Bantay Dagat: Sordilla family champions protecting marine turtles in Liloy town

In the remote town of Liloy in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, Barangay Patawag serves as a vital nesting ground for marine turtles. Responding swiftly to protect these precious marine creatures is the Sordilla family, headed by Richard Sordilla.

“Ang ako’ng panginabuhi-an naga depende sa ka bahandi sa dagat. Ug agi ni-ana, ako’ng gisaad nga protektahan dili lamang ang mga pawikan, apil usab ang tanan nga matang sa kinabuhi sa dagat nga midangop sa baybay namo. Kay akoa man nga hugot nga pagtu-o nga bisan unsa nga maayo’ng buhat, mobalik kana, magpalig-on niining ako’ng mahinungdanon nga tinguha,” Richard said.

(My livelihood solely depends on the riches of the sea. And by that, I have pledged to protect not only these marine turtles but all marine life seeking refuge along our shores. Because it has always been my treasured belief that acts of kindness have a way of returning, reinforcing my commitment to this vital cause.)

Richard Sordilla, a 49-year-old from Barangay Patawag, is a committed conservationist, volunteering with Bantay Dagat.

Richard Sordilla, a 49-year-old from Barangay Patawag, is a committed conservationist, volunteering with Bantay Dagat alongside his wife, Cheralyn, and their four children. Coming from a family of fishermen, Sordilla and his 26-year-old son, Ricky Boy, carry on the fishing tradition. They lead a modest life in the coastal area of Patawag, Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte, deeply connected to the sea.

Sordilla started his conservation work under the late Mayor Felixberto Bolando, who began conservation efforts around 2016 until his death in 2018. Mayor Bolando led the conservation efforts, offering a P2,000 reward for turtle rescues along Patawag’s shores. This sparked Sordilla’s passion, making him one of the dedicated few to rise to the challenge. He participated in seminars by the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC), sharpening his skills in patrolling against illegal fishing.

As a Bantay Dagat volunteer, Sordilla’s role is challenging.  While they can’t make arrests, they collaborate with the police to stop illegal ocean activities and care for coastal areas.  Sordilla’s commitment deepened as he learned the delicate art of turtle hatchling care from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Liloy, motivating him to give even more of his time to the cause.

After Bolando’s passing, Mayor Roberto L. Uy continued the conservation work, with Sordilla and others remaining committed to marine turtle protection in the community.

Sordilla said that by committing to marine turtle conservation, they are not only safeguarding the future of marine life but also securing their own. Hence, he calls for everyone to act with urgency, dedication, and collaboration to protect the nesting sites, mitigate threats such as pollution and climate change, and advocate for sustainable fishing practices.

“Sa nagkatigulang nako, ako malipayon nga naimpluwensyahan ko ang ako’ng pamilya, silingan ug mga kahigalaan nga magmanggad sa kanindot sa amo’ng kinaiyahan ug unsaon sa pagpatunhay niini nga grasya sa Ginoo. Ang pagbaton niining mga pawikan dinhi sa among baybay usa ka gasa nga angay panalipdan. Kini, ako’ng gisaad alang sa kaayohan sa akong mga anak, kay sila usab angay makatagamtam niini,” Sordilla exclaimed.

(As I grow older, I am happy that I have influenced my family, neighbors, and friends to learn how to appreciate the beauty of nature in our place and what to do to preserve this gift from God. Having these marine turtles in our coastal areas is a bounty that deserves to be protected. This is something I pledge to do for the sake of my children, as they too deserve to enjoy them.)

Barangay Patawag, under CENRO Liloy, has a peaceful coastline where olive ridley, hawksbill, and green sea turtles lay their eggs. Due to its importance as a turtle nesting site, CENRO Liloy established the Patawag Marine Turtle Hatchery to protect and hatch turtle eggs.

Sordilla manages the hatchery, ensuring proper care for the eggs and hatchlings. For his dedication, he receives P500 per batch of hatchlings from the local government, highlighting the community’s commitment to marine turtle conservation.

From the very first recorded release of 53 green sea turtle hatchlings in March 2016 to the recent liberation of 130 olive ridley marine turtle hatchlings, each release symbolizes the collective efforts and unwavering dedication of Sordilla, his fellow volunteers, and the entire community in safeguarding the marine turtle population and preserving the delicate balance of the coastal ecosystem.

In total, 1,198 hatchlings have been released in Patawag, Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte from 2016 to Jan. 29, 2024, highlighting the municipality’s significant conservation achievements.

According to the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US Department of Commerce, it takes 20–30 years for a sea turtle to reach sexual maturity. When a female is ready to lay eggs, it returns to the nesting beach where it was born, even if it has not been there for 30 years. Some females nest every year until the age of 80. (KSA/RVC/EDT/CCP/PIA9 with reports from DENR-9)

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