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Iskolar ng Dagat Stories


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Iskolar ng Dagat Stories


As a Philippine NGO, LAMAVE does its best to host at least one local volunteer per site (called a “scholar”) under its Iskolar ng Dagat program. This allows budding Filipino marine scientists, researchers, and conservationists to gain experience and learn skills that can contribute to the marine conservation in the country. These scholars’ placements are sponsored by the NGO, thereby giving every Filipino, no matter their background or situation, the chance to grow and develop without the financial constraints often associated with gaining field experience.

This program hopes to support the next generation of Filipino conservationists on their path to a career in the field of marine biology and conservation. These are some of the success stories of LAMAVE’s Iskolar ng Dagat.

 
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Portia


Hometown: Cebu City

Date Volunteered: 2012

Project: Cebu Whale Shark Research & Conservation Project

Portia


Hometown: Cebu City

Date Volunteered: 2012

Project: Cebu Whale Shark Research & Conservation Project

Dolphin Dreams and Conservation

Portia first encountered LAMAVE at the start of their whale shark project in Cebu. They gave a lecture on identifying whale sharks. She looked them up on the internet and discovered they studied whale sharks and also dolphins.

She absolutely loves dolphins and wants to be a Cetologist, so she was instantly curious about the organization.

Bata pa lang ako gusto ko na yung dagat (As a kid, I already loved the sea).” According to her dad, she could swim before she turned 1 year old. As a kid, she always asked about fish and sea animals. “In elementary school, I came upon a book about dolphins. I read a story about people being saved by dolphins, and I fell in love with them. I really wanted to study dolphins.”

She saw the opportunity to study and encounter dolphins with LAMAVE. “So, I wanted to volunteer. I wanted to be assigned to Bohol for the project on dolphins. Di ako pinayagan ng pamilya ko (I wasn’t given permission by my family), so in the end I went to volunteer in Cebu. It was more convenient. It is close to where I live.”

She was in the middle of university when she volunteered, 18 or 19 years old, studying Marine Biology. Her education in college widened her knowledge and intensified her passion for marine animals and science. And that’s when she started taking conservation more seriously.

“LAMAVE is a place where young marine conservationists can kickstart their careers... a place for dreamers, marine biologists who want to achieve their goals. It is a great stepping stone.”   - Portia Antig

“LAMAVE is a place where young marine conservationists can kickstart their careers... a place for dreamers, marine biologists who want to achieve their goals. It is a great stepping stone.”

- Portia Antig

“Most people would want to conserve something because it is cute. Ganun din for me before (It was the same for me before).” She knew that for a young child, dolphins are adorable and easy to love. “Pero para sa akin (But for me), there was suddenly something more. I came to realize they (dolphins) are hunted. People think they are competition for fish, but they actually balance the ecosystem. I wanted to protect them, because I was learning more about them.”

And that’s what she sought out to do by working with LAMAVE. She wanted to gain more knowledge about marine research and conservation work.

“It was my goal to volunteer with LAMAVE. I thought, ‘This will be my training ground. And then I will work to become a Cetologist.’”

She enjoyed the work and all its challenges and opportunities. Learning from the other researchers about whale sharks and understanding the animal behaviors were some of the things she really valued.

“I really loved the people (in LAMAVE). That was one of the best things. I was with fun, interesting, helpful people. They really educate you. If you have questions, they will answer you and share their knowledge about anything regarding their experiences working in the field. LAMAVE is very welcoming. Parang pamilya (Like a family). You feel at home when you work with LAMAVE.”

According to her, LAMAVE provided new perspectives and new motivation for her passions.

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“They tell you their experience as researchers. You get information on how these animals behave. They give you information that you don’t get from books but from real experience. They have inspired me towards my goal of studying dolphins and their behavior.

More than just educating her, she said that LAMAVE also always worked on educating others like the community. “We had community activities to teach the local people about whale sharks and the importance of proper whale shark interactions.” Portia enjoyed helping conduct these educational activities for the community and this is where she started honing this skill in community engagement.

After volunteering, she worked as a Research Assistant in the University of San Carlos. Then, she took her Master’s degree in Marine Biology during which she was a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Thesis Grant recipient.

After a couple of months, she started working for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as a Coastal Extension Officer for their provincial office (PENRO) in Negros Oriental. “I was assigned to the coastal and marine projects. We collated rapid assessment of coral reefs.”

