SSP News

Smart awards Barobo public school for marine preservation website

Smart Communications, Inc.

Posted on Monday, March 19, 2012

Doon po sa amin, lumuluha ang mga isda” is the message sent out to the world by concerned students and teachers of Barobo National High School (BNHS) through a website that delves into the degradation of marine treasures in their community in Barobo, Surigao del Sur.    

Their work, which required going out to sea and interacting with fishermen, including one who lost an arm in dynamite fishing, won top honors at this year’s 4th Doon Po Sa Amin (DPSA) Learning Challenge of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart). They received P50,000 and a desktop computer, plus an additional P30,000 and another desktop as the winner in the Environment and Disaster Preparedness category.  Another P10,000 was awarded to the group for being best in Community Involvement.

The team, composed of students Maria Shasta Dane Adlawan (head researcher), Julius Jim Credo (web master), Gretchen Balahay (web master) and RM David Martinote, (researcher and photographer) were supported by mentors Aida Aribal (Principal IV/Adviser), Brenda Adlawan (Principal I/Adviser), Alex Mistula (Moderator/Web Development Consultant/Trainer), Liza Guingguing (Coach/Content Manager/Internal Mobilization In-charge), Jaiglo Layno (Coach/Community Mobilization In-charge/Team consultant on fisheries) and Tiburcio Octubre (Coach/Content Manager/Statistician).

“This municipality used to produce a lot of fish, but now the fishermen are complaining of small catch,” shares Guingguing. “We have heard of illegal fishing methods and when we went there, we really saw for ourselves the materials that they use,” Octubre injects.

Aside from using fine nets which trap even the small fishes, preventing them from growing and multiplying, other illegal and dangerous methods are also practiced. Dynamite fishing continues to be prevalent. The blasts kill all marine creatures within the vicinity and destroy coral reefs which play a crucial role in marine biodiversity. 

Another modus operandi uses cyanide to poison the fishes. Again, this hurts more than just the targeted species and destroys many underwater organisms.

The life-threatening practice of buso or compressor fishing also continues despite the loss of lives. “The father of one of our students died because of compressor fishing,” reveals Octubre. “And we discovered that we have students who engage in compressor fishing. It is their means of survival, to go to school and support themselves,” adds Guingguing.

An improvised diving system of sorts, compressor fishing involves breathing air through a hose connected directly to a compressor on a boat. This allows the fishermen more time underwater, hunting for catch, often hitting corals and putting their lives at risk. “They all know that what they’re doing is bad but they say they have no choice. All their stories are the same, they’re all driven by poverty,” says Mistula, deeply moved by their findings. “We did not expect to uncover this much information,” he says about the revelations they unearthed.

In the website’s gallery are videos of graphic descriptions of these fishing procedures courtesy of a very frustrated PO3 Justiniano Petere who pleaded, “Let’s not wait for funds from the government, let’s start now and help each other before it is too late.” 

Putting together all the materials gathered was no easy task but the group was determined to achieve their purpose. “During the last two months when we had to work really hard, we just kept our eyes on our objective of coming up with a website to protect our marine resources and told ourselves that we can do it,” enthuses Balahay. “This is something we really would like to advocate, protecting our sea is in our hearts,” affirms Martinote.

Their efforts paid off.  “Their site was packed with content, the documentation was very thorough and the data was presented in a very orderly manner.  We always evaluate both the functions and the content, BNHS gave us everything we were looking for,” says Lloyd Layug of Netlearn, one of this year’s judges.

Particularly impressive was the extensive recommendations enumerated by the group. They listed activities for the various sectors of society, from the municipal government and the academe down to the police force and the fishermen. They called for strict implementation of ordinances, vigilance from the law enforcers and community members, cooperation among the fishermen, and more intensive information campaign from educators, among others.

Since the DPSA Learning Challenge was launched by Smart in 2008, BNHS has actively participated and done its part in developing online content about their community in Barobo.  It has won the grand prize twice.  

Even before the formal launch of this year’s DPSA challenge, BNHS was already gearing up, forming Hugpong Sagup Dagat (Unite, Save the Sea), engaging in mangrove-planting activities to boost awareness about their cause, and raising funds through a fun run. The well-attended event raised P19,000 from entry fees of P10 and P100, for students and professionals, respectively.  Mayor Felixberto Urbiztondo also encouraged them to present the problems of Barobo on the website, to talk about the issue that it may be resolved.

“During the development of the website we were already discussing the sustainability of the project.  We have tapped stakeholders and different foundations.  We’ve established steps to be taken but we still need to look for resources to be able to put them into action.  Maybe Smart can help us develop a way of monitoring the fishing activities, we’re really concerned about that,” Mistula discloses.

Clearly, the group’s commitment to make a difference does not end with a winning website.  It’s only the start.  “We are doing this for ourselves.  We are trying to help our community here,” says Guingguing. 

To view their website, log on to


To learn more about the fishing methods in their community, the students (right) interact with the fishermen at sea.


The student-faculty team from Barobo National High School is accompanied by their town mayor Atty. Felixberto Urbiztondo (fourth from right) onstage while receiving the grand prize from (first and last from right) Smart Public Affairs Community Partnerships Senior Manager Darwin Flores and Online Services Manager Nick Wilwayco.

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