Catch of the Week
Youth Write Stories to Help Protect the Coral Triangle

Youth Write Stories to Help Protect the Coral Triangle

Catch of the Week

Letting the youth lead efforts at environmental conservation through writing stories is a good way to enhance awareness, strengthen involvement, and mobilize the community in coastal and marine resources management.

High school students from remote areas in Palawan write stories to help protect the coasts and forests. (Photo from: The Coral Triangle Initiative Southeast Asia)

High school students from remote areas in Palawan write stories to help protect the coasts and forests. (Photo from: The Coral Triangle Initiative Southeast Asia)

High school students from Balabac, Taytay, and Puerto Princesa City, in the Philippines, wield pens that are mightier than swords. These children wrote stories for the DagatNatin (Our Seas) Story Writing Contest organized by the ADB regional technical assistance, Coral Triangle Initiative – Southeast Asia.

The 10 winning stories are to be published in a storybook entitled “Tales of the Coral Triangle” in 2015, and will be distributed to networks in the Coral Triangle region, which is composed of Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and Solomon Islands.

Eco-adventure camp

The winning young authors and their teacher-advisers participated in the awarding ceremony and a two-day coastal resource management camp and eco-adventure tour from 1 to 3 October 2014.

“I learned a lot from this camp, one of which is how to accept critiques from students and teachers so that I can further improve my story,” said Essence Panolino, a student from Canique National High School.

“Everyone had a chance to say their opinions about the stories. It was fun to review each other’s’ stories and to give comments on how to improve them,” said Kathleen Conde, a student from Western Philippines University Agricultural Science High School shared the same thought.

A hands-on learning experience, the camp focused on peer-review of the 10 best stories and discussions on sustainable eco-tourism, as well as exploration of ideas on how the youth can take the lead in environmental stewardship.

“I want to give a million thanks for the opportunity to experience these things and to have our eyes opened as young people on how to better protect the environment,” said RoozieQueaIdlana, a student from Balabac National High School.

The eco-adventure tour consisted of on-site lectures and activities in four key sustainable and locally managed tourism sites in Puerto Princesa City, which were the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, Iwahig Firefly Watching Ecotourism and Wildlife Park, and Pambato Reef and Pandan Island in Honda Bay.

New realizations and renewed determination

“Even if I live in an island, it’s my first time to see the beautiful creatures under the sea. Maybe it’s because the Balabac waters have been damaged. I feel regret for the things we’ve lost in our island. The reefs are really so beautiful and now I’m determined to protect them.” added Idlana.

The camp revealed realizations from the students and teachers about real-life environmental challenges, and their part in helping resolve these.

“The three-day camp gave us new knowledge and experiences coupled with challenges and responsibilities. Palawan is a treasure to be protected. Our experiences here will inspire us to take good care of this place,” said Gretchen Cayabo, a teacher from Busy Bees National High School.

Youth voices: A memorable close-encounter with nature

“It has been my dream to visit the underground river. I wrote a story and didn’t expect that it will be chosen. At last, my dream has come true. I enjoyed this experience a lot. I have stories to tell my friends back home. I learned that nature is our treasure,” said Shaima Hunaini, a student from Balabac National High School.

The experience opened their eyes to the challenges and responsibilities faced by their generation in helping preserve the environment. (Photo from: The Coral Triangle Initiative Southeast Asia)

The experience opened their eyes to the challenges and responsibilities faced by their generation in helping preserve the environment. (Photo from: The Coral Triangle Initiative Southeast Asia)

With fresh eyes and a great sense of wonder, the students shared their thoughts about environmental protection and conservation. The camp gave a unique opportunity for most of them to experience ecosystem services for the first time.

Through the eco-adventure, the students were able to observe first-hand how sustainable eco-tourism can help improve lives of families in the coastal areas.

Women, children, and indigenous people, heroes of the seas and forests

The children’s narratives about environmental protection provided insights on how they view the role of the youth, women, and the community in coastal resource management. The theme of the story writing contest is Kabataan, Kababaihan, at Katutubong Pilipino: AktibongKabahagisaPangangalaga ng Karagatan (Youth, Women, and Indigenous People: Active Players in Coastal Resource Management).

The 10 winning stories discussed multiple issues such as overfishing and destructive fishing practices, illegal trade of endangered wildlife species, collaboration of the different sectors of the society in coastal resource management, pollution, the importance of upland and mangrove forests and coral reefs, climate change adaptation, and interconnectivity of ridge-to-reef ecosystems. All protagonists or narrators were young people, including four indigenous people and five women or young girls.

The story writing contest is part of the Bayani ng Kalikasan (Heroes of the Environment) integrated communication campaign designed by the ADB project.

(Story courtesy of Coral Triangle Initiative Southeast Asia)

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