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BLOG: Green Fins plays a part in the #BetterBoracay movement.

BLOG: Green Fins plays a part in the #BetterBoracay movement.

The Reef-World Foundation were invited to participate in the Coastal and Marine Rehabilitation Orientation workshop in Boracay in December 2018. With over 100 participants actively engaging in determining coral reef threats and identifying solutions, our Project Manager Sam is hopeful for the future.

Many more colours than 'just green'

Many more colours than 'just green'

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As time passes by Green Fins keep unveiling its many colours to me; just like a prism, refracting light to those who want to receive it. I can go back in time and remember the way Chloë explained her life adventure with Green Fins, I could see in her eyes the passion behind it and how it easily got in her heart. That was not the only time I perceived this, as I immersed myself within the network and more people came in my way, I could identify that same shimmer in their eyes. It became a constant.

I can proudly say that I am now part of the network of conservationists empowered by the strength and diversity of the initiative. With every experience, a new colour is displayed. Initially working with the ‘sea guardians’, all those people within the diving community who live their lives in direct contact with the sea, the ones that most evidently need healthy oceans. This group of people empowered me and showed me how important is to clearly listen and understand their troubles/ needs in order to make our daily job more valuable.

This year, a new colour emerged. We had the chance to participate in ICRI’s International Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management Symposium, ITMEMS 5. We were there, maybe the youngest group amongst the crowd, ready to impart one of the sessions. It was a big personal challenge, we had a crowd of professionals in marine conservation from all over the world ready to listen what we had to say.

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Fortunately, everything was a success and again it was evident how in just one day the Green Fins philosophy went directly into their hearts. Many of the participants left ready to implement the materials on their locations, talk to national authorities, do whatever needed to get Green Fins to their countries and start working towards a change.

This experience goes beyond the concepts of ‘Bottom-up | Top-down’, it entails human relations, and most importantly human relations with the marine environment. As you dive into the Green Fins initiative, you notice that it is not only ‘greener’ on the other side.

Malapascua, then and now

Malapascua, then and now

In 2014, I experienced the magic of Malapascua for the first time. I embarked on the 20-hour journey from Southern Leyte with my new life-long friend in hand and a sense of freedom blowing through my hair.

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A bus, an overnight ferry and another bus later, however, I arrived in Maya feeling rather more exhausted and a lot less poetic! By that point, haggling a supposedly “fixed price” ferry to our final destination felt as if Dory was holding me out of the water, bloated belly first, for a flock of seagulls to attack! But once we negotiated our way through the "seagulls" and onto the ferry for an…almost reasonable price, the view upon approach to Malapascua Island made it all worthwhile. After a good night’s rest I was in full dive tourist mode; squeezing in as many dives as possible, overflowing my hard drive with photo after photo of captivating cuttlefish and new nudibranch species. My friends and I wanted to see it all: the giant frogfish, the mating mandarin fish and, of course, the infamous thresher sharks. We were not disappointed! We were lucky enough to dive with a huge number of species that we had never seen before. Species that we had spent months teaching about in Southern Leyte but had never actually seen! It was a wonderful experience and we left the island feeling extremely fortunate.

Thresher shark

Thresher shark

Almost a year later to the day, in 2015, I was given the amazing opportunity to return to Malapascua with Reef-World. It was another incredible trip but some of the changes I noticed in my year away left me feeling anxious about this charismatic island’s future. The magic was most certainly still there: the people were still smiling from ear to ear and the threshers were still as ethereal as ever. But the eyes behind those smiles looked a little strained and the glow of the threshers was being masked by more and more bubbles.

Trash separation on Malapascua Island

Trash separation on Malapascua Island

As an increasing number of tourists visit the tiny, 1km-wide island, pressure begins to mount and the cracks begin to show. Divers descend upon reefs, kicking corals and poking shrimp, and beaches become flooded with trash. Local stakeholders are doing whatever they can to hold back the tide but they are struggling with a load too heavy to bear alone. They need your help.

It is your responsibility to be an environmentally friendly tourist and to choose sustainable tourism options.

Choose the dive centre that doesn’t throw its anchor on coral. Choose the hotel that doesn’t provide you with single-use plastic bottles. Ask your guides and fellow tourists not to touch or harass marine life. And dispose of your waste properly.

