THE city we now know as Cagayan de Oro began as a walled settlement of Catholic converts founded by Recollect missionaries along its namesake river in the 17th century. With our city having been around this long, it's easy to see how its citizens can build their lives around the river, draw sustenance from it, and yet take it for granted despite its importance.
Thankfully, there are some among us who believe that the Cagayan de Oro River and its river basin (the portion of land drained by a river and its tributaries) should not be exploited nor neglected, but preserved and cared for – both for the sake of the environment as well as the people inhabiting the river basin whose lives and well-being depend on the river's integrity.
And among these people deeply concerned for our river basin, is the name of Dr. Hilly Ann Roa-Quiaoit, PhD leading all the rest. “The ridges, rivers, and reefs are interconnected ecosystems. With integrated and multisectoral approaches, we can sustainably manage our environmental resources,” she says.
Dr. Quiaoit, who currently serves as the executive director of the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council (CDORBMC), was honored with the Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award for 2018 by JCI Senate Philippines for her work in environmental conservation. She and four other laureates were conferred the TOFIL Award during an evening ceremony on December 5, 2018 in Quezon City.
In addition to the CDORBMC, Dr. Quiaoit's environmental advocacy also includes her work with the Macajalar Bay Development Alliance (MBDA), which is a project of Xavier University's McKeough Marine Center in partnership with local government units in Misamis Oriental. She is a founding fellow of the MBDA, which was established in 2008 for the sustainable management of the bay, which is a major fishing ground in the province. The MBDA received a special award from Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in 2012.
A marine biologist by training, Dr. Quiaoit is also known for being part of an international team of marine scientists who in 2008 discovered a species of giant clam (Tridacna costata) inhabiting the Red Sea. She was also feted by the Senate of the Philippines as one of Ten Outstanding Women in Nation's Service (TOWNS) in 2007, and just two years before that recognition she earned her Doctorate in Natural Science, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Bremen in Germany.
The CDORBMC is a multi-sectoral organization with origins in the November 2010 Multi-Stakeholders Meeting and Workshop spearheaded by the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, and has the aim of protecting, preserving, rehabilitating, and managing the Cagayan de Oro River Basin and its watersheds, rivers, and forests.
Indeed Dr. Hilly Quiaoit is a true gem in the city of golden friendship.