The sea has taken over my life. In a good way.
About 3 weeks ago, I moved into my humble home in Malapascua. I live alone in the second floor of a house which is like a studio apartment with a bathroom. The sink doesn’t work and the toilet has no flush, so the tabo is my best friend. Sometimes there’s no electricity in the morning. When the rain is strong, water forces itself through the window, ceiling, and door. But I’m not complaining — my humble home has a “priceless view” (Siapno, M. 2012). The best part for me is that Divelink, my “suki” dive shop is 3 minutes away by foot. If one of my friends text me and invite me to a dive, there’s hardly any reason for me to say no.
I’m going to be based in Malapascua for the next few months (hopefully more) to pursue my most ambitious project yet: to intensify the protection of Monad Shoal as a working shark sanctuary. The more involved I become with species conservation, the more I realize that it’s less about the species and more about the people who are capable of taking care of the species. The project entails major stakeholder mobilization — talking to dive guides, dive shop managers, teachers, government officials, and law enforcers. I’ll be the first to admit that I am making this up as I go. Luckily, I’m surrounded by an incredible support system. I hope that my willingness to learn makes up for my inexperience.
It has been a struggle to stay positive. There’s been a little resistance, which is expected. Unfortunately for my doubters, hostility only makes me work harder. I will thank these kulugos eventually. It’s more of the upcoming elections that’s putting a dent on my idealism.
One sunny Saturday afternoon, I had to reread parts of my undergraduate thesis for an application. It was about the construction of national identity in tourism materials. The voice of the paper sounded so optimistic, so sure of the value and impact of the study.
That same week was the filing of Certificates of Candidacy. As I read tweets and articles about political dynasties and celebrities declaring their intention to run for public office, I caught myself thinking, “What if I don’t vote?” “What I do doesn’t matter, especially with politicians like those.” It was and will continue to be disheartening to watch this circus called Philippine politics. I wish I could stop caring, but like Chely pointed out, apathy would be the harder choice.
I flew back to Manila last week for a series of meetings, photo shoots, speaking engagements, and projects. I had to present and pitch the shark sanctuary project to potential funders and almost started crying in front of them because I was so, er, emotionally attached (others would call it passionate) to what I do and believe in. It was also very timely to be reunited with the Global Shapers, a group of extraordinary young Filipinos who are constantly paying it forward. Seeing them injected me with inspiration and hope. They remind me that if the people will lead, the leaders will follow.
Given the blessings and opportunities within my reach, apathy would really be the harder choice. Forward we go with these projects:
ImaginOcean on the spot art painting contest held last Saturday, October 13, with Out of the Box Art Project and Moonleaf Tea Shop
The limited edition LUSH anti-shark fin soap, launched Monday, October 15 at LUSH Shangri-La. The shark cupcakes (a sweeter and eco-friendly alternative to shark’s fin soup) were so good! The soap will be sold until supplies last.
As you can see, there is never a boring day. Frustrating, overwhelming, fulfilling, but never boring.
In a recent interview, the journalist asked me what else I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime. At 24 years old, there are still so many. But my answer that afternoon was simple: “I measure how effective I am as an advocate based on the little things. For as long as I still see people throwing trash out of their cars and into the sea, it means I haven’t been effective at all.”
This means that there’s so, so much work to be done.