Bantay Kalikasan

From Esteros to Pasinaya

Althea Cahayag
February 8, 2019

FEBRUARY 1 – 3, 2019 – The National Arts Month in Cultural Center of the Philippines, more famously known as the PASINAYA 2019, officially kicked – off to celebrate different kinds of arts such as music, theatre, dance and acting.

But for Cielo Macaraya, it was a different Sunday; it was a day she performed in front of hundreds of people, something different from her usual milieu when she plays the ukulele or flute.

Cielo’s first musical instrument was a flute recorder. She lives near Estero de Paco in Manila. She has performed in front of kids who are also living near Estero de Paco to teach them the basics of flute or ukulele, or when ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc.’s (ALKFI) Bantay Kalikasan invites them to play in an event to become guest performers. Her biggest performance before Pasinaya was last year in the Dolphy Theatre of ABS-CBN during ALKFI’s Christmas Party. She played the ukulele together with the other kids in estero communities. Their group is called Eco Strummers of Paco, Manila.

Eco Strummers of Paco Manila. Cielo stands at the back, wearing a cap.

For that Sunday, the last day of Pasinaya 2019, they performed in CCP grounds with other ukulele players all over the country, of all ages, that formed the Barangay Ukulele group. They performed four songs – Naroon by Yano, Liwanag sa Dilim by Rivermaya, Buwan by Juan Karlos Labajo, and Kahit Ayaw Mo Na by This Band. If you have seen the Eco Strummers perform before, you’d know that these songs are not the songs they used to play. These are new songs for them.

Cielo said she was nervous, yet excited of their Pasinaya performance. “May halong kaba po na sobrang saya. Enjoy na enjoy po. Napapatalon na lang po ako sa saya!” (I was nervous but it was so fun. I enjoyed it a lot to the point that I just jump out of glee!)

Barangay Ukulele in Pasinaya 2019

The Eco Strummers trained for five Saturdays together with the other participants of Barangay Ukulele. They started to learn how to play ukulele during the 4th Philippine Ukulele Festival as they attended a free workshop on ukulele, flute, and djembe drums. They were recommended by Kawayan 7, a partner of Bantay Kalikasan. Kawayan 7 also became a consistent trainer of the Eco Strummers especially during their performances in estero communities. In one Bantay Kalikasan event dubbed as PadyaKantahan, celebrated together with the World Bicycle Day, Kawayan 7 and Eco Strummers performed in Paco Market.

According to Melvic Cabasag, Bantay Kalikasan’s Site Specialist, it was Atty. Dulce Punzalan, the Director of Kawayan 7, who invited the Eco Strummers to join the Barangay Ukulele performance in Pasinaya. “Hindi namin akalain na from estero, nasa Pasinaya na sila ngayon. Nakakatuwa,” (They used to play just in esteros or tributaries but now, they already performed in Pasinaya Festival. We are very happy.) she said.

Cabasag also said that every month, the group conducts clean-up activities in areas where they live. They are also kid ambassadors for the environment, gently reprimanding those who throw rubbish along the waterways. They live near the esteros. “Kapag may nakikita silang nagtatapon ng basura sa hindi tamang lugar, sila na ang mga sumasaway,” (When they see people throwing garbage in improper places, they call the attention of these people and make them understand that they should help in keeping their area clean instead of adding to the problem.) she added.

On the other hand, Atty. Punzalan looks forward to more collaboration with the Eco Strummers. “We are looking forward to more fruitful projects with them especially the new recording of the song Bagong Pinoy,” she expressed. Bagong Pinoy (New Filipino) is sought to be the new theme song of ALKFI-Bantay Kalikasan.

Eco Strummers of Paco Manila performing as part of Barangay Ukulele in Pasinaya 2019, CCP grounds

Their Pasinaya performance is just a start for Cielo who wants to take a music course in college. “Nakakatugtog na po kami sa malalayong lugar, napakagagandang lugar, at masasayang lugar. Hindi na lang po kami natugtog sa mga estero,” (Because of this, we are now performing in far, beautiful, and happy places. We no longer just perform near esteros or tributaries.)

Aside from a recording project, Eco Strummers will also be performing at the 5th Philippine Ukulele Festival. From being ordinary students, Cielo and the rest of the band are now becoming performers. Soon, who knows, these kids will be performing on larger stages like international acts or perhaps, become the next teachers to children who aspire to play musical instruments like them.

Pasinaya is the largest multi-arts festival in the Philippines. For the past years, it has attracted more than 10,000 people with roughly 52,000 audience viewership.

Bantay Kalikasan is the environment arm of ALKFI which promotes environmental stewardship and sustainable area development. Its river rehabilitation arm, Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig, rehabilitates esteros or water tributaries connecting to Pasig River to rehabilitate the whole stretch of it. This includes assisting estero communities like where the Eco Strummers live. To know more how to assist estero communities, visit