Padilla: Visiting Ayoke

Obiter Dictum

THE plan was to witness the 6th Bugsay Mindanao Paddle for Peace in Cortes, Surigao del Sur on March 17 along with people from Rare, a marine conservation group based in the Philippines.

But to maximize resources it was also decided to include a quick trip to Ayoke.

Ayoke is an island that sits at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. From the Cantilan port, it’s almost an hour boat ride which the Ayoke residents navigate on a daily basis.

While we were nervously tugging the edges of our life vests and swayed with each swell with half-breaths, our guide’s daughter munched on turon and slept afterwards.

When we arrived at its shoreline, Ayoke was pitch dark and it was only then that I remembered that the island had no electricity and relied on solar power and vehicle batteries for power.

Home to around 100 households and almost 600 people, Ayoke Island heavily relies on coconut farming and of course, fishing, in its 2,022 hectares of the almost 42,000 hectares of municipal waters.

Because of the lack of a cold storage facility, fish catch is immediately sold to nearby General Island (the bigger and main island) or carted off to Cantilan.

Rare-Philippines has been helping the island community augment this income by generating interest in dried fish production and teaching financial literacy and organizing savings clubs. These social innovations bridge families in seasonal industries like Ayoke’s.

As expected, most of the members of the club are women and so are those who work on dried fish processing which has been marketed as “Baby Bangsi” (flying fish).

But much is to be desired for Ayoke Island. Though still unruffled by tourist-y structures, its shores have already been invaded by trash washed ashore or from those living on the island.

An early morning walk along part of the shoreline produced three sacks bursting with trash, including disposable infant diapers and countless shampoo sachets.

I was imagining that a whole day’s walk would have produced a hill and a month’s daily collection would have sadly amounted to an islet and that thought was scary.


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