Marian devotees visit underwater statue
Liv G. Campo (The Freeman) - September 9, 2013 - 12:00am

BIEN UNIDO, Bohol, Philippines -- Devotees of the Virgin Mary here, as well as divers, commemorated her birthday yesterday with a solemn prayer at an area in Danajon Bank where her 14-foot statue lies about 80 feet underwater.

There was a brief fluvial parade attended by Bien Unido residents, mostly coming from the neighboring small islands. Flowers were offered to the Virgin Mary while the "Happy Birthday" was sung. The divers, meanwhile, went underwater to clean the Virgin Mary's statue from algae.

This was the second time the town held a similar event. During last year's celebration, divers from all over the country participated in the underwater pilgrimage.

Mayor Niño Rey Boniel said the celebration is aimed at constantly reminding the people that the Virgin Mary is keeping watch of the town's marine resources.

"We have to remind them that these are all God's gifts to us that we have to nurture and protect," he added.

It was in 2011 when Boniel had the statue (along with the Sto. Niño) installed underwater in the hopes to deter dynamite fishing in the area, purportedly done by the island residents themselves and those coming from nearby provinces.

Bien Unido owns at least 7,600 hectares of the large Danajon Bank, considered as Asia's only double barrier reef, which reportedly has 90 percent of the world's variety of marine creatures.

Sadly, however, the incessant dynamite fishing has destroyed the town's potential to become the next diving destination. But Boniel reported that since the installation of the underwater grottos, blasting has reportedly lessened in areas where the grottos were placed (the Sto. Niño image is only a few minutes boat ride from the image of the Virgin Mary).

Boniel admitted there are still a lot to be done to minimize, if not eradicate, dynamite fishing, but he vowed to continue the campaign especially that more than half of his people depend on the resources they get from the Danajon Bank.

"Right now we empower our communities to help us solve this problem. Kay basin mahurot nalang ning tanang resources wa nay mahabilin sa mga sunod nga generation," he said. — (FREEMAN)

BIEN UNIDO BONIEL BUT BONIEL DANAJON BANK DEVOTEES OF THE VIRGIN MARY HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAYOR NI REY BONIEL STO VIRGIN MARY
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