Water lilies, bamboo sticks to clean Laguna de Bay tributaries

Miguel Victor T. Durian

[FEATURE] Water hyancinth and bamboo sticks;  put them together and you have an aquatic acrophyte biosorption system in its simplest form.

Naturally filtered water passes through water hyacinths and bamboo structure (Photo by MTZafaralla)

The simple, cost-effective water filtration system for lakes and rivers was developed by University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) professor Dr. Macrina T. Zafaralla, an adjunct professor at the university’s Institute of Biological Sciences.

Dr. Zafaralla is an environmental biologist. Her concept for the water filtration system can from her 2010 study involving the use of water hyacinths, more commonly referred to as water lilies, to absorb pollutants from bodies of water. The Molawin Creek at the UPLB campus was the site for her study.

By the community for the community: the system being attended to by one of the residents of Sitio Riverside (Photo by MTZafaralla)

Molawin Creek, sometimes referred to as the Molawin River, is the small stream originating from Mt. Makiling and flowing through the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus. It is the creek that flows under the Palma Bridge, flowing further down the Bocobo Bridge by the Seniors’ Social Garden, under which one biosorption system is installed.

Molawin Creek played a role in the establishment of the then UP College of Agriculture back in 1908, because the area proved to be a good source of water for drinking, bathing, constructing, among others. Most importantly, it sustained the rich flora and fauna that inhabited the area, which was necessary for UPCA’s biological laboratories.

Soon, UPCA expanded its perimeters, allowing for the construction of infrastructure through the Rockefeller-Ford Foundation, giving way to a 5-Year Development Program (5YDP). The infrastructure development and the construction of a sewage treatment facility soon collapsed and has not been repaired since.

The untreated sewage waste of UPLB campus, including the wastes from dormitories, housing units, and laboratories are expelled directly into the creek, through the conveyor behind the Physical Plant and Maintenance Services Office (PPMSO). The endpoint of Molawin Creek is Laguna de Bay.

The Aquatic Macrophyte Biosorption System (AMBS) is basically a water filtration system made of bamboo sticks and water hyacinths or water lilies (Eichhornia crassipes). Acting as a barrier, the bamboo sticks are made into a structure similar to an organized beaver dam interlinked by chicken wire and supported by heavy rocks at the front. The water hyacinths are placed like a mat behind the bamboo sticks so that they will not float away. The system is placed perpendicular to the running water, so that the water that will pass through it will be filtered by the roots of the water hyacinths, which absorb solids and filter heavy metals, particularly lead, which causes nervous system decline.

Her main concern on lead contamination is that people living in slum areas catch fish that are contaminated with lead.

It was also a surprising observation that after the system was put up, hundreds of fingerlings begun to proliferate out in the cleansed area of the creek—life science in action. It was “fish galore,” as Dr. Zafaralla had put it. The fingerlings were Tilapia and Biya.

Because of its design, it is suitable for installation in narrow bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and creeks.

Because of the efficiency of the technology, Dr. Zafaralla was recognized with the NAST Hugh Greenwood Environmental Science award in 2010, plus substantial prize money, which she will be investing on this project.

The BioPark and The Community

Because constructing and maintaining the biosorption system does not really need diverse technical knowledge and is cheaper, compared to other state-of-the-art water filtration systems, Dr. Zafaralla hoped that communities will be involved in this project; hence, her idea of the “BioPark” was conceptualized.

Dr. Zafaralla explained that the BioPark is not run by the government but by the community. This is basically like a give-and-take relationship. The community manages the system; the system gives the community clean water and fish to eat.

On August 2010, the Molawin Creek was declared a BioPark, and was henceforth called the Molawin BioPark, as declared by UPLB Chancellor Luis Rey I. Velasco and Vice Chancellor Virginia R. Cardenas.

For now, the sole purpose of converting the Molawin Creek into a BioPark on campus is to protect it by law from being downgraded yet again. Fishing and other recreational activities are also allowed at Molawin as long as visitors will keep the area clean.

Presently, there are six organizations that have joined hands with the UPLB Occupational Health and Safety Standards Committee to help in the stewardship of Molawin creek. Los Baños Mayor Anthony Genuino has also expressed his support for the project.

The installation of the biosorption system garnered positive remarks from the residents of Sitio Riverside, a community of informal settlers, in which one biosoprtion system was also installed.

