Yesterday, I attended this event at the University Hotel (formerly PCED Hostel), located inside UP Diliman, to join former colleagues in celebrating CERD’s 30th anniversary and to attend the launching of a book published by CERD, its new livelihood program, and CERD’s website.
Truth is I had no idea before I arrived at the venue what was going to be ‘launched’. A call from Cely telling me, “Azl, attend ka sa Saturday! Anniversary ng CERD tsaka me launching,” was enough for me to say, “Yes, I’ll be there.”
An event like this in CERD is like a high school reunion for me; an event I always look forward to in anticipation of meeting former colleagues whom I haven’t seen for the past years. Greetings such as “Hey, you looking great, as great as the last time I saw you!” is almost synonymous to “Hi! How are you doin?” This is also a time for exchanging more updates -- where one is currently working. Noteworthy, too, are stories shared about each one’s kids, as our children used to be that, literally, kids, several years ago.
When I arrived at the venue, these vivid memories of previous CERD activities were exactly how I anticipated them to be ... and there was even more. There was more laughter, a greater sense of warmth everyone shared with each other, the sheer joy to be seeing people you only get to read in the internet, pictures of CERD programs-in-action decorating the wall, booths showcasing products from the different program areas, and new faces in the crowd.
The warmth one feels in the atmosphere when surrounded by CERD ‘pipol’ never ceases to amaze me. It’s like coming home wherein you would feel a warm energy surrounding you upon entering the doorstep. A sense of familiarity, a sense of belongingness. And yes, a sense of comfort in just being there with everyone.
These hugs and exchanges came to a pause when the emcee called on everyone to enter the hall (the conference room) where the “formal part of the celebration” was going to be held. What followed was a three-hour program for the General Assembly, highlighted by updates on recent developments in CERD’s work for the past 5 years.
While sitting there listening to each speaker and presenter, fleeting before me were things indicating that a lot of things have changed for the past 5, or maybe the past 10 years, in the life of CERD. For one, there is pride and confidence among the presenters while showing the achievements for the past 5 years. One speaker, a bit shy but proud when he presented an innovation still in the process of being tested out. There was also a brief report on the financial standing of the organization, showing the list of different agencies already supporting or have supported CERD’s work in various coastal communities.
The program flowed enjoyably, with funny crunchy lines thrown here and there by the two co-emcees for this event.
Watching Parallel Slides (The CERD that I used to know 5 – 10 years ago and CERD as it is now)
During those three hours, vivid images of long-ago and short-term memories about CERD ran its parallel course in my mind-screen while watching the slides being presented before us.
I remember it very well that Program Coordinators used to travel from the field carrying bags and ‘maleta’ filled with manila papers containing the details of program reports. But now, with just a click of 4 – 5 slides, program updates in various areas can already be observed without going through the tedious process of folding and unfolding sheets of manila papers.
There was even a video presentation on the Hatchery Project showing the process of producing tiger prawns, an enterprise project implemented in one of the project areas. I was startled from my reverie when everyone started to laugh while watching the harvesting and marketing part of the video showing bangus (milkfish) being harvested instead of tiger prawns. Probably the team responsible for this video production was unable to gather documentation on harvesting and marketing of tiger prawn. Or maybe, they wanted to show both enterprise projects after all!
Years ago, documenting CERD’s experience was still limited to print form through publication, i.e. the Biyaheng Dagat, and photo exhibits of various program activities.
But now we learned that CERD has also developed and utilized new forms: posters presented in local and international conferences, video documentation, and yes, tapping on the potentials of the internet by creating CERD’s own website.
It’s so heart-warming to see how CERD has evolved through these years and how it has captured its own experiences, using different forms. I do believe that this is not simply a matter of documenting things. It also reflects how the organization appreciates its own efforts of implementing the programs, and the pride that comes with accomplishing 'things' (read: facilitating changes in people's lives) and not just simply doing them.
And that’s the second point I noticed in the presentations.
At first glance, one would already be impressed by the figures on the number of fish / marine sanctuaries established, the number of communities and people organized and involved in the fishery management program, of livelihood projects being implemented, changes in gender relations at the household level, and even the noted increase in fish catch for each trip -- these are stories if told in detail would require another day or probably a week of sharing and discussion among those attending this Assembly.
And if allowed, I am sure that the CERD staff who are working in the field (in the different project sites) would have more stories to tell ... of how many turtles have been tagged, and dugong being protected, and the number of times they have crossed those big waves to get to the communities ...
But then I guess, the road that leads to the sea is truly endless. There will be more surprises and blessings on the road up ahead for CERD as it never cease to stay where the small fisherfolks are.