The Bantay Dagat (Sea Watch) volunteer group of Mabini, Batangas, has been helping to protect the waters of Batangas for almost a decade now, working with the local government, non-governmental organizations, resort owners, and other groups in establishing and protecting marine sanctuaries and curbing illegal fishing. In all that time, one person has faithfully been there to help and participate in any way she can: a 44-year-old mother of _ named Aida Mendoza.
“As a mother, I really feel the need to protect the seas for the secure the future welfare of my children,” said Aida, explaining why she joined the Bantay Dagat. Female Bantay Dagat volunteers were then (and even now) virtually unheard of, but it did not stop her from actively participating in the community organizing efforts when the group was first being formed.
While she willingly performed tasks traditionally assigned to women such as preparing food for meetings, she knew that she wanted to be part of the whole process, all the way to the actual conducting of patrols.
“I’m a fisherwoman, I go out to the sea and make a living for my children, why can’t I be a Bantay Dagat?” she reasoned.
She did not make it among the first batch of volunteers who be officially trained and deputized as Bantay Dagat members in Mabini, but when the next round of training and deputizing came, she made sure that she would be among that group.
She amusedly recalled when she heard about an upcoming Bantay Dagat training and deputation, that she hurriedly went to speak to the Municipal Agricultural Office and convinced him to include her. In 1998, she became the first deputized female Bantay Dagat in Batangas, and remains to be one of the few female Bantay Dagat members across the country.
Aside from the initial resistance to the novel concept of a female Bantay Dagat, Aida never met any outright discrimination, and successfully worked with her male counterparts. Sometimes, her fellow Bantay Dagat members would be protective and not let her go out on patrol during bad weather, but instead assign her to the field station so she can do monitoring and communications tasks from there.
Over the years, however, she has been one of the most active Bantay Dagat members in the area. She admits to meeting a lot of frustrations along the way, during times when political, financial, or legal limitations would prevent them from fully performing their duties. However, she is still as active and willing to help as ever, and feels good to be part of protecting the seas.