An Evaluation of the Outcomes and Sustainability of the Buhatan River Eco-Adventure Livelihood
I was an intern at the ABS-CBN Foundation last July 2016 and I was fortunate enough to be exposed to its various programs such as Bantay Bata, Bantay Kalikasan, and Sagip Kapamilya. I was particularly interested in the Bantay Kalikasan program, and its project sites all over the Philippines. I admired ALKFI and the value that they put on caring for the environment, and being able to produce livelihoods for communities by helping them harness the natural resources in their area.
I then spoke to Ms. Jen Santos, and expressed my willingness to do my undergraduate thesis on one of the project sites of Bantay Kalikasan. She assigned me to the Buhatan River Eco-Adventure project. I willingly took on this challenge and looked forward to studying the project, all the way in Sorsogon City. Conducting a study on this ecotourism site was an appropriate option for me, as a Development Studies Major in Ateneo de Manila University.
Through my study, I investigated on how ecotourism development could be a sustainable avenue for poverty alleviation. I focused on the outcomes and the sustainability of the livelihoods that were created through this project. Aside from the economic benefits of the ecotourism project, another key aspect I came across was how the environment was given due importance, value, and care through community efforts.
I made a total of three visits to the project site in Bgy. Buhatan, Sorsogon City. I travelled to Sorsogon City by myself, since I conducted my thesis study on my own. It was during my hectic senior year in Ateneo so I had to carefully plan my schedule and sacrifice my weekends of rest, enjoying my hobbies, and hanging out with family and friends. I had the opportunity to speak with some of the members of the community who ran the Buhatan River Eco-Adventure project. They have expressed how coming together as one community has led them to the success they are experiencing now. Hearing the voice of individual members and listening to their stories, opinions, and ideas, helped me see that behind every development project are different stories of individuals that are worth listening to.
Conducting my thesis on the Buhatan River Eco-Adventure is one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had, and something I will treasure and remember for the rest of my life. I had a previous understanding and the idea that as a student, my capacity to create a positive impact on society and on marginalized communities would not be enough. I thought that I did not have enough resources, skills, or any brilliant ideas that would create meaningful change. However, by conducting my thesis on this community-based ecotourism project, I realized that simply hearing out individuals and members of the community, listening to their stories, and making the effort to understand their situations and their livelihood, is already something worth doing. I realized that an initiative like this could be among the first few steps in attaining sustainable development and more progress for communities. I also saw how this activity of mine could be valuable and could assist the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation in terms of determining which steps to take and which programs to implement to truly improve the lives of the poor and care for the environment.