She was first stationed in Dumaguete and is now in Cebu where she handles requests for technical assistance in different provinces, as well as DENR’s citizen science activities. Her work with DENR allows her to educate people and continue promoting conservation.

Though on her way now in terms of her career in conservation, becoming a Cetologist is still her main dream, and she still remembers what helped her build this goal.

“LAMAVE is a place where young marine conservationists can kickstart their careers... a place for dreamers, marine biologists who want to achieve their goals. It is a great stepping stone. You can get firsthand experience... They gave me one of the most magical moments of my life.”


Professional Profile:

Occupation: Coastal Extension Officer - Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

Education: MS Marine Biology

Relevant skills/interests: Photography

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Clyde Blanco


Hometown: Dumanjug, Cebu

Date Volunteered: August to October 2017

Project: Cebu Whale Shark Research & Conservation Project

Clyde Blanco


Hometown: Dumanjug, Cebu

Date Volunteered: August to October 2017

Project: Cebu Whale Shark Research & Conservation Project

Experience: The Great Teacher Of Conservation

For Clyde, his passion for conservation was gained through a continuous (and continuing) process of education… at school, with teachers, at trainings, and of course work opportunities.

“When I was in high school, one of our teachers was into conservation. I learned the value of conservation at that age. I joined a conservation camp when I was still young. I fell in love with (the advocacy).”

“I proceeded to like the marine environment in university when I took up BS Biology. We had classes and we had to visit different ecosystems including marine ecosystems. I thought ‘I really love this more.’ I really enjoy being in the water. I enjoy the sea… I like the underwater world.”

While in school, Clyde started taking his commitment to marine conservation more seriously and looked into getting more training in the field.

“Then, I became a participant of the pioneering batch of the ‘Sea and Earth Advocates (SEA) Camp’ held by Save the Philippine Seas (SPS)... I was 20, still in university, my 4th year.”

“When you’re dealing with real life (conservation) problems, you only really learn when you experience it firsthand. LAMAVE was a great teacher for me.”  - Bryan Madera

“When you’re dealing with real life (conservation) problems, you only really learn when you experience it firsthand. LAMAVE was a great teacher for me.” - Bryan Madera

“After that, I was asked by the executive director of SPS to attend a workshop in Cebu City about shark ordinances in that province. LAMAVE was there. Since I am interested in bigger marine organisms, I checked out what they were doing. I learned that this is an NGO that works on megafauna. I liked that, so I started following them.

Though he was already passionate about conservation, he first tried his hand at the academe - an ode to his love for learning and educating.

“After graduation, I started working as a teacher in my university. But I felt that I had more things to learn outside the academe. I needed to do some field work for conservation. I saw the opportunity in LAMAVE. I resigned from my job, because I wanted to experience something outside the academe.”

“I think if you work in conservation, you have to experience different aspects of conservation. You have to do research work, community work, and more. I had never done those.” Clyde wanted to not just learn or even teach conservation, but also to live and breathe it. And so that was his plan: to go out into the field and find the experience he wanted. So, he joined LAMAVE as a volunteer scholar to study whale sharks and sea turtles.

“I think LAMAVE definitely played a part in my love for marine conservation work. I fell in love deeper with whale sharks, megafauna, (and other marine life). I wanted to contribute to conservation so much. I had no experience before. This was a stepping stone.”

During his time in the field with the organization, he developed some necessary skills for the work he wanted to do.

“I had to do a lot of data collection and a little bit of analysis, which are very useful. I had to do some monthly analysis of research data using a software.

“It was also a fun learning experience to meet new people. There were new volunteers who often came in. It was an immersive experience of getting to know and dealing with new cultures, new people.

“I also learned about dealing with people and communities when doing research... how you collaborate with the locals... LAMAVE taught me that you have to act professionally and politely… I think one of the reasons why I am capable of dealing well with different people now is because of this experience (with LAMAVE).”

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After LAMAVE, he worked for Save the Philippine Seas as an Education Officer. Eventually, he wanted to upscale his qualifications in conservation work by taking postgraduate studies. Now living in Europe and taking International Master of Science in Marine Biological Resources - Applied Marine Ecology and Conservation (Ghent University, University of Oviedo), Clyde attributes part of his motivation and of course some of his useful skills to his time with LAMAVE.

“If I didn’t go through volunteering with LAMAVE, I think I would have a hard time relating to people with different cultures and languages and dealing with new situations on my own.”

