Marc Autencio, grade 11 student of Central Taytay National High School (CTNHS) in Taytay, Palawan, is among the champions of Coral Triangle Initiative-Southeast Asia’s (CTI-SEA) Heroes of the Environment Campaign.
As a student leader, he has led his school in its crusade to protect and reforest Taytay’s mangrove forests and promote better management of coastal resources in the community.
“We have to take care of our mangroves, our fish, everything around us because whatever happens to these resources would affect us all,” he said.
Autencio was among the 131 students from grade 7 to 10 who joined CTI-SEA’s Science Camp from 8 to 10 June, which was held at their school grounds. The students celebrated Coral Triangle Day, an annual event observed among the six member countries of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security every 9th of June.
Numerous events held during this day in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste aim to shed light on ocean conservation.
This year’s Coral Triangle Day celebration is special as it is the first time participating schools will gather in a Science camp. Diana Mercado, Science Teacher Coordinator of CTNHS, was the brain behind organizing a Science camp for the students. She partnered with CTI-Southeast Asia to make the celebration possible.
“This Science Camp is one way to level up scientific knowledge and a big step to make the kids well-equipped for the future. Whenever and wherever, these kids need to have that environmentalist and scientific mind to protect our planet,” said Ms. Loweda Cabulao, Principal III of CTNHS.
She appreciated the school’s collaborations with CTI-SEA since it helps their students and teachers gain valuable knowledge that will enable them to be effective environmental stewards.
Building environmental know-how through lectures and science experiments
During the camp’s first day, CTI-SEA Deputy Team Leader for the Philippines Raul Roldan lectured on coastal and marine resource protection. He discussed the ecological and economic importance of coastal habitats, including coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds, and their interconnectivity. He also introduced different endangered species that are protected by law and stressed the impacts on the overall marine ecosystem and productivity if these species should disappear. He also shared practical ways that the students can help in protecting these species.
According to Roldan, adopting this curriculum mixing knowledge and skills enhancement has been one of the key drivers of success for the Heroes of the Environment campaign.
“After our first youth camp in 2014, schools in Taytay have exceeded our expectations: 4 hectares of denuded mangrove forests replanted with 20,000 trees, more students involved in environmental project and CTI-funded work,” Roldan said. “Motivation is another key factor to success. We give the teachers and youth the guidance, affirmation, and monitoring needed to succeed,”
Meanwhile, Josefina Pavico, a licensed chemist, teacher, and Executive Director of the Center for Environment and Sustainable Development facilitated the Aghamatika session. It culminated in a two-hour magic show where 10 groups of students each presented a magic trick. These came in the form of science experiments and math shortcuts. Students injected humor in their presentations and some included environmental messages in their magic tricks.
Pavico also facilitated the Science Teacher of the Universe segment, a mini-pageant where each teacher would pick from a bowl of questions on science and nature and answer within 30 seconds. The pageant taught the teachers the value of using Science to improve the lives of people without compromising the environment.
Partnership with the municipal government to protect the park
On Day 2, campers led a cleanup activity and planted ornamental plants at the “Kampo Natin” Park (Our Park), a 50-square meter open area near the school grounds. The municipal government set it up more than 50 years ago as a place where different indigenous peoples from Taytay can set up huts to feature their products to the locals and tourists during the town fiesta in May 4 and other special events.
Unfortunately, it deteriorated since it was not well-maintained. The school now works closely with the municipal government to help restore and beautify the park through renovation, regular cleanups, planting, and monitoring.
“We partnered with our local government to entice more people to go here. They advised us to start with ornamental plants here since there are too many trees already,” said Mercado. “They are thrilled about this development, so we are very committed.”
Making a mark in protecting the Coral Triangle
To cap the highly successful Science Camp and Coral Triangle Day celebration, students drew their vision and message for the Coral Triangle on a piece of cheese cloth. They came up with pledges to conserve the Coral Triangle.
“We have over 26,000 square kilometers of coral reefs in the Coral Triangle, so other countries depend on us,” Arnel Nuevo, a grade 10 student shared. “To protect these reefs, we need to think and do small, just like what CTI is doing. Because it is these small steps that make the most difference,”
About the Coral Triangle Initiative-Southeast Asia
CTI-Southeast Asia is a five-year (2012-2017) technical assistance to Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines by the Asian Development Bank and the Global Environment Facility. It works in building the capacity of those living in coastal communities by providing them with resources, knowledge, and skills to protect the Coral Triangle.