Waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition lamented the return of traditional littering at pilgrimage sites with the easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Based on the monitoring it conducted, some pilgrims chose to ignore the oft-repeated reminder not to leave any trace of garbage as they perform time-honored practices among Catholic Filipinos during the Holy Week.
On the eve of Palm Sunday, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the faithful to keep the health and wellness of Mother Earth in mind as they carry out faith-inspired acts of prayer, atonement and charity, stressing the need to avoid careless use and disposal of single-use plastics (SUPs) and littering in pilgrimage sites.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through its president and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David echoed and supported the group’s call for a litter-free pilgrimage.
Antipolo City Mayor Casimiro “Jun” Ynares III through a joint appeal with the EcoWaste Coalition also invited pilgrims to join hands in keeping the penitential Alay-Lakad “free from all forms of garbage” in line with the local government’s 4M campaign for the Holy Week: Mapayapa (peaceful), Mataimtim (solemn), Maingat (vigilant), and Malinis (clean).
“While some opted to bring their discards home or dispose of them in available bins, many visitors, without remorse, threw or abandoned their trash along the streets and in pilgrimage sites, which are places for prayer and reflection, for cleaners or sweepers to pick up,” observed the EcoWaste Coalition.
“Littering, which has become a tradition in itself, is truly appalling and unacceptable,” they added.
At the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in San Jose del Monte City, bins were found overflowing with mostly plastic garbage such as plastic bags and bottles, and food waste.
Some visitors recklessly tossed their discards on the ground, creating minidumps on the hilly terrain featuring the 14 Stations of the Cross.
At the International Shrine of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo City, which has been attracting pilgrims for centuries, some visitors who spent the night outside the cathedral after a grueling walk did not bother to tidy up the area, leaving improvised sleeping materials, plastic bottles and other litter behind, despite the gentle “clean as you go” reminder announced again and again over a megaphone.
While the Stations of the Cross at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Marilao, Bulacan were almost litter-free, some visitors left their trash at the site.
Also, the Plaza Miranda in front of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila was found relatively clean, but not the adjacent Carriedo Street and the side of the church in Quezon Boulevard.
SUPs, particularly plastic bags, bottles, cups, food containers and wrappers, are among the most littered items monitored by the group in pilgrimage sites, indicating the need for regulations that will control, if not ban and replace, disposables.
“It’s high time to move away from disposable culture. Ecological conversion and solidarity is urgently needed amid the triple planetary emergencies involving climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, which threaten human health and livelihoods and the ecosystems upon which we depend on,” the group concluded.
Catherine R. Cueto