There is still much more for him to learn and achieve in marine biology, so he remains passionate about his field. “To this day, I definitely still want to work in marine conservation.” He recognizes that LAMAVE has played a key part in his current career journey.

“LAMAVE is one of the great teachers for me in marine conservation... When you’re dealing with real life (conservation) problems, you only really learn when you experience it firsthand. LAMAVE was a great teacher for me.”

Professional Profile:

Occupation: Full-time Student - International Master of Science in Marine Biological Resources - Applied Marine Ecology and Conservation Track (Ghent University, University of Oviedo)

Education: BS Biology

Relevant experience: Sea and Earth Advocates Camp (SEA Camp), Save the Philippine Seas

 

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Kier Pitogo


Hometown: General Santos City

Date Volunteered: May 2016

Project: Marine Turtle Tourism Interaction Study, Apo Island

Kier Pitogo


Hometown: General Santos City

Date Volunteered: May 2016

Project: Marine Turtle Tourism Interaction Study, Apo Island

Breaking Through Limitations And Achieving Firsts

Kier is a Marine Biology graduate but recognizes that in school there can be limitations in the learning opportunities presented to students.

“Marine biology is a broad field. In our university, limited ang alam namin (In our university, what we know is limited)... We are taught only what our teachers know and experience which is only the research aspect, something a little detached from the community and not very related to conservation and working with animals and people.”

Kier valued all the things he learned from his school but still saw the need for him to learn more beyond what was currently possible for him. Working with actual research and conservation groups was one such experience he wanted to gain.

“We don’t get many opportunities (to work with those groups). We are deprived of opportunities in the south. Maybe it is the geographic location. We don’t have a lot of NGOs that work on conservation there.”

After graduating, he found projects in the conservation field to work on. He worked as a Research Assistant in the Philippines for the Coastal Foraging Models Project by the Institute of Human Origins in Arizona State University.

At that time, he also co-founded PaWeCan Do It, an independent movement (born from his friend’s experience in Save the Philippines Seas’ Sea and Earth Advocates [SEA] Camp) created to educate coastal communities in Sarangani Province and General Santos on the importance of marine turtles in our oceans and to humans.

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“I just wanted to experience the different subfields and different kinds of work in marine biology to find out where I would be happy. I found conservation most interesting.”

Though the work he was doing was enriching, he still felt he wasn’t being fully exposed to actual conservation work.

“Those were interesting undertakings, but they were limited in terms of firsthand experience… I had been following LAMAVE’s work on Facebook and knew they were focused on marine megafauna. I saw the volunteer opportunity with them.”

It was an excellent chance to try to discover his passion and place in the marine biology field. Kier has always been really passionate about marine turtle conservation, so he joined a pioneering project in Apo Island to study sea turtles. And his adventure was on.

Ang daming firsts for me during that time (There were so many firsts for me during that time). My first time doing field work. In-water observation, a first. First time to study marine turtles in the wild. First time working directly with international people. First time working directly with an NGO.”

“It was transformative and eye-opening at the same time. Dun ko na-feel yung real experience of a scientist doing conservation work (That’s when I felt the real experience of a scientist doing conservation work).

He relished the chance to study turtles as closely as possible. Additionally, he was also able to learn about community work.

“I got to study turtle behavior, but also people’s behavior. It was a real social experience on conservation work. It isn’t just about gathering data. It is also about engaging with the local communities. What are the values of people. What are their thoughts on conservation.

According to him, the experience in the Apo Sea Turtle Project was empowering on so many levels. “I gained confidence. I brought those amazing experiences with me.”

“After volunteering with LAMAVE and finishing my other work projects, I entered graduate school in the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) taking up my Master’s degree in Wildlife Studies. Now, I am a full-time student with a full scholarship.”

He feels lucky to have had opportunities to learn in the classroom and gain experience in the field - like in UPLB and in LAMAVE, opportunities that might have normally been too expensive for many people in the Philippines. Now, he is motivated to bring more young Filipinos into the world of marine conservation.

“I want to teach in Mindanao State University... as a research professor doing field work and teaching at the same time. I want to impart my learnings, my network, my experiences... to get more people into the field of conservation. Encourage people to join this movement.”

