BALER, Philippines — Knights from Baler Council 9489 are S.O.B.s in their fight to keep their hometown beaches clean. But the acronym doesn’t stand for that — it stands for “Sons of the Beach.”
Baler is a beach town on the island of Luzon in the Philippines whose local economy relies on tourism. Recently, the beaches have been increasingly riddled with plastic bottles and garbage. The shoreline was also eroding due to storm surges and tsunamis in the region. So more than 70 Knights, clad in blue long-sleeved uniforms and armed with pickers, brooms and sacks, spent every Saturday during the past year cleaning up the beaches.
Each Saturday, the S.O.B.s assembled at Baler Church for prayer before heading to the shore. Many Knights picked up trash, while others planted mangroves to help prevent erosion and provide an ecosystem for organisms such as algae, barnacles, oysters, sponges and more.
“The council specifically chose this project to set an example and for everybody to see that the Knights of Columbus is prepared to do a down-to-earth activity,” said Jose Flores, grand knight of Baler Council 9489.
During the cleanup, the Knights collect numerousplastic bottles that they redeem for cash to contribute to their council’s charitable fund. The other waste is brought to sanitary landfills.
The Knights also spread awareness about the effects of climate change.
“[Our project is] not only focused on gathering plastics, which environmentalists regard as the most treacherous among earth’s waste due to the fact that they wouldn’t degrade even for centuries. But more than that, it aims to set an example that others may observe and see that fighting the dreaded global warming is everybody’s business,” Flores said.
The S.O.B.s’ message resonated with local Catholics and more than 60 men are joining the Knights to help clean up.
Knights of Columbus members worldwide benefit their local communities by organizing programs including Disaster Preparedness — in which councils engage with their communities to prepare for natural disasters — and Helping Hands, through which Knights help those less fortunate in their area.
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