“Doon ho kami naglalaba at naghuhugas ng pinggan kahit madumi,” said Aling Mika, a resident at Sitio Riverside, who added that she was grateful that the biosoprtion system was put up.

Manong Erik, also a resident of Sitio Riverside, said, “Dati noong hindi pa inilagay yung [biosorption system], napaka-itim ng tubig at wala kaming mahuling isda dito.” Manong Erik also said that he was able to participate in the construction of the biosoprtion system when it was first put up in 2010.

Other residents also claimed that during heavy rains, the system gets washed away. Dr. Zafaralla pointed out that this is one of the reasons why the system should be community-based, so that it would be constantly monitored by the community it serves.

Meanwhile, biosoprtion systems were also installed at one creek at Sta. Rosa, Laguna and another at Tanay, Rizal on June 10, 2011.

Dr. Zafaralla is hoping to put up biosorption systems in the 24 micro-watersheds in Laguna, which she will be carrying out with the help of the River Councils (RC) of Laguna. The idea is to remediate the dirty water from the 24 micro-watersheds before they reach Laguna de Bay.

A Fishy Story: Laguna, Quezon receive P30K-worth tilapia stock

Noel Angelo S. Arboleda

[NEWSFEATURE] In line with BFAR’s mission of providing livelihood assistance in aquaculture, the CALABARZON regional office (BFAR IV-A) continues to support small-time fish farmers through the Tilapia Broodstock and Fingerling Production and Dispersal Program.

BFAR IV-A’s extension office in Bambang, Los Baños houses nursing tanks where tilapia stock for dispersal are stored.

On July 8, BFAR IV-A transferred around 100,000 fingerlings and 8,000 breeders worth 30,000 pesos in total from their extension office in Bambang, Los Baños to municipalities in Laguna and Quezon.

BFAR farm technicians along with municipal agriculturists from Sta. Cruz and Victoria, Laguna and Real, Quezon dispersed tilapia stock to more than ten requesting fish farmers.

This is just one of the many requests approved by BFAR IV-A in a month as part of their tilapia dispersal, an assistance program for farmers venturing in the field of aquaculture.

In 1970, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources started the program to support low-income fish farmers in growing tilapia, a popular fish in the region. Originally, the Tilapia Broodstock and Fingerling Production and Dispersal program existed with a “stock now pay later policy” wherein requesting fish farmers are loaned fish stock (fingerlings and breeders) which they have to pay after harvesting period.

Due to tilapia’s popularity as a fish that is relatively easy to raise in fresh and saltwater conditions, the Department of Agriculture increased funding for tilapia research and production in 1990. This allowed BFAR to drop the loaning system and provide each requesting fish farmer with up to two free stock grants of 500 – 100,000 tilapias each.

According to Ms. Julia Arida, Officer in Charge of the BFAR IV-A Extension Training and Communications Division, interested parties only need to send a letter of request addressed to BFAR IV-A regional office in Diliman, Quezon City. Few requirements such as the amount of fish stock requested, farm measurements and address specified in the request letter are needed. This is done in order for the program to be more accommodating to low-income fish farmers.

Processed requests are then sent to the Extension office in Bambang, Los Baños for verification. During this phase, BFAR farm technicians are sent to different farms to conduct measurements and logistical surveys. This ensures that the amount of stock requested by farmers is applicable to the size of their growing facility, preventing cases of overstocking which may result to fish kill.

Mr. Dionisio Zapanta, BFAR IV-A farm technician, said the tilapia is popular not only to consumers but to producers as well because it is a very adaptive fish, known to survive in harsh conditions. “Tanggalan mo lang ng konting kaliskis ang bangus o galunggong, mamamatay na yun. Ang tilapia, kahit wala nang kaliskis, makakalangoy parin (Take off some scales from a milkfish or a mackerel scad and it’s bound to die, while a tilapia can swim with hardly a scale left),” Zapanta explained. However, he cautioned that inadequate space for the fish to grow causes stress which may kill the tilapia. That is why verification of farm size is important.

Through years of the BFAR Tilapia Dispersal program, technicians have encountered fish breeders lacking basic knowledge in tilapia breeding. To address that, BFAR IV-A provides seminars and modules on tilapia breeding in order to help starting farmers in their business. Trainings are conducted by BFAR specialists who come to the farms of beneficiaries needing assistance. Aside from this, tilapia breeders can also download the training modules from the BFAR IV-A website.

