10:56 pm | Saturday, July 20th, 2013
How would you combine your passion for photography, your love for the environment and your desire to keep your birthplace as pristine as when you first saw the light of day? Al Linsangan III surely has found a formula to do just that. And make some money in the process as well.
I met Al during the Green Leaders Forum organized by the Calamianes Conservation and Cultural Network Inc. (CCCNI) and Society for Sustainable Tourism and Development Inc. which started The Coron Initiative with the help of United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)
Al and his colleague Corrin “Chippy” Alarcon kept the attendees organized, took us to hosted dinners around town, made sure we experienced Kayangan Lake and Smith Beach, among many Coron attractions.
Then, on our last evening, Al took us to his place of business which is housed in their ancestral home’s compound in the city center. He has a retail shop for outdoor wear, (mostly made in the Philippines) camera accessories, and gadgets, and with his wife May he also runs their tour agency just next door to the shop. His brother, another entrepreneur, runs a souvenir craft store around the corner.
His hobby and passion is photography and this can be observed as soon as you land in the Busuanga airport. Most of the tarpaulins and streamers have photos credited to Al Linsangan. His hobby has taken him to all the islands which form the Calamianes group of Culion, Linapacan, Busuanga and Coron. And there are still 680 more islands which are for sale or development.
During his college days in the University Belt, Al would work part time in Recto’s famous book stores, photocopy and photo studios. He would work for free because he was learning new skills everyday. He would type term papers, cut ID photos to size, and everyday he knew he was learning something he could later bring back to his hometown.
Upon his return to Coron after college, he decided to immerse in his community for two years, travel around the islands, take photographs, get to know the indigenous people called Tagbanuas. Soon after, he found work as Cruise director in a discovery cruise line and found much interest in saving the environment. He saw how pristine his native Coron was and how it could be kept as virgin and pure as when he first saw light in his hometown.
Al has rounded up hotel owners, restaurant owners and tour guides to get them interested in this journey to keep Coron as green as it can be. Many have seen how Boracay soon became commercialized and Coron natives do not want to experience the same commercialization which has struck Boracay. Karaoke bars blaring music way into evening, tourists wantonly throwing their wrappers and trash on the shore, sunbathers polluting the waters with sunblock and all sorts of chemicals.
Motorcycles using motor oil and gasoline which emits for highly obnoxious exhaust fumes. This should not and cannot happen in Coron.
So Al’s CCCNI partnered with another eco-advocate Susan Santos de Cardenas who worked in Inkaterra in Peru, and has seen how sustainable resorts and cities can be preserved.
Al now has a thriving photography business where he has engaged his childhood friends to help run the operations (what he learned in Recto during his college days were really put to good use). His wife May helps run his tour agency, takes bookings and manages his group tours.
But while he attends to The Coron Initiative, and he runs several business concepts, Al finds time to help his community of boatmen. He has organized the boatmen into a cooperative where the men take the boats out to sea, the women cook the food for the tour groups and each boat now employs several men—the guide, the boatmen—who now take home double the money than when they used to do individual bookings of tours. In fact, the cooperative now has 15 boats and its income benefits already 42 families.
That is the visionary entrepreneur. He took back the lessons he learned in and out of school, brought them to his hometown and helped his townmates have jobs and opportunities. He believes that as he dreams, and with his partner May who manages operations, he can make Coron as green as it can be.
His is the name you have to remember when you visit Coron. Al Linsangan III is a gem of an environment advocate. He walks his talk. He has a neem tree in his front yard to ward off mosquitoes. He uses revolutionary materials in his office building to make it cool without air-conditioning or with just two hours of running the air-con during hot summer months.
He has thought of almost everything: Coron postcards, Coron T-shirts, Coron music. And yet he is just as normal as any eco warrior can be. With guys like Al, truly The Coron Initiative will be a dream that will be reality.
(The author is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra, Podium and Centris QC malls. She is also the president of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and president of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on Facebook: Pacita “Chit” Juan. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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