A senior citizen from Matalom, Leyte, who planted thousands of mangroves to protect his home and neighborhood from big waves caused by typhoons, was presented with the prestigious Normandy Honors for Peace with the Earth Award.

Geldardo “Gary” Dabasol was recognized for his initiative in implementing a nature-based solution that protects the community from typhoons.

He was honored for his dedication and effort in planting over 10,000 mangroves in Barangay Punong, Matalom, Leyte since 2013 from propagules he gathers along the coastline of his village.

The award which aims to give international recognition and global gratitude to those who have made significant contributions to protecting the environment and promoting peaceful interactions with nature was presented by the Normandy Chair for Peace Movement, the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development in Washington DC and Paris, the Asia-Pacific Center for Environment Law in Singapore, the International Council for Environmental Law in New York and Madrid, and the Environmental Law Program of the University of Hawaii.

It was given during the Recognition of Good Stories and Gratitude to the Moving Characters: Bayanihan na Pasasalamat Para sa Katauhan held at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Manila on April 19, 2023.

“I didn’t plant mangroves to earn money. I’ve just loved planting ever since I was a kid,” Dabasol said. “I planted mangroves to serve as our natural defense against big waves and strong winds and to serve as home to a variety of marine resources. I never thought that somebody would recognize what I have done here in our small village. I am truly grateful for this recognition,” he added.

Dabasol further shared that his only technique and proven method for making his mangroves flourish and survive over the years is constant nurturing. “Taking care of my planted mangroves is like taking care of a dear child. With the help of my wife, I clear the mangrove area of plastics and other waste tangled in the roots to enable the trees to grow well. Also, to prevent organisms thriving in the area from ingesting or getting entangled to the plastics,” he said.

Dabasol’s passion for planting mangroves made rounds on social media and inspired other entities to do the same.

“A priest from my hometown requested that I assist in planting mangroves in his area. I was also requested by some offices to impart my know-how in planting mangroves,” he shares.

Atty. Antonio ‘Tony’ Oposa, Jr., a world-renowned environmental advocate who chaired the event, said that “inspiration is the highest and most powerful form of leadership. A good story is the most powerful tool to inspire and set hearts on fire.”

Meanwhile, DENR Regional Executive Director Arturo Fadriquela hopes that more individuals and groups will be inspired by the story of Dabasol and continue taking action towards environmental protection and sustainability.

Dabasol is the lone honoree from Region 8 who received the Normandy Honors for Peace with the Earth Award. He joined other honorees of the country in the fields of environment, education, law, solid waste management, road sharing, eco-governance, marine conservation, and international environmental law.(PR)