According to Mr. Zapanta, proper knowledge in tilapia is crucial in the business; it’s not just a matter of feeding the fish and you’re set. Overfeeding tilapia stock is a bad as underfeeding it as they might die from fishmeal residue contaminating their tanks.

Farmers need to be familiar with the tilapia’s breeding season as to successfully inseminate tilapia breeders for reproduction. “Madami talagang matigas ang ulong nagsasayang lang ng stock namin (There’s just a lot of hard-headed farmers just wasting our stock,)” Mr. Zapanta added, stressing the importance of basic training for starting fish farmers as the provincial office has experienced cases of failed businesses due to improper breeding practices.

Last May 28, a massive fish kill incident hit Taal, Batangas wherein approximately P57 million pesos worth of milkfish and tilapia. The incident affected 27% of Metro Manila’s supply of two of the country’s most popular fish. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and BFAR were the government bodies primarily involved in the investigation of the incident.

When asked regarding the effect of the fish kill to BFAR IV-A’s tilapia dispersal program, BFAR IV-A Farm Technician Mr. Alfredo Fang replied that it has not affected their fish stock. He clarified that BFAR IV-A along with the other 15 provincial offices around the country, gets their tilapia from the bureau’s main breeding farm in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

According to Mr. Fang, the incident in Taal Lake was caused by abrupt changes in water temperature. The water on the surface of the lake suddenly became cool, forcing the heat from the bottom to rapidly rise. In BFAR’s case however, their tilapia grown in Muñoz are stored in fish tanks providing the fish with a controlled environment, unlike the cages in Taal where the stocks are susceptible to sudden changes in temperature.

Among the 16 provincial offices of BFAR throughout the country, the CALABARZON provincial office is considered as the pioneer in Tilapia Breeding research. The provincial office is also the first to implement the Tilapia Broodstock and Fingerling Production and Dispersal Program. On the average, BFAR IV-A disperses a total of 300,000 fingerlings and 25,000 breeders in a month catering to around 10-12 individual tilapia breeders.

But despite the bureau’s efforts to provide assistance to small-time tilapia farmers through tilapia dispersal, still, there are some gaps that must be considered for the improvement of the program.

Mr. Raymond Jogus, a tilapia farmer for 17 years in Calauan, Laguna noted that individual requests take too long to get approved by the bureau. “Masyadong matagal, ang daming nakapila, eh hindi aari yan pag may hinahabol kang schedule (It takes too long because of a lot of pending requests, and that won’t do if you’re following a tight schedule,)” said Mr. Jogus.

Mr. Raymond Jogus has been raising tilapia in his farm (below) for 17 years.

Aside from the usual delays in the approval of stock requests, Mrs. Herminia Paunil, a former tilapia farmer in Calauan, said that BFAR’s tilapia is a bit challenging to raise.

She explained that this may be attributed to the fact that BFAR produces its tilapia in Pampanga, noted for its brackish water. She added that the tilapia may be more accustomed to a more saline condition and may take time to adjust to Laguna’s fresh water.

It’s a fact that tilapia breeders like Mr. Jogus, follow a strict schedule of operations, as one has to consider time-specific factors involved such as the breeding season and spawning season in tilapia production. With tilapia farming as their main source of livelihood, most fish farmers cannot afford to deal with problems that would impede their production and make them lose a harvest. Because of this, a lot of farmers are resorting to private breeders for their supply of fingerlings and breeders rather than rely on the free assistance program offered by BFAR.

In response to this, Ms. Arida said that the bureau still aims to improve its Tilapia Broodstock and Fingerling Production and Dispersal Program through continuous research on the field of tilapia breeding.

Through feedback data (tilapia growth rate, survivability rate, reproduction rate, etc.) given by the beneficiaries of the program, BFAR IV-A aims to improve the quality and increase the production of their tilapia stock to be able to cater to more individuals interested in making tilapia breeding their livelihood.

Currently, the BFAR IV-A regional office is located at the NIA Complex in Diliman, Quezon City, while its Extension Office is located in Bambang, Los Baños, Laguna.  Local fish farmers interested in the Tilapia Broodstock and Fingerling Production and Dispersal Program may contact the BFAR IV-A regional office through landline at +63(2)926-8714.