Create the demand for sustainable tourism and its prevalence in the industry will grow. Not only will you protect the beautiful environments you have travelled across oceans to see, but you will also give the people you meet there a more secure future.

Sunset on Malapascua Island

Sunset on Malapascua Island

From office to sea

From office to sea

One thing that I learnt from myself on past job experiences is that definitely I was not made to work on a fixed routine. I’ve lived it, appreciate all that I could gain from it, but also I have renounced to it! A very scary decision to make, but then the freedom of managing my own time was priceless! When I first came to the Philippines and saw myself on an office – for a second I thought, what have I done?? But certainly, as everything about this experience, it had a very special turn of events.

Being part of the RWF team has nothing monotonous about it. Just before I could freak out, I knew that I was going to be moving around a lot! Resulting into a new perception of what office work means. Suddenly the office time became so precious and effective; instead of being afraid of the routine I was actually excited to get things done, before the new journey began.

The journey led me to Malapascua Island, after leaving Dumaguete and taking a trike, a four hour ferry, taxi, sleep, taxi, eight hour bus, small boat, ferry and finally our legs in a very very very hot midday sun; I am here with the team. This small island has a very special vibe to it; definitely there is a before and after the Yolanda event, and you can feel it in the people. Something positive that I have noticed on the after Yolanda, is that they have come to the realization of how connected they are to nature, they saw how nature can destroy; but also realized how nature can nurture and help them thrive. I am looking forward to spend more time to immerse myself on their culture and their perceptions, using the Green Fins initiative as the way to do it.

It is these kind of life experiences what I was looking for before setting on to my new Filipino adventure. I wanted something that took me out of my comfort zone and transformed the perceptions and concepts of everything that I thought I already knew. From the basic concept of work, to the better understanding of human interaction with the nature; of humans and the ocean.

My journey to a #LifeBeyondPlastic

My journey to a #LifeBeyondPlastic

For me this journey began a LONG time ago! It all started with a bucket of paint, paintbrushes and very consistent visits to the ocean. I’ve always found art as a very efficient way of communication: it has no language barriers, no boundaries on how to express your thoughts and feelings, it involves the use of all your senses, and even though the artist can guide the public, it can be interpreted in many different ways.

Being drawn to the sea on a very early age I found a need to express it and I found art as a way of letting it out to the world. That feeling just kept growing and growing and drawing me closer to where I am now. My art grew with the interest and scaled from the mere representation of my feelings to the reality that I was observing. I started realizing how unattached humans were to the oceans. Not realizing how our current lifestyles have a direct impact in the marine environment.

Reason why I decided to use my art to communicate the human impact on the oceans, focused on marine debris. On beach or dive trips I gathered what people thought of as rubbish and used it as part of my paintings.

Having as a result SEA|SEE, an environmentally aware art exhibition, aiming to represent how a small change in our consciousness can transform the world that we live in.

From that point on I knew that what I really wanted was to direct my professional career towards the protection of the marine ecosystems, combine my passions: design, art, and creativity with marine conservation. Which is where I am now, enjoying the company of the Reef-World team.

This amazing team gave me the opportunity of materializing that ideal combination. During this past month, with the launch of the #LifeBeyondPlastic campaign, Charlie and I had the chance to encourage change in people, educate them and educate us at the same time. Having a bigger reach and amazingly positive feedback.

Those positive responses and realizing that there is an increase in awareness, that people are willing to make a change; gives you strength to keep on doing what you love. I just hope that this experience is the first of many more to come! #fortheoceans

‘Balot Dagat’

‘Balot Dagat’

A wavy ocean, that is how the last week of placement felt inside me. Movements of waves rising from excitement and a feeling of fulfillment, and lowering when it came to the realization that another chapter have finished and we had to move on. When you leave a place and you feel that something tickles inside you, it reflects from where you lived the experience and how. I definitely poured my heart and soul during these weeks of placement, juggling between the role of a Green Fins assessor and a Reef-World intern. Both responsibilities that challenged me every single day, forcing to bring the best out of me.

I was warned of the amount of work we would face, but it was not until I was actually living the experience that I could clearly understand the dimensions of it. Fortunately I wasn’t doing this on my own, I had the chance to share all of these moments with a group of magical human beings. Sharing even viruses that sent us all, but two team members, into bed with fever and “dodgy” stomachs, as they would say. Our bodies pleading for a pause, a forced pause, to recover and come back up again. Not by chance I received an email with the phrase: ‘Be thankful when you’re tired and weary, because it means you’ve made a difference’.

