The Bayanihan Plastic Bottle Library Project: Sharing Environmental Awareness Through Education Advocacy
To the leading minds behind The Bayanihan Plastic Bottle Library Project, achieving a dual purpose of raising environmental consciousness and advocating book reading just came naturally — same as the birth of an idea, to put the plan into motion in the province of Romblon became a reality. Such is the journey of Emelyn a and her partner Matt in spearheading this non-profit organization composed of volunteers. Aiming to lessen trash while at the same time using composite materials to build library buildings for public schools in various far flung towns, the group is also leading a campaign that imparts the joy of book reading to schoolchildren as well.
“The project was born when we moved to a pretty rented beachfront house in Sibuyan Island, Romblon. My partner, Matt and I wanted to manage our wastes very well to preserve our pretty beach so we segregated our daily waste. I did the segregation and recycling, while Matt tried his hands in composting some of our trash. Then one day I saw him stuffing plastic wastes into plastic bottles in order to make eco-bricks. I found the eco-bricking idea fascinating and researched more about it, until I stumbled into a US-based NGO Hug-It-Forward, who builds bottle school out of eco-bricks. I emailed them and told them I’m interested to apply it in Philippines too. After a few days they replied by sending me their bottle school manual” shares Balabat
Not soon after, Balabat quickly found both her heart and spirit fitting perfectly for the project and as she immersed herself into the ins-and-outs of this composting concept, she decided to put the wheels into running by touching base with the LGUs in Romblon – where she and Matt recently settled. “Matt and I were new in Romblon but that didn’t stop me from walking into the Mayor’s Office. I introduced myself and pitched the idea and asked if the Mayor can support it and lo and behold, he did. The former Mayor Gerard Montojo pledged a P100,000 financial support. By this time, I realized things are really happening and we needed to get our idea into action. We decided to start the project in my favorite place in Romblon; the municipality of Cobrador Island”, she adds.
Elementary kids in action unloading eco-bricks
The province of Romblon seemed to be the predestined location for Balabat’s project to give birth. “My partner Matt is an Australian volunteer who got an aid project in Romblon. We moved here in the summer of 2014 and I thought it would be practical and logistically easier to do this community library project here instead, since we will be based here for a long time.”
As the project picked up steam, their friends started helping as well – with many of them even making the long sea voyage to Romblon to either bring materials or offer their hands in building the project’s first library in Cobrador Island. “The library facilities; bookshelves, tables, chairs, rubber mats, other additional materials and labor cost were covered by my friends in Manila and abroad. Matt’s friends and other strangers who have seen our project via Facebook donated as well. I just tried to raise funds through Facebook and word of mouth from my friends”, Balabat says.
“We use it to raise awareness among the thirty one barangays on recycling, upcycling, segregation and most specifically; plastic waste management”, narrates Balabat.
An archipelagic province composed of three islands; Romblon, Tablas and Sibuyan, Romblon is surrounded by a stunning stretch of powdery sand beaches and smaller islands. The spectacular setting of this province made it more vital for the LGU units, locals and the people behind the Bayanihan Plastic Bottle Library Project to work together in order to preserve the beautiful aspects of the province.
“When we first came in Romblon, we already noticed the presence of wastes along the shores, trails, mountains, creeks, mini rivers, canals. So, with the Plastic Bottle Library Project, we are aiming at including environmental awareness together with the education advocacy of the LGUs. This way, we can easily impart to kids the importance of caring for the environment while at the same time, promoting educational reading through books.” adds Balabat.
Balabat (right) plans to build more libraries using composting materials.
A little bit over two years since The Bayanihan Plastic Bottle Library Project was launched and after completing the two phases of library construction that will soon provide quality reading materials to the kids of Cobrador Island, Balabat is still looking to further share her skills and knowledge into building more libraries in the country. “As a traveler, we get to visit and experience a community and its culture. In turn, we participate in either preserving or destroying the place. I think it’s just right to pay it forward by helping to preserve their place, not only for future travelers but most importantly for the locals. I think we must extend sustainable opportunities that will help improve the community too. As a traveler, we must not be afraid in taking a stand, stepping up, getting involved in these important issues. I think it’s a responsibility we must never ignore”, Balabat adds as she concludes our short interview.
All photos credited to The Bayanihan Plastic Bottle Library Project