Bañamos Festival to celebrate ‘healing’ hot springs of Los Baños

[PRESS RELEASE] The Special Science and Nature City of the Philippines will celebrate Bañamos—a unique healing waters festival—beginning September 14 that will highlight the town’s colorful history capped by various fun-filled events.

This year marks one decade of the Bañamos Festival in honor of the town’s patroness Nuestra Señora de Aguas Santas (Virgin of the Holy Waters). Bañamos, meaning ‘to bathe,’ carries the theme “Papuri’t Pasasalamat Nuestra Señora de Aguas Santas: Viva Bañamos sa Bagong Los Baños” and which also coincides with the town’s 396th founding year as a municipality.

Mayor Anthony Genuino said “Bañamos is a way to thank God for the blessings in Los Baños and for keeping our collective spirits alive in our efforts to promote science, environmental preservation and economic progress.”

For almost four centuries, it is believed that people who dip in water that emanates from the hot springs near the mystical Mt. Makiling of Los Baños are cured from ailments.

(Photo courtesy of the Los Baños Public Information Unit)

The tenth Bañamos Festival officially kicks-off on September 14 with a showcase of assorted local products such as the world-famous buko pie and other delicacies, handicrafts, organic health products, and construction materials made from recycled plastic.  Los Baños is a pioneering local government unit in the country that bans the use of plastic bags in public markets and grocery stores.

The Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Los Baños will hold the the Takbo Para Kay Maria, a 2K and 5K fund-raising fun run, which starts dawn on September 10 at the Baker Hall of the University of the Philippines Los Baños and at the Olivarez Plaza.  Proceeds of the event will go to various church projects of the parish.

The Dia Aguas Santas (Day of the Holy Waters) is set on September 17 where a symbolic public bathing will be held in a hot spring pool blessed with holy water near the Immaculate Conception Parish Church.

A procession called elejer, highlighted by spiritual street-dancing, will also be held where some 5,000 devotees are expected to join.  Once gathered near the lakeshore of Baybayin, the devotees will accompany the statue of the patroness as it is mounted to join a fleet of balsa or wide motorized fishermen’s boat in a fluvial parade that will traverse a portion of the lakeshore of Los Baños.

In the early 17th century the town was referred to as Los Baños or ‘public baths’ by a Franciscan priest named Pedro Bautista because of the locality’s abundant hot springs.  Public baths were then built by Spaniards after discovering the healing powers of the hot springs.

The Franciscan friars also constructed the Hospital de Nuestra Señora de las Aguas Santas de Mainit in honor of the patroness who is considered, even in modern times, as the spiritual icon of Roman Catholics in this town.  Los Baños became an independent municipality in the year 1615.

Mayor Genuino added that Bañamos also aims to further boost the town’s tourism potential with other attractions such as Mt. Makiling, Dampalit Falls, Old Pantalan, Tadlac (Alligator) Lake, Mud Spring, Magnetic Hill, along with prominent institutions like the Boy Scouts Jamboree Camp, the International Rice Research Institute, and the UP Los Baños.

Other highlights of the Bañamos Festival include the national dance competition called Bailamos along with street dancing showdown, waterball adventure at the lakeshore, battle of pop and traditional bands, bikathon-for-a-cause, hot spring spa and wellness showcase, town sale or cedera, a beauty pageant, and fireworks display by the lake near the expansive Paciano Rizal Park.

Aside from its prominence in academics, science and research, Los Baños is a well-known tourist weekend or summer getaway because of the town’s proximity to Metro Manila and its hot spring resorts and assorted native delicacies.

On August 7, 2000, Los Baños was declared as a “Special Science and Nature City of the Philippines” through Presidential Proclamation No. 349 in recognition as a center for science and technology in the development of agriculture and preservation of the environment.

A press release from the Los Baños Public Information Unit. For inquiries, contact [email protected].

10th Banamos Festival mas pinalaki, mas pinasaya

[PRESS RELEASE] SAYAWAN.  MUSIKA, Kantahan at Katatawanan.  Paligsahan, Salu-Salo, Kasayahan at Pasyalan. Kagandahan ng Los Baños. Higit sa lahat, pasasalamat at papuri sa Nuestra Señora de Aguas Santas.