Even though we were tired, at the end it was clear for all of us that we had made a difference. Those big waves of excitement came from the reactions and humble gratefulness from the people that were involved. Expressed in powerful handshakes and sincere smiles, making us realize the big impact that lies behind the Green Fins initiative. Parallel to the thrill and excitement came the goodbyes, testing the bonds created along the seven weeks of teamwork. I will be forever grateful with all of those who played part in this special chapter of my story.

Now back home in Dumaguete the waters are much calmer, waiting for the next tide to come in!

A Beautiful Dream

A Beautiful Dream

We can all relate to the sudden realization of those hidden messages life covers up, waiting there in silence until we wake up. Waking up capable to grasp the essence of the here and now, able to construct the thin, but strong lines that connect us all. What might have been just a phrase written on a shirt, suddenly gave sense to the experience this wonderful country has given to me in the past two and half months. ‘A beautiful dream’ suddenly became the theme of what this adventure has been all about.

Being now on our third week of placement, constructing new life stories, new relationships, understanding the meaning of marine conservation and making Alona Beach our new home; is what this dream is all about. When it comes to describe what I am doing here everyday, it can easily fit into the description of the “ideal” job I wanted so long ago. Cycling with my beloved ZEPs into town, enjoying the warm sun and the breeze, working alongside the sea and for the sea – it can be called a beautiful dream. With the good always come the bad, or in this case the challenging, sacrifices and hard work have become essential factors of this experience, maybe some of the most valuable ones.

I made a promise to myself of trying to promote a positive change on the people that surround me, trying to be always aware of making it happen even through the smallest of actions. But suddenly I have come to the realization that Green Fins is actually a channel through which I can fulfill that. Every time I hear myself and my teammates saying: “We are here to give you the tools, but you are the ones making the difference.” Passing on the knowledge and the passion towards marine conservation and, as mentioned before, constructing the thin lines that connect us all with the environment that surrounds us; fills my heart with happiness and gives me the strength to keep up with everything that has to be done.

I have always wanted to be part of the conservation movement because it signifies work equal to the creation of a positive change in people and so in the environment. We owe everything to our oceans. It is for this reason I can come back and say that until now I have been experiencing the most beautiful dream.

A 4-day travel from sunset to sunrise

A 4-day travel from sunset to sunrise

Waking up that 4th of June knowing that all of the ‘things-to-do’ on my list were checked and done, knowing that I had already seeing or spoken to every one that I was going to miss; was the moment I finally realized that I was about to start a life changing adventure. Even though I was, and am, completely committed to living every single moment with an open heart and savoring each second; my stomach was full of butterflies, the type that ensured me that this was meant for me at this moment in life.

5 planes, 7 cities and 3 continents in 4 days were the beginning. A long trip I would take knowing that it was going to be totally worth it in the end. Life takes you to places you would’ve never imagined before. If someone would have asked me 10 months ago, when I was starting to do my Master program, where would I end up doing my internship; not even in the wildest guess I would say: sitting in the bean bags of MCP (Marine Conservation Philippines) installations down in a small town called Zamboanguita. The only thing that I knew for sure was that my new path was going to be directed towards marine conservation, I knew that finally I was going to be working towards making a difference in an area that I am passionate about. That was the initial purpose of pursuing the Masters, to get me closer to conserving the ocean and everything around it; something that I have wanted to do for a long time.

One aspect that has been present through all the process of getting here, applying for the internship, living here; is how it has all flowed so naturally from the beginning. It just felt right.

It just kept getting better during my first office day, the 2 main words that were presented to me (as part of the Reef World mission statement) were: “inspire and empower”; from now on everything that I do has to reflect these words. But now I can see that these words are coming directly to me, and what all this experience entails. Just during the first three weeks of being here I’m already feeling completely inspired by the work that has been done, by the passion it has been done with and it’s starting to make me believe, even more, how I can contribute, empowering my own aptitudes.

Definitely, I am starting an adventure full of passion, showing me that work done from your heart transforms into a totally new concept of work. So many things are changing; ways of perceiving life, starting from where the sunrise and where the sun sets.