THE famous Himoga-an River got a lot of loving from the people of Sagay City as they celebrated its special day dubbed the 6th “Adlaw sa Suba” or Day in the River last June 10.

More than 4,000 Sagay officials, employees, teachers, students and environment advocates trooped to the Himoga-an River to plant 6,000 seedlings in the river banks and hold various fun-filled activities there.

“Adlaw sa Suba” is an annual environmental activity of the city government of Sagay aimed at raising appreciation and love for the Himoga-an River.

This event has become a beautiful community event where people from all walks of life participate on environmental activities such as river clean-up, tree-planting and tree-caring, while enjoying the locally conceptualized sports and contests.

Sagay City Mayor Alfredo Marañon III said in his opening remarks, “Our river is our life, the source of our food, is important to water cycle, a way to transport goods, can be a source of sustainable energy and livelihood as an eco-tourism destination, hence its preservation is very vital.”

Marañon congratulated the barangay officials, residents, dynamic partners such the Department of Education-Division of Sagay City and OISCA-Sagay, agencies, organizations and various sectors for their overwhelming support to this endeavor.

The mayor also reiterated the comment of President Benigno Aquino during his visit there recently how clean Himoga-an River is.

The mayor urged everyone to continue to keep the Himoga-an River clean. “One of the challenges is plastic pollution and residents must be responsible enough not to dump their domestic waste into the river,” he said.

Councilor Matthew Victor Gamboa, chairman of the 2014 “Adlaw sa Suba”, for his part, said that one of the challenges now is how to increase survival rate of our trees at the river and to increase participation especially the residents living near the river including other barangays, hence the launching of this year’s thrust.

In our collective desire to sustain and help transform our communities to be sustainable and resilient, this year we launched our thrust “364 days of protecting the river, one day of celebrating the love for Himoga-an River,” Gamboa said.

Nicanor Alparito, chairman of the National Greening Commission-Sagay and co-chairperson of 2014 “Adlaw sa Suba,” said that “despite the damages brought about by the floods and typhoons, we will not stop planting and will continue encouraging the community to do their share for the environment.”

This year, the local DepEd and OISCA-Sagay launched an “Adopt An Area” project in partnership with residents and barangays living near the river.

The residents will adopt an area along the river bank to maintain cleanliness and care for the trees planted. At the end of the year, an incentive will be awarded to them.

Also, a few weeks before June 10, the committee had conducted river clean-up, tree-planting activities and promoted this advocacy to various barangays in partnership with the schools where there is creek and river.

A Walk for A Cause for Himoga-an River was also held last June 7 participated by nearly 1,600 residents and advocates, that generated P20,000. This was a fund-raising campaign led by the Division Federation of Supreme Student/Pupil Government in cooperation with OISCA-Sagay Chapter, YES-O and other agencies.

The tree seedlings were provided by the students, OISCA-Sagay, Sagay CENRO and PEMO. During the “Adlaw sa Suba” they also released 5,000 tilapia fingerlings.

The event also consisted of locally conceptualized sports race relays called the “Himoga-an Race Relay Challenge” which included carabao race at the Carabao Island, 600-meter three paddle boat races, balsa race made of banana trunks, swimming, running, planting and flag-hoisting of each team at the end of the race. Each team also presented their candidate (Diwata sa Suba) and expressed their advocacy on river preservation.

Other contests were Pamunit sa Suba (river-fishing contest), Double Men Paddle Boat Relay and Combo mix (male and female) Paddle Boat Race. In “Salum Kuha Kayog” contest, the most number of the kayog shell wins.

The “Himoga-an Puga Laba” contest was also held using an organic and environment-friendly detergent powder. Historically, the name Himoga-an got its name from the word “himoga” or “puga” or to wring-wash the clothes along the riverbanks.

The race officials and judges were members of the Sagay City Rescue, Buhay Dagat Snorkeling Guides Association and Lopez Sugar Corporation Rescue Team.

Moreover, the city plans to organize a Himoga-an Community-based Riverwatch and Eco-tourism Association in line with its direction towards sustainable tourism.

“Adlaw sa Suba” won national awards for the last three years—2011, 2012 and 2013— as first place Best Tourism Event – Sports and Wellness Category for ATOP-DOT Pearl Best Tourism Practices Award.

Helen Cutillar, City Information and Tourism Officer of Sagay, said, “More than the award, we dream to have a clean and healthy river where our community actively participates in the protection and preservation of this precious natural resource.”