Ito ang mga inaabangan ng libu-libong mamamayan ng Los Baños at mga lokal at dayuhang turista sa pagdiriwang ng Ika-396 Taong Pagkakatatag ng Bayan at Ika-Sampung taon ng Bañamos Festival mula Setyembre 14 hanggang 18.

Ang tema sa taong ito ay “Papuri’t Pasasalamat Nuestra Señora de Aguas Santas: Viva Bañamos sa Bagong Los Baños.”

Parada, Paligsahan at Pagdiriwang

Bubuksan ang isang linggong pagdiriwang sa pamamagitan ng live TV coverage ng programang Unang Hirit ng GMA 7 sa ika-14 ng Setyembre, Miyerkules, sa Paciano Rizal Park.  Isang programa rin ang idaraos sa ika-16 ng Setyembre, Biyernes, sa nasabing plaza.  May parada din ng mga karosa na magmumula sa Trace College hanggang sa Paciano Rizal Park na lalahukan ng iba’t ibang drum and lyre bands.

Sa Sabado naman, ika-17 ng Setyembre, isang misang pasasalamat ang gaganapin sa Immaculate Conception Church bilang alay sa Nuestra Señora de Aguas Santas na susundan ng isang elejer papunta sa Paciano Rizal Park.

Buong linggong masasaksihan ang Spa and Wellness Fair at ang Bañamos Town Sale sa Paciano Rizal Park.  Ang WTF!! What The Fun!! Water Ball Adventure ay gaganapin naman sa Tadlac Lake at sa nasabing plaza.  Ang mga tiket sa Tadlac Lake ay nagkakahalaga ng Php60.00 habang ang sa Paciano Rizal Park ay Php75.00.  Ang Lakbay Lawa ay gaganapin naman sa daungan ng Baybayin.

Ang mga sumusunod ang iba’t ibang tagisan ng talento na magaganap:

  • Bailamos (Setyembre 14, Miyerkules) – National Dance Competiton
  • Himigsikan: Battle of the Bands (Setyembre 15, Huwebes) – Pop/R&B Band Competition
  • Musikohan (Setyembre 16, Biyernes) – Drum and Lyre Band Competition
  • Palarong Pinoy (Setyembre 17, Sabado) Traditional Street Games
  • Search for Miss Los Baños (Setyembre 17, Sabado)
  • Padyak LB (Setyembre 18, Linggo) – LB Bikathon-for-a-Cause
  • Bayle sa Kalye (Setyembre 18, Linggo) – Inter-Barangay Street Dancing Competition

Bilang pagwawakas, isang programa at fireworks display ang gaganapin sa ika-18 ng Setyembre sa may baybayin ng Paciano Rizal Park.

Viva Bañamos sa Bagong Los Baños 

Ayon kay Mayor Anthony ‘Ton’ Genuino, “Ang pagdiriwang ng Bañamos ay pasasalamat sa Poong Maykapal sa mga biyaya ng ating bayan.  Pagdiriwang din ito sa pagkakaisa ng mamamayan.”  Aniya, pagkakataon ang okasyong ito upang mas lalo pang pasiglahin ang kooperasyon ng iba’t-ibang sektor sa pamayanan tungo sa “ibayong pag-unlad ng Bagong Los Baños.”

Dagdag pa ng punongbayan na layon din ng Bañamos Festival na ipamalas sa buong bansa ang Special Science and Nature City of Los Baños na may angking kagandahan at kaaya-ayang kapaligiran at tourist spots, at kakaibang galing sa larangan ng syensya, akademiya, at sa sining at kultura.

“Layunin nating maging bukambibig ng mga turista sa loob at labas ng bansa ang Bañamos nang sa gayon ay mas lalong sumigla ang turismo sa ating bayan,” pahayag ng alkalde.

Ayon naman sa Festival Committee, ang disenyong logo (nasa larawan) ng 10th Bañamos Festival ay simbolo ng “kolektibong hangarin ng mamamayan ng Los Baños upang makamit ang mas maunlad at mas mapayapang komunidad sa ilalim ng pamahalaang lokal na tumatalima sa mabuting pamamahala ng nagkakaisang taumbayan na ginagabayan naman ng mapagkalingang kamay ng Nuestra Señora de Aguas Santas.”

A press release from the Los Baños Public Information Unit. For inquiries, contact Oji Sanchez through [email protected].