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc. – Bantay Kalikasan, Department of Tourism – Region V and the Local Government Unit of Gubat, Sorsogon to get financial and marketing support.
After two years of operation, the Eco Surf Camp generated a gross turnover of Php 3 million and provided an average income of Php 10,000 for each surfer.
Even after Lola Sayong’s passing in 2019, GFAI continued with its mission to care for the environment and support their community’s youth.
Yet all these came to a halt because of the government-imposed Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ in Luzon.
As if rising from a big wave that crashed on him as he surfed, Noli said, “‘Di bale, babawi tayo.”
The past months have been a difficult time for everyone in the community, but in this time of crisis, improbable heroes step up.
Various organizations and private individuals are making an effort to contribute in every possible way they can for those affected by the quarantine. Frontliners continue to go to work and serve despite the danger they're facing.
Inspired by the idea of passing on the hope and giving back, GFAI thought of ways to earn again and at the same time help the brave frontliners stay and be protected at work.
Their group launched the “Buy-1-Share-1” project, where every one meal bought from the surf camp’s restaurant, Granny’s Grub, equates to one meal that will be shared to the frontliners.
“’Pag-order nila, yung isa parang binigay na nila sa frontliners dito sa Sorsogon. Pinapadala namin ‘yung pagkain sa mga frontliners.”
For those outside Sorsogon who want to support their cause, they also accept orders of their bottled goods, like “Smoked Fish Out of Hell”, which is also included in their “Buy-1-Share-1” project.
Smoked Fish Out of Hell for Php 185.00 | To order click here.
GFAI is confident that this project will be a success because they know that a lot of people want to help. As of this writing, this projects has garnered support and they have provided 50 meals to frontliners (medical workers, barangay tanods, and police officers.)
Few batches of seafood pancit ready to deliver to the frontliners.
Noli said that they wanted to be an avenue to boost the morale and show appreciation to the frontliners who have been working non-stop to serve the people.
Apart from the Buy-1-Share-1 project, GFAI will also distribute free face masks to the Gutbatnons. These face masks are made from the pads and clothes they received from ABS-CBN Foundation.
“Tuwing gabi, pagkatapos ng trabaho, ito ang ginagawa namin. Magsisimula kaming magbigay ng libreng face masks pagkatapos ng Holy Week. Lahat ng dadaan sa kalsada ng surf camp ay aabutan ng face mask.” Noli explained.
DIY face masks made by the Gubatnons
It is heartwarming to see how a lot of people become creative and resourceful in extending help during this time of social distancing and community quarantine.
When asked about their plans after the ECQ, their first thought was for the frontliners. To salute the medical professionals who have been putting their lives on line to fight COVID-19, GFAI will be giving discounts and free lifetime entry to Sayong Eco Surf Camp.
“I'm sure masaya si Lola Sayong sa ginagawa namin. Ito naman talaga and goal namin kaya mayroong surf camp, para makatulong,” Noli shared.
The surf camp is considered a hidden gem, not only because of the natural beauty of the place, but also because of the compassion and dedication of the people managing it.
If this crisis has ever taught them something, it’s that race, religion or economic status don’t matter as we all now have one goal — to flatten the curve and end this once and for all.
When asked what his fears are, Noli shared that he is terrified of what would be the new normal and how this crisis could change the custom of the people, particularly in relation to ecotourism.
But Noli is still optimistic, noting that his fears shouldn't be a reason to stop and lose hope because they can always find a lot of reasons to fight for. For him, it is his family, his community, and the people who are and will be experiencing the strong, smooth waves, and the beautiful beach of Lola Sayong.