Huge waves, surfing, Kermit Surf Resort—these words are forever synonymous with the tear-shaped breath of tranquility known as Siargao.
Visiting the gorgeous island in Surigao del Norte a second time this year, I learned about The Sun Crew —a surf school and environmental/youth organization based in the country’s surfing capital.
World without waste
Coca-Cola Philippines has collaborated with nine municipalities in Siargao to support the island’s environmental protection.
The soft-drink brand’s initiative is to foster a world without waste, to collect and recycle every single bottle or can that Coke sells by 2030, to use 50-percent recycled materials in its packaging by 2030, and to make all of its packaging 100-percent recyclable by 2025.
With the partnership, Coca-Cola set into action its advocacy of responsible tourism and proper packaging waste management among tourists.
A turnover ceremony was held recently to mark the partnership between Coke and Siargao’s local government unit (LGU).
Attending the event were General Luna Mayor Cecilia Rusillon, 1st District Rep. Francisco Matugas II, Tourism regional director Jeff Ortega, and Coca-Cola Philippines Inc. corporate and regulatory affairs director Juan Lorenzo Tañada.
They formalized the turnover of 24 recyclable PET plastic bottle collection bins, nine benches made of recycled materials, and a state-of-the-art surf rake by Coca-Cola Philippines to Siargao’s LGU.
I met Wemar Bonono, cofounder and manager of The Sun Crew, which was given a plaque as this year’s Coca-Cola Barkada Awardee for its contributions to empower local children and environmental protection.
Focus on education
“The Sun Crew aims to help kids build a good future. We help them focus on their education and helping the environment,” Bonono, a native of Siargao, told To be You. “We make sure that the kids (youth volunteers and members of The Sun Crew) study Mondays to Fridays. We teach them surfing on weekends.”
The Sun Crew hands attendance cards to the children, who then have each teacher for each day sign the cards before class in their respective schools (the group partnered with various public schools around Pacifico, Siargao).
Students with perfect and consistent attendance are given priority on weekends when the group offers free surfing lessons and use of the surfboards.
According to Bonono, The Sun Crew currently has 30 members whose ages range from 9 to 17 years old.
While surfing is offered only on weekends, there are many other activities that members can join on weekdays.
“After school, they can chill at our house. They can also engage in slacklining (walking along a suspended rope usually tied between two trees) which teaches them balance, a vital skill in surfing. We also teach them how to maintain and repair the surfboards,” Bonono said.
As for helping save the environment, Bonono emphasized that they never impose recycling upon the kids.
“We present them with the opportunity to help,” he pointed out.
Thus, when The Sun Crew collects soft plastics from Siargao residents, the kids not only join the group, they also help cut up the plastic to create stuffing for pillows.
With a passionate effort to promote youth empowerment and recycling, The Sun Crew registered for the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (Tayo) Awards, a foundation which recognizes youth groups that strive to make a difference.
“We applied for the competition where there were over 400 registrants, and we were among the Top 20 finalists,” said Bonono.
A partner of Tayo since 2005, Coca-Cola Philippines presented The Sun Crew with the Coke Barkada Award, an accolade that came with a grant.
Bonono said The Sun Crew plans to use the grant to buy a plastic-grinding machine to make the process of creating pillow stuffing easier.
Beholding a beautiful sunrise the day after meeting Bonono, I figured out why the group calls itself The Sun Crew.
Much like the sun that rises from the horizon, the group wants to serve as a bright symbol of hope—that with our combined efforts, we can contribute to living in a world without waste.