MANILA, Philippines – They are more than just sandcastles.

If you have seen (and have gotten amazed by) the sandcastles in Boracay — though you won’t see them anymore because sand sculptures have been banned in the island paradise — you will enjoy seeing the giant sand sculptures in Villa Beach, Iloilo, too.

LOVELY TO LOOK AT. They leave a powerful message, too. All photos from Jonathan Clavel

LOVELY TO LOOK AT. They leave a powerful message, too. All photos from Jonathan Clavel

Late last April saw the beginning of the 18th Porma Balas: The 2012 Iloilo Sand Sculpture Competition, organized by the Rotaract Club of Iloilo City.

TEAMWORK AND A RESOLVE to save the environment result in breathtaking sculptures like this.

TEAMWORK AND A RESOLVE to save the environment result in breathtaking sculptures like this.

Porma Balas aims to make sand sculpting an art activity and hobby among Ilonggos, and to promote Villa Beach as one of the province’s tourism attractions every summer. This, according to Jonathan Clavel, former president of the Rotaract Club of Iloilo City.

But more than just an art form or a hobby, the sand sculptures are built to send a strong message on environmental protection. This applies most specifically to preserving and protecting the once famous Villa Beach shoreline.

SAVE THE SEA TURTLES. People are now realizing that sea turtles really are an endangered species.

SAVE THE SEA TURTLES. People are now realizing that sea turtles really are an endangered species.

Villa Beach is popular to locals and tourists because of the wide array of seafood restaurants offering a by-the-sea ambiance dining experience. Sadly, though, the industry has also attracted informal settlers, whose homes have “sprouted like mushrooms in the area,” changing the scenery of the city’s once top tourism attraction.

Non-environment-friendly materials such as plastic, straw, gas or kerosene and spray paint were not allowed for use in the design of the sandy works of art. 10 groups of sculpturers, artists, students’ organizations and friends showcased their wares in sand sculpting.

MASSIVE WORKS OF ART. Too bad they're not permanent.

MASSIVE WORKS OF ART. Too bad they’re not permanent.

The pure sand sculptures were at least 7 feet high and designed on a plot area of 6m x 6m. The maximum number of members per group that joined was 10.

Their work was judged with the following criteria in mind: degree of difficulty, design and artistic quality, relevance to the theme, use of space and neatness.

The event has driven local tourism and the organizers hope that excitement over it will eventually spread nationwide and then worldwide.

PORMA BALAS MAY BE annual, but the beach is there always. Feel free to visit and make your own sand masterpiece.

PORMA BALAS MAY BE annual, but the beach is there always. Feel free to visit and make your own sand masterpiece.

Clavel shares that Porma Balas was inspired by the fact that the most memorable sandcastles and sculptures in the famed shores of Boracay and Puerto Galera in the late 1990s to early 2000 were made by Ilonggo sand sculptors.

First conceptualized in 1994 by Oscar Nava (former district governor of the Rotary Club of Iloilo City), the idea was endorsed to the Rotaract Club of Iloilo City. They then formulated the rules, regulations and guidelines in coordination with Department of Tourism’s (DOT-6) former regional director Edwin Trompeta.

The Rotaract Club of Iloilo City took on the big challenge of helping Nava’s idea materialize, and to successfully organize what has become an annual art-and-environment-themed fun summer activity.

Porma Balas is touted as a pioneer in this kind of event in the Philippines. – Rappler.com

(Read more stories from the author at https://wanhandredwan.wordpress.com/.

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