Kagawad Leona Spad, a single parent to four kids, a community leader in Barangay Baldat, and president of the Baldat Fishers and Farmers Association (BAFFA), has been an inspiration to the community since ISO’s first project in Culion. She lives in Baldat which houses abundant mangroves converging into a green belt which protects its residents from inclement weather and disasters. Because of their barangay’s rich mangrove resources, the community, led by Kagawad Leona participated in the natural resources management project entitled ‘Participatory Island Development Strategy in Culion, Palawan’. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Philippine-American Fund, supported ISO by engaging the coastal community members and fisher folks in participatory research, planning, and coastal resources management. The project empowered the communities especially the fishers by involving them in coastal resources management activities like mangrove rehabilitation, establishment of Marine Protected Areas, establishment of conservation enterprises as alternative livelihood, and operationalization of Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC).
Kagawad Leona was a part of the Local Research Team (LRT) which conducted the mangrove inventory of the Participatory Coastal Resources and Ecological Assessment (PCREA). By engaging the local community to conduct the participatory action research in Culion, the project aimed to increase their awareness, and consequently, their participation in resource governance in the municipality. The mangrove inventory also aimed to guide the establishment and maintenance of the mangrove nurseries, particularly for the stocking of site-appropriate seedlings. She led the BAFFA members in the establishment of their mangrove nursery and afterwards, in the stocking of site-appropriate seedlings, maintenance of the nursery, and outplanting activities. These activities involved grueling effort from the local community members. They would walk for hours under the blazing sun; they would stay all day in the mud soaking wet, bruised, tired and sometimes even scared, for they were not sure of what they would encounter in the dense mangrove forests. Leona, as their leader, never uttered any complaints. She can brighten the mood during mangrove outplanting activities with her unending smile and her nurturing nature towards the mangrove seedlings.
Because of her commitment and hard work in these mangrove conservation activities, she was chosen to coordinate these activities for their barangay, when the project had to double its efforts to meet the target indicators. She oversaw all the nursery and out-planting activities together with members of BAFFA. She also offered her unending support to the project by her constant presence and active participation in most of our invitations. Above all these, she never asked anything in return. In the end of it all, Kagawad Leona could walk with her head held high for she had done her part of saving these environments. She is no longer just a mother of four kids but a mother to nature for she had given birth to the constant hope of environmental protection.
Written by Sarah Butobara, ISO Project Assistant for Culion, and Anna Fatima Joven, ISO ISD Coordinator