“It was transformative and eye-opening at the same time.  Dun ko na-feel yung  real experience of a scientist doing conservation work (That’s when I felt the real experience of a scientist doing conservation work.)”  - Kier Pitogo

“It was transformative and eye-opening at the same time. Dun ko na-feel yung real experience of a scientist doing conservation work (That’s when I felt the real experience of a scientist doing conservation work.)” - Kier Pitogo

In the long term, Kier also dreams of establishing a research conservation NGO similar to LAMAVE but in his own province, South Cotabato. He claims to owe this dream to the organization.

“LAMAVE is a training ground for people who want to be in the field of conservation. There were so many firsts for me there. They helped me identify my interest. Almost everything you could want to learn as a conservationist, you can learn from them.”

It is his hope, and LAMAVE’s, that more young Filipinos can take advantage of the same opportunity he had with the organization to build a career in marine conservation.


Professional Profile:

Occupation: Full-time Graduate Student, MSc in Wildlife Studies, Minor in Zoology - University of the Philippines Los Baños

Education: BSc in Marine Biology, Cum Laude - Mindanao State University, General Santos

Relevant work: Chapter Co-Coordinator, Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN)

Kier’s LinkedIn Profile


 

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Jalica DEALCA


Hometown: Sorsogon City

Date Volunteered: January to March 2017

Project: Donsol Whale Shark Research & Conservation Project

Jalica DEALCA


Hometown: Sorsogon City

Date Volunteered: January to March 2017

Project: Donsol Whale Shark Research & Conservation Project

A Passion Lit For The Sea and Marine Life

Though not a scientist or marine biologist, Jalica has shown a true commitment to marine conservation. The proof: She was actually willing to resign from her job just to become a volunteer with LAMAVE for the required three months. (Note: Luckily, she didn’t have to.)

She has always wanted to volunteer for a conservation organization, so she was very interested in joining LAMAVE’s conservation work.

“Most times you have to pay to be a volunteer for these kinds of organizations. But LAMAVE was offering a scholarship, so I took the chance. What a great choice I made.”

“It had been on my To-Do List for a very long time. I have loved the water since I was a kid. When I was young, my dad would bring us to the beach all the time. Then I started getting into skin diving. That’s when I saw lots of beautiful marine creatures up close for the first time.”

When she joined LAMAVE, she got an opportunity to study whale sharks closely for a few months. This captured her imagination even more.

“For those who will be the future Filipino volunteers, LAMAVE is a place where you get to learn a lot about marine conservation, and you get to know a lot of amazing people.”  - Jalica Dealca

“For those who will be the future Filipino volunteers, LAMAVE is a place where you get to learn a lot about marine conservation, and you get to know a lot of amazing people.” - Jalica Dealca

“It was really interesting. With LAMAVE, that was the first time I saw whale sharks.” And she collected some amazing experiences in the water.

“I can’t forget this one time... I was doing the last shift of photo ID session... There weren’t a lot of people or boats anymore. We were looking around if there were more whale sharks. I was busy taking a photo of one whale shark. When I turned around, there was another one behind me. When I turned to the side, there was another one, and then another one.

“I couldn’t believe that there were like six whale sharks around me. It was spectacular... I saw just how beautiful they are. It makes you want to do something to protect that beauty.”

Realizing that her experience was one of a conservationist and researcher, not just a simple spectator, she felt inspired and responsible for this amazing marine life.

“The more you see these animals down there, the more you want to protect them. The more you want to do something to help.”

Jalica also recalls that she found the passion with which the people in LAMAVE worked to be quite infectious. She felt she was among people who shared her own values.

“I loved our team. Everyone was so easy to work with and the dynamics of the group was perfect. We would do our land work with the data. Then, we would have sunset beers. We would all cook for each other. We helped each other for everything. And everyone was very passionate about what we were doing. It was fun doing everything with these awesome people.”

Aside from this sense of belonging and family, she picked up some other virtues that she found invaluable from her time with LAMAVE.

“I like how LAMAVE is very facts-based... They helped me understand that conservation is not just about caring for marine animals. You also have to understand and care about the people (community). You have to take them into consideration, see the bigger picture. They gave me a wider view of how conservation works. You need to have that balance.

Her time spent with LAMAVE was essential to who she now wants to become as a person, and she hopes that other Filipinos get a chance to share this experience.

“For those who will be the future Filipino volunteers, LAMAVE is a place where you get to learn a lot about marine conservation, and you get to know a lot of amazing people.”

