A Trip to the Turtle Islands Part II

In addition to photographing marine wildlife, one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is being able to meet and visually communicate the culture and traditions of local communities. From the Turtle Islands, I took an hour-long speedboat ride to Taganak Island.

My welcoming party was made up of participants in an innovative program that engages the youth to think about conservation and raise awareness throughout the island community. The program, called “Friends of Environment Nature and Development Society,” is led by Marion Daclan and Orlando Maliwanag of CI-Philippines.

Between the ages of 13 and 15, the group’s approximately 30 members are involved in a number of environmental projects that range from cleaning up the beach to educational art projects.

By far one of the most captivating and profound moments for me was an interaction I had with a 13-year-old girl who is part of this youth program. When I asked her why we should care about sea turtles, I expected she would reply with something about wanting more food or a better life for herself and her family. Instead, her answer was more worldly and selfless: she answered in broken English, “I really want to help the world around me to protect the sea turtles — so that we can live peacefully and save Mother Earth.”

This girl probably has the equivalent of a second grade education. She is poor. She may have never left the small island where she lives, yet she has a holistic view — understanding that when it comes to conserving the oceans, we are all connected and share a common responsibility and destiny.