The Sarangani Bay Festival or SarBay Fest which is considered the biggest beach festival in Mindanao just got bigger this year as wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) supported the various events in partnership with the provincial government of Sarangani.

Over 70,000 participated in the weekend long festival which was marked by fun activities that highlighted awareness and appreciation for the protection and conservation of Sarangani Bay and Davao Gulf. Sarangani Bay is not only a major source of livelihood but is also a fast-rising center of marine eco-tourism in the country.

Participants of the Sarbay Run for the Environment 2013 traverse the last two kilometers of the leg along the shoreline of Sarangani Bay.

One of the main highlights of SarBay Fest was the Sarangani Bay Run for the Environment, which Smart is supporting for the second year now. It is the only running event in South Central Mindanao that offers a unique route – highway, off-road, and two kilometers of white sand shoreline which gave runners closer to the environment while maintaining this sense of phsycial challenge and adventure.

Proceeds from the run will fund WWF conservation and climate change adaptation projects in Mindanao, as well as the initiatives of Spectrum, a consortium of non-government organizations (NGOs) based in the region.

“The Sarangani Run for the Environment 2013 with Smart puts strong emphasis on the conservation and protection of species and habitats in Sarangani Bay through its partner beneficiaries,” said run organizer Eliodoro Alcaya, Jr. “Both WWF and Spectrum have programs, which utilize highly integrative and participatory approaches for the protection and conservation of Sarangani Bay and its inhabitants.”

The two youngest participants of the Sarbay Run for the Environment make it to the finish.

For its part, Smart has been supporting various environmental activities in the region such as tree planting and setting up of waste decomposers.

“Sarangani Bay is right up there in terms of natural beauty and environmental importance. Activities such as SarBay Fest and the Sarangani Run for the Environment bring environmental awareness and advocacy to more people,” said Darwin F. Flores, Smart Public Affairs department head for community partnerships.

The 5-kilometer run had 131 finishers while the 8-kilometer leg had 49.

“I thought I won’t make it to the finish line. The trail was scenic but challenging, halos hindi ko makaya,” said Eddie Nabor, 48, sports coordinator of the Department of Education’s division office. It was his first time to join Sarbay’s fun run.

For 5-kilometer 8th placer Paquito Diaz, “the route was great, there was thrill specially the uphill climb.” Diaz, 33, who works as a messenger in General Santos City, was on his third time to join SarBay fun run. He was 3rd placer last year.

Diaz’s father, 8-kilometer finisher Abelardo, is the oldest runner at 61. He is an auto mechanic.

For Allan de Lima, the Sarangani Run for the Environment was his “most enjoyable run.” De Lima, who is in his second year as a runner, described the Smart fun run as having a “nice route, nice view, nice people, and nice run for a cause.”

“The terrain is very challenging, it is an up-down eight-kilometer run and the last two kilometers is running on the seashore,” said De Lima whose last run before SarBay was the 2013 TNF100 Baguio-Benguet ultra trail marathon in April.

Participants of this year’s Sarbay Run for the Environment said the challenging but scenic route made it one of the best runs ever in that part of the region.

The 8-kilometer male winners are Arnie Macarenas (1st), Michale Jan Echalico (2nd) and Elmer Ban-tolo; and Monalisa Embaca (1st), Cynthia Jaro (2nd) and Vivian Avergonzado (3rd) for the female division. For the 5-kilometer run, the top three finishers are Rolly Paderna, Jessmar Lopez and Azlan Pagay for male; and Rosenelyn Devillo, Emely Avergonzado and Jonalyn Dorado.

Smart continuously engages in partnerships with organizations that include LGUs, the academe, NGOs, government agencies and the private sector to help raise awareness on the need to protect and conserve the environment.

On top of being co-presenter for SarBay Fest, Smart also provided Wi-Fi connectivity to the media center and main festival area so people can share their experiences online. Smart also deployed a Multi-Element on Wheels (MEOW) facility at Gumasa to boost the network signal in the area.

Organizers said the success of SarBay 2013 reflects how various partners converged to reinforce Sarbay’s position as host of the biggest beach festival in Mindanao today. [END]