Even after her time as a volunteer, she still feels like there is much to learn about whale sharks and conservation work, something she says she wants to pursue.

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“(My time with LAMAVE) got me really interested in learning more… like more of the scientific stuff about whale sharks… And I actually plan to go back to conservation work.”

During her free time, she still helps out LAMAVE with their campaigns and activities in Manila. Till now, the marine conservationist in her is alive and churning.

“I want to get into an organization that has principles that really help out in conservation, principles that are aligned with mine. So, yeah I want to come back…”

And LAMAVE hopes that, like Jalica, more young Filipinos turn towards marine conservation work.


Professional Profile:

Occupation: Tech Delivery and Operations Excellence Senior Analyst

Education: Applied Physics (Undergraduate Course)

Relevant Work: Assistant Freediving Instructor


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Christine alagon


Hometown: Binuangan, Misamis Oriental

Date Volunteered: April - June 2017

Project: Whale Shark Research & Conservation Project, Northern Mindanao

Christine alagon


Hometown: Binuangan, Misamis Oriental

Date Volunteered: April - June 2017

Project: Whale Shark Research & Conservation Project, Northern Mindanao

 Finding Her Way As A Marine Biologist

Kristine’s road to marine biology work was built on many small, sometimes uncertain steps, all which eventually led her to LAMAVE.

She has always loved the sea. The water was central to her life, having grown up in the coastal town of Binuangan, Misamis Oriental. But she didn’t really know much about marine life. Even when she picked Marine Biology as her university course, she was still unsure of what she would learn and where it would lead her.

But according to her, school work was easy to fall in love with. “For class, we always went to the sea,” Kristine remembers. “I loved it.” Kristine enjoyed being in the field, not just in the classroom or office. And she enjoyed learning about new things in the sea.

Uncertainty once again filled her after graduation. She applied for a few jobs but was still unsure of what she wanted to do. While she waited on those job opportunities, one of her former classmates was volunteering with LAMAVE and invited her to come join the team.

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“I decided to just try it… to get good work-related experience. It seemed like a nice opportunity... I didn’t have money to go to Cebu for training (on whale shark photo identification methodology). But LAMAVE still allowed me to join the team. I helped during the community work, interviewing community members and fisherfolk.”

She enjoyed relating to and working with the community. These skills are invaluable to her in her job now as an Aquaculture Technician. “I realized that interviewing fisher folk is so important. Even if my throat is already hurting. Because they know more than us about the sea. And that’s something I learned in LAMAVE.”

Training on site also helped her develop new skills. The team eventually taught her how to take photo IDs of whale sharks and collect other kinds of data. Eventually, Kristine joined the team on their in-water studies during which she gained some new experiences and very memorable encounters in the water.

“There is a whole new world out there. In school, we only did assessments in the shallow part (of the sea). I never went to the deep part. (With LAMAVE) I was face to face with it (marine life).”

She finally encountered some whale sharks and immediately fell in love with the bigger marine animals.

“Before LAMAVE I had no experience with big animals (marine vertebrates). Then, I learned so much with LAMAVE… I only saw them in presentations before. I was amazed to see them in person.”

Other learning opportunities also kept her engaged when she was outside the water.

“There is a whole new world out there. In school, we only did assessments in the shallow part (of the sea). I never went to the deep part. (With LAMAVE) I was face to face with it (marine life).“  - Christine V. Alagon

“There is a whole new world out there. In school, we only did assessments in the shallow part (of the sea). I never went to the deep part. (With LAMAVE) I was face to face with it (marine life).“ - Christine V. Alagon

“At night, we also had presentations and discussions on marine vertebrates. I got a lot of great hands-on experience and new knowledge… They really share their knowledge with their volunteers.”

Kristine has continued to develop through her career. After her volunteer placement with LAMAVE, she was offered a job with the Fishery Division of the City Agriculture Office under the local government unit (LGU) of Cagayan de Oro City.

She started working with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). She currently works in marine and coastal resources assessment, a job that she loves. Now, Kristine is very clear about who she is and where she is going. LAMAVE, she believes, has contributed to her finding her path.

“I am a marine biologist.”

Kristine is planning to take her Master’s degree in Marine Biology soon... her next, sure-footed step as a marine conservationist.

Professional Profile:

Occupation: Aquaculture Technician - Local Government Unit (LGU) of Cagayan de Oro City

Education: BS Marine Biology