‘For the pawikans’: International swimwear brand leads La Union coastal cleanup

Dolly Dy-Zulueta – Philstar.com

June 1, 2024 | 2:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Over 170 volunteers joined Blackbough Swim, an international swimwear brand based in the Philippines, in a massive one-day coastal cleanup that coincided with Earth Day celebrations last April.  

A truckload of trash was removed from the nesting beaches of endangered sea turtles in Bacnotan, La Union, thus also making the event a fundraiser for endangered pawikans.

This year’s beach cleanup was a natural follow-up to Blackbough Swim’s inaugural cleanup in 2023, which saw over 100 sacks of trash removed from Malinao Beach, Siargao. It marked the swimwear brand’s continued commitment to marine conservation, a core tenet of the brand’s sustainability journey.

According to a study in 2021 reported by Science Daily, removing plastics from our beaches is vital because it stops them from becoming micro plastics that endanger marine creatures.

The shores of Bacnotan, a sanctuary for the endangered pawikan (sea turtles), were the focal point of this year’s initiative. As part of its ongoing mission to champion marine conservation, Blackbough Swim joined forces with the Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions (CURMA), whose leadership in marine turtle conservation in the Philippines has been crucial for coastal forest restoration and waste management practices to protect this vital habitat.

Day of purposeful action

The recent event did not turn out to be just a cleanup, though. It became a comprehensive day of environmental education and action. Volunteers did more than just clear trash — they learned, they contributed, they made a difference.

The cleanup proper kicked off bright and early at 6 a.m., with volunteers rigorously scouring the beach to eradicate harmful waste and segregating it for proper disposal. The team conducted the cleanup on the coastal grounds surrounding Alpas, the official hatchery partner of CURMA in Bacnotan, home to one of La Union’s protected sea turtle nesting grounds.

Volunteers removed over 50 sacks of trash and dangerous debris in an hour’s time, including plastic waste, shoes, tires and barbed wire. By keeping this habitat clean for ocean wildlife, baby sea turtles can safely return to the ocean during the hatching season.

Post-cleanup, CURMA did what it does best. The group conducted a lecture called “Turtle 101,” which enlightened participants on the types of turtles that are present in the Philippines, their nesting habits, sea turtle conservation, and how simple daily actions can protect our oceans.

Over 170 volunteers come together for the coastal cleanup in La Union last April. 

To celebrate the day dedicated to Mother Earth, the volunteers were treated to refreshments from local La Union (LU) businesses, including coffee and pizzas from Alpas and ice cream from Halu. As a token of appreciation for their commitment to environmental preservation, volunteers were also given free rein on Blackbough merch and eco-friendly goodies like Earthy Kit bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars from Magwai, encouraging them to embrace sustainable living.

“Our commitment goes beyond the brand; we are a community that cherishes our natural world. This cleanup reflects our ethos, our commitment to turn the tide towards a sustainable future for all marine life and our future,” said Blackbough Swim Brand Director Misha Bernardino.

Echoing this sentiment, CURMA representative Carlos Tamayo said, “Our collaboration with Blackbough Swim has been so much fun for our cleanup community. It’s heartening to see such enthusiasm for conservation, which is crucial for the survival of our beloved pawikan.”

Champ Lui Pio, president of Alpas La Union and Siargao, added: “Together, we’ve taken a step towards a cleaner and healthier beach for all to enjoy. Let’s continue working together to preserve and protect our precious coastal ecosystems.”

Beyond the beach

For environmentalists who failed to make it to the beach cleanup but still want to do their fair share for ecological conservation, they can still make an impact by patronizing Blackbough Swim products, as the brand donates 10% of net profits from its ‘arth Day 2024 Collection to CURMA. Each sale of two bikini sets supports a day of care for 60 to 70 sea turtles in La Union, Philippines.

Blackbough Swim is at the same time planning more initiatives to coincide with International Coastal Cleanup Day in September, with another beach cleanup in the offing for the latter half of the year, thus continuing its advocacy for ocean conservation.

RELATED: Pawikan installation encourages La Union beachgoers to throw trash responsibly


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