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The Reef-World Foundation

Eat. Sleep. Conserve. Repeat!

Eat. Sleep. Conserve. Repeat!

The last month has been a whirlwind of study, travel, marine conservation and unfortunately, sickness! I’ve had 4 different ailments, seen 7 different doctors and taken around 70 tablets. Through it all “It’s more fun in the Philippines” has definitely been my favourite catchphrase but despite the set backs I’m still managing to do what I love and that feels incredible.

Alan and I braving various illnesses in Cebu

Alan and I braving various illnesses in Cebu

Before coming back out to the Philippines I was based at home for 6 months, spending some precious time with my family and desperately trying to scrape together the cash to pay off my last voluntary conservation role. I found myself working a mundane 9-6 job in a call centre and slowly losing all motivation to drag myself out of bed in the morning. I spent every day feeling unchallenged and uninterested in my own life!

Joining Reef World has felt like a renovation! I find myself challenged to improve myself every day. Whether it’s during a Global Marine Conservation module where you can’t sort your MMOs from your MNRs or a presentation where you have to explain global warming in a way that transcends language. This internship is not just strengthening my existing skills but introducing me to whole new areas of research and stakeholder interaction. Watching Sam (Project Manager) navigate meetings with Government officials or dive industry ambassadors in a way that considers the perspective of different groups whilst uniting them towards a common conservation goal is truly inspiring. I could never scribble enough notes to keep up with all this new knowledge but I’m certainly going to try!

Enjoying a sunny day outside the Moalboal Municipal Hall with the ZEP volunteers Debby, Alex and Nicola

Enjoying a sunny day outside the Moalboal Municipal Hall with the ZEP volunteers Debby, Alex and Nicola

Fiesta Feast

Fiesta Feast

I had only been back in the Philippines for 1 week when I was invited to a local’s house for a fiesta feast! And the brilliant fact is that isn’t even unusual. A large part of the reason I fell in love with the Philippines when I first visited last year was definitely the people. They are among the friendliest and most generous I have ever met throughout my travels.

When I arrived in Dumaguete on the 5th of June I jumped on the first available trike with my life on my back and followed Reef World Programmes Manager Chloe to my new home by the beach. Instantly my trike driver Tony was my tour guide. He lived in our village so it quickly became routine for him to pick Jula (Reef World Intern) and I up and drive us to our office in the city. After just 1 week we were invited to his house on June 13thfor a special fiesta to celebrate San Antonio de Padua’s Feast day.

Baboy that's a big pig!
Baboy that's a big pig!

A proper Filippino fiesta has to have lechon and this one was no exception. For those of you who don’t know, lechon is basically a hog roast. The bigger the better! Tony was a true Filipino host, constantly plying us with food. Delicacies included lechon (obviously), rice (obviously), pineapple, coconut milk, cake and lots of San Miguel. If we ever managed to make it halfway through a drink or a plate of food it was quickly refilled and we were never allowed to be full!

Tony's friend Jean teaches me some useful Visayan
Tony's friend Jean teaches me some useful Visayan

Most of the afternoon was spent at Tony’s house eating food, meeting his extended family and trying to learn as much of the local language, Visayan, as possible. Once Jula and I were suitably stuffed we ventured out into the local municipality, Sibulan, to visit the fiesta market and the San Antonio de Padua Church. I hadn’t considered it a highly populated municipality until that moment. Thousands of people were milling around the market stalls and flocking to the church to pay homage to San Antonio. The sheer volume of people touching Jesus’ statue in prayer had literally rubbed his legs raw!

Green Fins Assessor Training

Green Fins Assessor Training

It was a wonderful day and a brilliant re-introduction to the Philippines. I cannot wait to hit the ground running as a Reef World Intern, sitting in on the Zoox Experience Programme and starting my Green Fins Assessor training.

Reef-World is back in the Region

After spending a good 5 months in the UK this year we were pleased to say goodbye to the Great Expensive British Pound and return to where our conservation dollars go further and get stuck back in to the grassroots work Reef-World does so well. While its great catching up with friends and family, we do begin to feel somewhat detached from what's going on back in the Region when we are only seeing it through our laptops.

After what seemed like an incredibly easy journey from Bristol we arrived into stinky Manila on Monday 3rd October. We got a great deal for only £540 return to Manila with Emirates for a 12 month ticket. It was great to catch up with our Government partners the next day, hear what they have been up to and make our next plans. It was agreed that the volunteers we have managed to recruit through the Zoox Experience Programme presented a good opportunity to introduce Green Fins to a new location, Cebu which is the biggest diving destination (in terms of tourist numbers) in the Philippines. We will continue to base ourselves in Puerto Galera where Green Fins has already been introduced and where we feel very much at home now. So we travelled down to Puerto Galera the following day and collected the many boxes (full of what?!) from our friend and moved into a small flat. We have good roots here now which was emphasised by the fact that by the following evening the bedside lamps I made by hand almost 2 years ago were in their place, our oven was linked up and our mobile office was unpacked with internet access and staplers at the ready. It was very nice to be back and see our many friends.

But we didn't rest for long and we are now in Cebu for an orientation, meeting the local government guys, NGOs and diving community, hearing the woeful tales of destructive fishing and corruption. We will spend a week here working out the best place to base ourselves and the volunteers, and identify the major environmental issues we can begin to focus on using Green Fins. The official launch will be held mid November and this time we are hoping for a lot of media attention. It's absolutely pouring and pouring with rain, which has made trawling around all the dive centres today a miserable task! We have just heard that a typhoon will be merrily making its way through the central region of the Philippines over the coming days, the centre of it predicted to pass a few hundred kilometers north of us :( While this does not present any danger for us (we will not be taking any flights or boats of course) it means we are in for more soggy and miserable weather! On the positive side, in only one day we have met some fantastic individuals, received many pledges of favours and support in various shapes and sizes and we are very enthusiastic about bringing Green Fins here.

Dried, salted fish is a staple food in the Philippines, eaten for breakfast, lunch and supper! There is of course still a lot of follow-up work to be done in Puerto Galera and Anilao, the sites where the project has already been introduced and we have not forgotten this. We have applied for financial support to help us with this. We are always looking for help so if any of you are nearby and fancy donning some Green Fins then please do contact us. Right now we are donning our soggy slippers and enjoying a nice cup of PG tips pyramids (fresh from the UK) and some lechon manok Cebuano style!