Agusan Norte eco festival draws 936 participants

JABONGA, Agusan del Norte  (MindaNews/16 September) – A total of 936 students from 13 schools in Caraga region participated in the 11th Baoto Festival which was held in four towns in Agusan del Norte on September 12 to 14.

Edgar Palarca, Jr., Festival Director and Information Officer of the province of Agusan del Norte said this is the highest in the history of the Baoto Festival.

“Usually we only get around 500 to 600 students who participate in the sporting activities and games prepared for them but this year we hit a record high of 936. This is actually above the expected response that we got from the schools we invited to participate,” he said.

According to Palarca, student-participants learn about the historical significance of the “baoto” or the dug-out canoe, and thehistorical contribution and significance of the traditional boat.

For residents around Lake Mainit, the baoto “helped shaped the province and the towns around the lake. For decades, it was the mode of transportation that connected people and resources, enriching the lives of small communities and transforming it to the towns we know today,” he said.

According to Daniel Calo of the provincial tourism office, the objective of the festivity was to promote environmentally sound adventure and teach students around Agusan and Butuan.

“The working principles of protection and conservation of natural assets such as mountains and  wildlife, lakes, seas, caves, should be taught to our younger generation. By doing so, we encourage the next generation to be concerned for the environment, also by adhering to zero pollution adventure like mountaineering, caving, Single Rope Technique (SRT) and canoeing we build up their enthusiasm into the advocacy,” said Calo.

Calo stressed  that for the last 10 years, the festival has shared with at least 6,000 students “the advocacy in the hope that upcoming leaders of the province and region in the future would lead the way in attaining environmental integrity in the management of its natural resources.”

Participants were made to choose among eco-friendly activities in the four participating towns. Skills training were offered such as mountaineering, caving, canoeing and SRT. Challenging sporting activities such as triathlon, beach volleyball, mountain bike race and short canoe paddling races kept the participants busy the entire three days.

Aside from the participants, hundreds of local residents and guests also witnessed the different activities especially during the main highlight of the festivity, which was the 30-kilometer canoe marathon involving 12 participants at three members per team.

The boat race started in Lake Mainit in the town of Jabonga, travelling through the Kalinawan River passing the town of Santiago and ending in the town of Tubay.

Another unique addition to this year’s festival was the simultaneous tree planting in Lantawan Eco Park in the town of Kitcharao; in Sitio Coo of Jabonga; barangay La Paz in Santiago and Tubay’s Barangay 2.

The organizers hope that next year’s festival would draw more participants than this year’s nearly a thousand. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)